Mrs. Fletcher
by Tom Perrotta


West Maui Book Club Discussion Questions

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Any page numbers refer to the Kindle iPad edition.


1. Eve Fletcher’s character (and others) is narrated in the third person, while Brendon’s (her son) is narrated in the first. Did this make any significant difference in determining whose story this actually was to you? If so, how?

2. The novel starts with a quote from Heraclitus. “The way up and the way down is one and the same.” Discuss how this applies to the story, and for whom it applies most.

3. Who was your favorite character and why?

4. At its core, “Mrs. Fletcher” is about sexual revelations (the broader understanding of gender identity) and revolutions (the experimentation of sexual acts in search of self) for both mother and son. On the aside, it also includes those of Amanda, Julian, and Professor Fairchild. How did Eve’s compare to Brendan’s? How were they different? What of the other characters?

5. On the topic of gender identity, here is a Wikipedia list of countries that legally identify a third gender for purposes of birth certificates, passports, health cards and/or driver’s licenses: Australia (X), Canada (X), Denmark (X), Germany (Indeterminate), India, (Hijra, Eunuch), Netherlands (X), Nepal (Others), New Zealand (Indeterminate), Pakistan (Khwaja Sara), Philippines, Thailand (Kathoeys), United Kingdom (Mx.), United States (X), and Uruguay. Can you name any others?

6. Also on the topic of gender identity, in the Pacific island region (where we as members of the West Maui Book Club live) and according to the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa, Elanor Kleiber, “there are diverse and constantly shifting expressions of gender identity and sexual identitiy.” Vernacular terms include: Aikāne (Hawaiʻi), Akavaʻine (Cook Islands), Faʻafafine/Faʻafaftama (Samoa), Fafaine (Niue), Mengol a otaor (Palau), Moe aikāne (Hawaiʻi), Pinapinaaine/Binabinaaine (Tuvalu and Kiribati), Raerae/Māhū/MāhUvahine (Tahiti), Takatapui (Maori), Vakasa lewa lewa (Fiji), Whakawhaine (Maori), Fakaleiti/Fakeleti/Fakalati/Fakafefine (Tonga), Mamfloria (Guam), Māhū/Mākūkāne/Mākūwahine (Hawaiʻi), and Winimvan (Chuuk). For definitions go to:

7. Can one compare Eve’s having sexual fantasies for eighteen-year-old Julian to those of an older man and younger woman as stated in the story?

8. Discuss Eve’s self-justification debate over every act she approaches, particularly when she wonders why she shouldn’t be adventurous.

9. Eve’s favorite feeling about lesbian porn was watching the negotiations. For her, the moment of epiphany was “when the reluctant one suddenly understands that she’s been seduced. …The end of reluctance. When it was good, you could forget you were watching porn and accept it, if not as the truth, then at least as a glimpse of a better world than the one you lived in, a world where everyone secretly wanted the same thing, and no one failed to get it.” (Pg. 116) No matter your opinion of Perrotta’s fictional novel, what can you say about his negotiations with you while reading “Mrs. Fletcher?” Did he successfully take you to another world? Did he provide you a glimpse into a life you were reluctant about reading and seduce you into accepting it?

10. There might be some new or unfamiliar terminology in this novel, such as: MILF, milfateria, LBGTQIA (lesbian/gay/transgender/queer/intersex/asexual), cisgender, Ace, tranny, shemale, cougar, tiger mom. Discuss their meanings. Can you add to the list and will you now include these terms in your societal sexual lexicon?

11. The character of George Rafferty is donut-ted around the story. Given Eve’s suspicions, do you think she eventually recommitted herself to him?

12. If you had read this novel as a past time instead of for a book club discussion, would it have affected your opinion differently? If so, how?

FROM SIMON & SCHUSTER - page numbers refer to the printed edition

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Mrs. Fletcher includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Building on the gentle but incisive social satire of Little Children, The Leftovers, and Election, Tom Perrotta’s masterful new work, Mrs. Fletcher, returns the reader to the complicated (and often comical) world of the sexual mores of the American suburbs. When Eve Fletcher’s beloved only child, Brendan, starts college, she’s left all alone and full of questions about how and with whom to live the rest of her life, while miles away Brendan struggles with questions of his own—about how to treat women, understand his relationship with his divorced parents, and grow into a responsible sexual being. As Eve and Brendan separately struggle with their sexualities and self-conceptions, mother and son set out on journeys of discovery that lead them to unexpected places and, after two wild parties, to a dramatic collision.

Discussion Questions

1. The novel opens with Eve privately lamenting that "big days" (page 3) are never as special as they should be. Are there other "big days," beyond dropping Brendan off at college, that fail to go the way she hopes?

2. Receiving that fateful, inappropriate text message—"U r my MILF!" (page 40)—has a profound effect on Eve, plunging her into the world of MILF porn and ongoing sexual fantasies about other women. Why do you think the text impacts Eve so deeply? How relevant do you think it is that her sexual exploration begins because someone else sees her as desirable, rather than emerging from solely internal motivation?

3. How are the dynamics of Eve and Amanda’s "date" influenced by Eve’s consumption of porn? Do you see her porn use as compulsive? Empowering? Something else?

4. At their dinner out, Eve and Amanda invent names for their alter egos: Ursula and Juniper. Does Eve’s engagement with Amanda, taking a Gender and Society class, and sexual acting out feel like an embrace of this alter ego? Do you think Eve is trying to "find herself," or is she trying to become someone else?

5. Brendan occupies a position of privilege in the world and on his college campus, yet he can’t seem to adjust to his new environment. Why do you think that is? Is it related to his sense of privilege, or does his discomfort come from elsewhere?

6. How would you describe the relationship between Brendan and Zack at first? What changes? Why do you think Zack distances himself from the friendship?

7. Brendan and Julian are both young, straight, white cisgender men taking college classes, yet they occupy their positions of privilege in very dissimilar ways. What do they have in common, and how are they different?

8. Despite herself, Eve is attracted to Julian and Amanda—both generationally younger and more progressive than she is. What do you think she finds appealing about each of them?

10. Amber uses the Autism Awareness Network to bond with Brendan and to try to engage him politically. What are her plans for him? On page 126, she says, "That’s how we change the world. One person at a time." Is Amanda trying to "change" Brendan, and if so, does she succeed?

11. Brendan is jealous of his dad’s relationship with Jon-Jon, his autistic half-brother, even though Jon-Jon is fairly low-functioning. When he has a temper tantrum on Parents Weekend, Brendan thinks about "how unfair it was that [his] father loved him so much and held him so tight—way tighter than he’d ever held [Brendan]—and wouldn’t let him go no matter what" (page 137). Can you empathize with Brendan’s pain, or do you think he is just being selfish?

12. When Amber and Brendan hook up, they have a sexual miscommunication that leads her to regard him as a "huge disappointment" (page 207). What’s Brendan’s role in the situation? What’s Amber’s?

13. By the time Eve, Amanda, and Julian have sex together, each has been fantasizing about the others for weeks or months. When their private fantasies enter the public sphere, what changes?

14. Eve texts Julian a picture of herself, but she won’t go over to his parents’ house to have sex with him. Why does she draw the line there? Do you think her reluctance to fully engage with Julian is about their age difference, or morality, or self-respect, or fear, or something else entirely? As a reader, does their age difference matter to you? And does it involve a different ethical calculation than it would if she were an older man and he a younger woman?

15. Professor Fairchild is an example of a character who, unlike Eve, has undergone a significant and permanent transformation. What do you make of their friendship? What does Eve hope to get from Margo, and Margo from Eve?

16. At the end of the novel, Eve settles back into conventionality, embracing a heterosexual relationship with someone her own age. At their wedding, however, Eve has a moment of doubt: she wonders if it was George, her soon-to-be husband, who sent her the MILF text message all those months ago. Who do you think it was? So much of Mrs. Fletcher is about characters’ hidden fantasies, unknown to all but the reader—except when those fantasies break through into real life, as they do with Eve, Julian, and Amanda. Do you think the characters we know less about have secret selves, secret "Ursulas," too? Does everyone?

(Questions issued by the publishers.)

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Mrs. Fletcher is being developed as an HBO series. Consider watching some of Tom Perrotta’s earlier works that have made the leap to the screen, like The Leftovers, Little Children, and Election and discussing them as a group.

2. Explore your local community college. Do they offer Gender Studies classes or lectures on gender and sexuality? Would you be interested in attending one as a group?

Compiled by:
Elaine Gallant
West Maui Book Club
Nov 2018