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The False Friendby Myla Goldberg
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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