This reading group guide for The Antiques includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. We hope that these questions will enrich your reading group’s conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book. Introduction
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Kris D’Agostino’s The Antiques
is an emotionally reverberant portrait of an American family in chaos. On the eve of a massive super storm, George Westfall lays dying. His three adult children have drifted apart, and his wife is fighting to protect the family’s struggling antiques business. The novel tracks a week in the lives of the Westfall children as they return to the family home after their father’s death. Josef, a sex-addicted tech executive is struggling to make amends with his ex-wife. Charlie, his sister, is living in LA and working for a conceited Hollywood starlet. Their youngest brother, Armie, is living in the family’s basement, haunted by the ghosts of his past. As the family comes together to mourn the loss of their father and sell off his heirloom Magritte painting, they experience the unexpected epiphanies that can emerge in grief and reconnect with the core values that shaped them.Topics and Questions for Discussion
1. What is the significance of setting the story on the eve of a hurricane? How does D’Agostino use nature to reflect the Westfalls’ emotional topography?
2. What do you make of the novel’s title? How are the Westfalls attempting to enact an outmoded, antique ideal of family?
3. Though The Antiques
is a story about loss and grief, D’Agostino constantly leavens the narrative with sharp humor. How does this emotional interplay mirror the process of mourning? Were there any moments in the book where you laughed out loud?
4. Why do you think D’Agostino chose to structure the timeline of the book over the span of a few days? Does this condensed scope add a layer of immediacy to the narrative?
5. Does Josef embody the stereotype of the oldest child? Did his behavior strike you as striving or immature?
6. How does Charlie serve as a foil to Josef? How does Armie?
7. What role does faith play in the novel? Is Ana’s Catholicism more about ideology or the comfort of ritual?
8. How is D’Agostino’s depiction of Melody Montrose a commentary on the nature of Hollywood celebrity? Why do you think Melody undergoes such a dramatic transformation when she arrives in Hudson?
9. What did you think of Charlie as a mother and the way she handles Abbott’s behavioral issues? How is Charlie seen as the novel’s central caregiver?
10. What is the true value of the Westfalls’ Magritte painting? In what way does the painting, despite the final appraisal, actually prove priceless?
11. The Westfalls are a flawed, complex yet ultimately likeable family. Which character did you find the most sympathetic?
12. Why do you think D’Agostino chose to end the novel with the launch of the rocket? Did you find the end satisfying?Enhance Your Book Club
1. The Antiques
is part of a vibrant tradition of dysfunctional family novels. Consider the book alongside works by Jonathan Franzen, Meg Wolitzer, Emma Straub, and Jonathan Tropper. What, collectively, do these books have to say about the American family?
2. Pair The Antiques
with movies like The Family Stone
or The Royal Tennenbaums
. How is the novel borrowing the tropes of the classic films of family dysfunction? Does D’Agostino’s writing feel cinematic to you?
3. René Magritte was a Belgian surrealist artist known for depicting ordinary objects in novel, amusing, and unexpected ways. Explore Magritte’s oeuvre. How are his artistic gestures in keeping with D’Agostino’s portrait of the Westfalls? Does Magritte’s vision open up new ways of contextualizing The Antiques