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Leaving Alva

Reading Group Guide

    Reading Group Discussion Points
    1. Chloe writes in her note to Alva, "You're a good husband Alva, but good isn't enough. Your goodness is only the kind that means you have no badness." What does she mean by this? Why does she leave Alva? Do you think she was right in leaving? After hearing the story of Zeke Chloe begins to feel guilty. Is she justified in this feeling?
    2. Chloe never mentions searching for her brother and sister. Why hasn't she tried? Will she ever?
    3. Why does Chloe leave Aunt Ethel's right after Zena leaves? Is it because of Zena? Ethel? Or something else?
    4. "Growing up I hadn't felt much like either a male or a female. Sometimes when I thought of myself, I'd picture a brain, a pile of gray matter where words and ideas traveled convoluted paths." Discuss how this passage illuminates Chloe's responses to sex with Zena and Alva. By the end of the novel is her sexuality clear? Do you consider her to be a lesbian?
    5. Why does Chloe write Alva a postcard from Los Angeles? Is she trying to retain an attachment to him? Or does she have another motive?
    6. Chloe says that she doesn't "believe much in God." Does she have an underlying belief in God? Or has she given up on all spiritual beliefs? Why?
    7. Lipman creates many vivid supporting characters throughout the novel: Billy/MaryBelle, Jake, Patsy, Miss Ida and Dolly. What, if anything, do these people teach Chloe? How do they help her progress is in her self-discovery? Or do they hold her back?
    8. Chloe moves from wanting Zena to come back to not even thinking about her. How and why does this change take place? Does Zena signify something or someone from Chloe's past? Who?
    9. Lipman moves the narrative back and forth from Chloe's present journey to her past. Is there a pattern that the passages from her past appear? What do they elucidate about Chloe's turmoil in the present?
    10. What effect did the girlfriends of Chloe's father have on her? What stands out about Loretta for Chloe? Did these women alter her perception of herself? How?
    11. Why does Aunt Ethel show herself to Chloe without clothes? What does she mean when she says, "You've been wondering and imagining what I look like, and that gets in your way of knowing me." Why does Ethel then take Chloe to an "Other Friends" meeting? What is Ethel hoping Chloe's reaction will be? What reaction does she have?
    12. Chloe often refers to her feelings of loneliness and her need for affection yet she is unable or won't let anyone become close to her. How did this dichotomy develop in her past? Does she conquer it by the end of the novel?

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