This reading group guide for HOW LULU LOST HER MIND includes an introduction and suggested discussion questions. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book. Introduction
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Lou Ann Hunter’s mother, Patricia, has always had a passionate nature, which explains why she’s been married and divorced five times and spooned enough male patients to be ousted from three elderly care facilities. She also has Alzheimer’s, which is why she wants to spend the rest of her life surrounded by childhood memories at Sutton Hall, her family’s decrepit plantation home in Louisiana.
Lou Ann, a.k.a. Lulu the Love Guru, has built an empire preaching sex, love, and relationship advice to the women of America—mostly by defying the example her mother has set for her. But with Patricia suddenly in need of a fulltime caretaker, Lou Ann reluctantly agrees to step out of the spotlight and indulge her mother’s wishes, even if it means trading in her Louboutins and Chanel N°5 for boots and mosquito repellant.
Upon her arrival at Sutton Hall, Lou Ann discovers that very little functions as it should—least of all Patricia’s mind. And as she adjusts to this new and inevitably temporary dynamic with the help of a local handyman and a live-in nurse, she is forced to confront the reality that neither her nor her mother’s future is going according to plan. Topics & Questions for Discussion:
1. Lulu’s relationship with her mother is the driving force behind How Lulu Lost Her Mind,
but the first mention we get of their relationship is when Lulu goes to her mom’s care facility like a parent “being called to the principal’s office” (page 4). How is Lulu and Patricia’s dynamic different—and the same—from a typical mother-daughter relationship? How do Lulu and Patricia view, and manage, their reversal of maternal roles? How does Lulu partake in this role reversal while respecting Patricia and being mindful of her mother’s dignity?
2. Love, sex, and relationships are a big part of each female character’s life. Lulu’s entire empire is based on love advice, Patricia is an infamous flirt, and Lindsey’s secret has to do with the father of her child. How do their views on romance differ, and how do they inform their decisions throughout the novel (like when Lindsey lies about Frankie’s father or Lulu steps back from her relationship business)?
3. One of the most emotional scenes in the novel is when Lulu returns Patricia’s pills, “giving her back the right to make the choice” (page 282). Do you agree with Lulu’s decision? Why or why not?
4. Lulu reluctantly moves from a sleek urban environment to a crumbling plantation in Louisiana. But at the end of the novel she says, “Sutton Hall is a two-hundred-year-old money pit, and I can’t think of anywhere else I would rather call home” (page 320). How, and why, does Lulu’s perception of her family home change? Why do you think Rachel Gibson might have chosen to start the story in the Pacific Northwest and move it to the South?
5. Caring for a parent with late-stage Alzheimer’s is a heavy topic, but How Lulu Lost Her Mind
balances the heartache with laughter. Did you feel that the humor added to or detracted from the emotional toll of Patricia’s decline? How can we use humor to deal with grief, and where should we draw the line?
6. When Frankie is born, Lulu is able to remember her mother without feeling pain for the first time since her death. Why is Frankie’s birth what helps Lulu start to heal? What does the memory of Patricia at Lindsey’s baby shower mean to Lulu?
7. When her mother acts out, Lulu chooses to blame Patricia’s alter ego, “Rattlesnake Patty.” What do you think Lulu gains by viewing her mom as two separate people?
8. Raphael the parrot is a stand-out character in his own right, and his feud with Lindsey makes for some of the funniest moments in the book. What do you see as his purpose in this story? Has a pet ever helped you through a difficult personal situation, or, conversely, made a personal situation harder than it should have been?
9. On page 147, Lulu says men have defined her mom’s life—and still do. Why might she say this? Men play a noticeably smaller role in this novel than they do in many of Gibson’s other novels, but how do you see them operating in the background here?
10. Lulu the Love Guru teaches that rules and boundaries are the key to finding true love with the right partner. How does Simon break these rules and boundaries and what does this teach Lulu?