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2 Burnside Literature- A to Z

The False Friend


The False Friend Cover

ISBN13: 9780385527217
ISBN10: 0385527217
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Reading Group Guide


The False Friend is set into motion when Celia remembers her friend Djuna after having managed to block out those memories for twenty years. What is it about where Celia is in her life or her relationships that may have brought this memory to the surface?  Does this sort of sudden recollection make sense to you, or was it difficult for you to accept the book’s opening premise?

2. Why are Celia’s parents so reluctant to talk to Celia about Djuna?  Does this seem representative of their larger relationship with their daughter?  Representative of their relationship with each other?

3. How common is the sort of friendship Celia and Djuna had as girls?  In what ways did their friendship and their clique seem strange or familiar to you?

4. In what ways does Celia’s relationship with her mother differ from her relationship to her father?  Is one relationship healthier than another, or are they just differently functional/dysfunctional?

5. To Celia, Jensenville is a place that she can only bear to visit briefly and seldom.  To Celia’s parents and to people like the town librarian, Jensenville is a fine place to live.  What do you think of Jensenville?  What makes some people want to flee their hometown and others want to stay?

6. Do you agree with how Noreen and Warren dealt with Celia as a girl in the aftermath of Djuna’s disappearance?  Do you think they could or should be blamed for Celia’s subsequent repressed memories?

7. Though Jeremy’s drug addiction and recovery is only addressed indirectly in the novel, in what ways is it an important aspect of the larger story of this family? 

8. Huck liked to tease Celia that “they could have been spared years of heartache had they met earlier, but Celia disagreed.  Her prior love life had been too binary, the replication or repudiation of her parents consuming its earliest daisy petals.”  In what ways does Celia’s relationship with Huck resemble the relationships within her family?  In what ways is it different?

9. When Celia spontaneously arrives at Leanne’s house to apologize, she is told that her appearance there is only “more harm done.”  Was Celia right to attempt to apologize to Leanne in person?  Both Jewish tradition and the 12-step program (just to name two) assert that true forgiveness can only be achieved when we apologize to the person we have wronged.  Do both parties always benefit equally?

10. What does the future hold for Huck and Celia?  How do you think Celia’s trip to Jensenville will affect their relationship?

11. When Celia visits Djuna’s mother as an adult, it is very different from the experiences she remembers as a girl.  Who do you think has changed more, Celia or Djuna’s mother?

12. No one agrees with Celia’s version of what happened to Djuna on the wooded road twenty years ago.  Who is right?  Can that question be answered?

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Average customer rating based on 9 comments:

thegreenangel, January 28, 2011 (view all comments by thegreenangel)
Myla Goldberg's novels, particularly her last, are miraculous to me, as I never thought it was possible to achieve what she’s done. Like the black lacquered Russian Hubble doll I have on my bookshelf, False Friend is at every level marvelous. Each sentence should be taken slowly, allowing all its subtleties free range on the mind’s palette. It’s the equivalent difference between a drive thru at Carl’s and a meal at Chez Panisse. How silly of me to think that I could read False Friends as a quick lunch companion, having its company stuffed in between my rushed daily errands. And me, of the Slow Food movement! The characters are gratifyingly familiar, as known to me as my hands. The opening scene brilliantly brings the story into focus, allowing the reader to hear the word "ladybug" echo in their own ear from some long-ago broad backseat too. The way Goldberg has paced the story, having it unfold gracefully, seemingly on its own, like colored,folded tissue paper, at first floating on, and then blooming and merging into, a still stream; it's both pleasing, and it artfully keeps the necessary narrative tension. Each room we enter, each street in Celia’s old hometown, every landmark we see, we see with fresh eyes. It’s like we’re seeing the rooms of a well-known house,ones we’ve occupied so many times before, for the first time, but while somehow retaining the unalterable sense of total familiarity. And finally, the story itself is the same; like one we’ve known well, and like one we’ve just now heard. Like a forgotten best friend from grade school.

It definitely isn't Bee Season; no. But for that, be grateful!

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cardprincess, January 10, 2011 (view all comments by cardprincess)
This book is told from the perspective of a woman in her early 30's replaying the events of a tragic accident that seemed to have claimed the life of her best friend 20 years earlier. The transitions from past to present times are seamless but not confusing. Aside from not wanting to put the book down because you can't wait to find out what actually happened, the details of "friendships" between young girls are intriguing. I imagine all female readers can relate in some way or another to the trials of interacting with peers during these formative years.
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Teresa Borden, January 6, 2011 (view all comments by Teresa Borden)
I love the pacing and mystery of this story of a woman who suddenly remembers a traumatic childhood incident and her participation in the events leading up to it. What is memory? How reliable is it? What if others remember something very different? How does one reconcile deeply buried feelings of blame and guilt with an adult recognition of the variability of reality? These questions bob beneath the surface of this story of a woman who goes home seeking answers and finds out something far different than she expected.
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Product Details

Goldberg, Myla
Contemporary Women
Family life
Literature-A to Z
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8.53 x 5.78 x 1.14 in .9094 lb

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Contemporary Women
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Family Life

The False Friend Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$9.95 In Stock
Product details 272 pages Doubleday Books - English 9780385527217 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Myla Goldberg's eagerly anticipated new novel is an eerie meditation on memory, friendship, and the nature of truth. Evocative and gorgeously written, The False Friend is an intelligent and intricate mystery.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Goldberg's unremarkable latest, a neatly constructed if hollow story of memory and deception, begins in the woods surrounding a small upstate New York town, as 11-year-old Celia watches her best friend, Djuna, get into a stranger's car, never to be seen again. At least that's the story Celia gives to the police. Twenty-one years later, Celia returns to her hometown to tell her family and old friends what really happened that fateful day, but her new version of the disappearance is met with disbelief by family and old friends. Meanwhile, Celia's image of her childhood identity is shattered as she listens to descriptions of herself as a child: she was sweet to some, cruel and bullying to others. Goldberg successfully evokes the shades of gray that constitute truth and memory, but her tendency toward self-conscious writerliness and grand pronouncements ('The unadult mind is immune to logic or foresight, unschooled by consequence, and endowed with a biblical sense of justice') prevents the narrative from breaking through its muted tones. Goldberg misplays the setup, trading psychological suspense for a routine story of self-discovery. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Review" by , Picking up the current concerns about bullying and "mean girls," Goldberg follows a young woman tracking down a guilty memory from her childhood....Complex, compelling characters who defy pigeonholing."
"Review" by , "Goldberg uses beautiful, emotionally descriptive language to keep us with one ear to the ground, listening for the slow, quiet footsteps of creeping tragedy."
"Review" by , "Fascinating and fresh...Goldberg does a crackerjack job of showing a former factory town on the wane; a family, like the town, that hasn't moved forward; and a character, also stagnating, trying to discover an elusive truth....With psychological shrewdness, generosity and a sure hand, Goldberg circles her way to an ending that is both satisfying and unsatisfying. Like life."
"Review" by , "The term mean girls is elevated to a new level in Goldberg's moody novel...this is a layered, understated novel about the complex, ambiguous nature of memory and its effect on the dynamics of relationships. Great fodder for reading groups."
"Review" by , "A compelling exploration of the fallibility of memory, explored through richly drawn characters."
"Review" by , "Fans of Goldberg's first novel, Bee Season, will love The False Friend...[A] brisk, unforgettable story. The False Friend leaves us wanting more, as all good fiction should."
"Review" by , "One of the most emotionally rich novels I've read this year....Intellectually rigorous, psychologically astute and beautifully written, The False Friend provides the truest accounting of the way memory can be a burden."
"Synopsis" by , Two 11-year-old girls, best friends and fierce rivals, go into the woods. Only one comes out. The lie Celia tells to conceal her misdeed becomes the accepted truth, and when Celia returns to her hometown to confess the truth, her family and friends don't believe her.
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