Farewell, Dorothy Parker


West Maui Book Club Discussion Questions

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Any page numbers refer to iPad edition.

1) The story opens with Violet Epps arriving at the infamous Algonquin Hotel for lunch with her boyfriend, Carl, who she plans to end the relationship. Here, members of the Algonquin Round Table aka “The Vicious Circle” met and shared everything from barbs to wit that included: Dorothy Parker, Alexander Woollcott, Robert Sherwood, Tallulah Bankhead, Charles MacArthur, Harpo Marx, Robert Benchley and several others over a 10 year period. Did you walk away from this story with a better understanding of this group and its influence on the arts?

2) Violet Epps steals the quest book (pg 11) but while all other issues in the book are reconciled, the whereabouts of the book – in the end – is not. Did the story leave you wondering what happened to it and if Epps ever returned it to the Algonquin? Did you ever wonder why the Algonquin never reported it to the police or conducted their own search? It was a piece of the hotel’s history; an artifact! They knew who Epps was and how to reach her…she was a film critic after all!

3) In every good story the main character must change. So how did you like the premise that through Parker’s influence, Epps was finally able to conquer her severe social anxiety that along the way affected her work, her love life and her battle over custody of her niece?

4) This book may very well be about the power of words and wording -- not only over those who "receive" them, but also over those who utter or write them. Can one be transformed by what he or she writes? And/or does one get to be another persona when doing creative writing?

5) Dorothy Parker's strength appears to come from the words that she uses. What defines a strong woman? Do we need to talk like men so that we are not perceived as being weak?

6) Was it coincidental or on purpose that Epps and Parker shared that they both had a mother and sister “on the other side”? (pg 150)

7) In chapter 23 when Parker takes over for Epps and has sex with Michael, it raises the question of “boundaries”. Discuss how that episode made you feel verses how Epps handled it.

8) Epps is sabotaged with questions asked of her about “The Foundling’s Story” while being interviewed on Good Morning America. (pgs 207-212) But, GMA wasn’t the only sabotage that happened to her in relation to this situation. So why was it that Epps never suspected Parker as the conspirator who accepted the interview through Epps own E-mail?

9) Epps still had her dead sister’s phone number programmed into her cell phone as speed dial #2 (pg 234) and mentions how she had called it while Delaney was in the hospital just to hear Ivy’s recorded voice. How was it that it was still now connected so many months after the accident?

10) The grandparents, Sandra and Malcolm, are quite the pair and throughout show their true character. Where you ever in doubt about Delaney’s future? If not, how did the disappearance of Delaney shake your expectations?

11) In the end, this story touches on many situations: the death of loved ones and the custody of their surviving children, social anxiety and growing out of ineptness, sexual relationships and independence, alcoholism and the early 1900’s, and work frictions and navigating through them. Discuss any of these topics and share how Dorothy Parker aided or abetted in the situation.

12) How much do you know about Dorothy Parker who Tallulah Bankhead once dubbed (pg 190) “the mistress of the verbal hand grenade”? Share your favorite story, quote or scenario!

From www.Penquin.com (USA)

Ellen Meister is the author of three previous novels: The Other Life, The Smart One, and Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA. She has held editorial positions at SmokeLong Quarterly and DimeStories. Meister teaches creative writing at Hofstra University School of Continuing Education and runs an online group where she mentors aspiring women authors.


1. Violet relies on Mrs. Parker to help her find her voice outside of her writing. Discuss the concept of "finding your voice." Is this solely the idea of speaking up, or is there more to it than that?

2. At the opening of the story when Violet is trying to end her relationship with Carl, it is clear that she needs to be able to stand up to him but is unable to do so. Is her ability to speak up more, less, or as important once she starts dating the far less pushy Michael?

3. Outside of the custody battle, in what ways is it important for Violet to find her voice for her niece, Delaney? How about for herself?

4. Dorothy Parker's style of snappy comeback is a hallmark of American culture. She was the embodiment of "having a voice," the very thing Violet struggles with most. In what ways is this type of voice an American ideal? In what ways is it transcendent of American culture?

5. Beyond "finding her voice," in what ways is Mrs. Parker the perfect mentor for Violet? In what ways is Violet the perfect protégé for Mrs. Parker? Discuss some of the other female-mentorship relationships present in Farewell, Dorothy Parker.

6. Some of the minor characters—such as Andi, Sandra, Malcolm, and even Ivy—have antagonistic roles in this novel. Do you find them wholly unsympathetic, or is there reason to consider these characters both good and bad? Does your opinion about them change throughout the book?

7. Mrs. Parker makes the controversial decision to take over Violet and sleep with Michael Do you think she was acting altruistically for Violet's benefit, or selfishly for her own gratification? Does it matter?

8. What would you identify as the turning point for Mrs. Parker that allowed her to finally move on?

9. Violet has both an inner journey (overcoming her timidity) and outer journey (gaining custody of her niece). Does the intersection of these threads in the courtroom scene provide any additional insight into Violet?