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A False Sense of Well Being (Ballantine Reader's Circle)


A False Sense of Well Being (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Cover

ISBN13: 9780345443120
ISBN10: 0345443128
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

1. The novel opens with Jessie Maddox having fantasies of her husband's untimely death, either by fate or by accident. What has happened in her life to cause this? What do you think she would do, and how would she react, if her fantasies were to come true? Do you ever have similar thoughts about those you love? If so, examine the way your innermost thoughts often conflict with what you believe you want in life.

2. Jessie is the one telling her story. What are the strengths and

weaknesses of Jessie's first-person narration? Do you think she's

able to remain objective when discussing her unhappiness, or

when describing her family and friends? How would the novel be

different if it were narrated by her husband Turner?

3. Jessie talks about wanting the perfect marriage and the perfect

home. She subscribes to House Beautiful, Southern Living, and

Psychology Today, trying to copy decorating ideas and lifestyle

tips. She joins the Glenville Society Cotillion, and she and her

husband are members of the local country club. Discuss how

Jessie is influenced by what she reads in books and magazines, or

sees in movies, and how her expectations of love and marriage

may be unrealistic. Do you know people who do the same thing?

How has she, as she admits, worked to create the life she always

dreamed of having? How much of Jessie's dilemma do you believe

is based on her desire to keep up with what society expects of her?

4. We know Turner only from the details Jessie reveals, and from the

few scenes where he appears. What do you think of him as a husband,

and what about Turner hasn't Jessie told us? Do you believe

he loves Jessie? What could he be doing to help her through this

crisis? Do you think he realizes how unhappy Jessie is? Consider

reading Gustave Flaubert's classic novel Madame Bovary, and discuss

the similarities and the differences between the characters

and the plots of Madame Bovary and A False Sense of Well Being.

5. Is Jessie experiencing a typical midlife crisis? If so, what do you

believe she should be doing to work through it? If not, what do

you think triggered the wave of self-doubt and self-examination

she's having? Discuss any time in your life when you may have felt

the same way.

6. The novel uses passages from The Book of Common Prayer to introduce

certain chapters. Why do you think the author chose The

Book of Common Prayer, and what is the significance of each passage

to the story that follows? Do you think Jessie, or any of the

characters, find any comfort in the passages and prayers that are


7. As a social worker at a mental health clinic, Jessie talks about the

power of confession, and wonders if her clients are helped by

telling her their secrets. Do you believe confession, as the saying

goes, is good for the soul? How do you feel about Jessie as a therapist?

Do you think she's helped by the confessions she makes to

her friends and family? Discuss how the power of confession is

the novel's central theme.

8. Unlike many contemporary novels, in which the male characters

are the ones making bad decisions, having affairs, or leaving

home, it's the women in this novel who are the ones doing all the

misbehaving. What is the significance of this? Discuss the choices

these women make and how these choices affect their lives. Are

the women who are having affairs or running away from home

behaving, in a sense, like men? Do you believe--as does the self-help

writer that Jessie listens to on tape--that men and women

want the same things but have trouble communicating their

wants and needs to each other? Discuss the changing roles of

women over the past few decades, and how this has affected the

traditional ideas of marriage and family.

9. Jessie and her friend Donna have different ways of looking at

things, especially marriage. Jessie says, in fact, that she feels like

she can live vicariously through Donna, because of Donna's affair

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Madam Pince, July 12, 2008 (view all comments by Madam Pince)
A better title would be "A False Advertisement of Comedy." Although the dust cover described this as darkly funny, I found almost nothing about it laugh-provoking. It was just another tiresome woman searching for meaning in her life after suffering several setbacks, following a predictable path to the typical results. I don't feel like I lost brain cells to this book, but I didn't gain any either.
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Product Details

Braselton, Jeanne
Ballantine Books
New York
Married women
Women psychiatrists
Maddox, Jessie
General Fiction
Literature-A to Z
Edition Number:
1st trade pbk. ed.
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Ballantine Reader's Circle
Series Volume:
microcopy no. 594
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8.36x5.50x.85 in. .68 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Romance » General

A False Sense of Well Being (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$0.95 In Stock
Product details 400 pages Ballantine Books - English 9780345443120 Reviews:
"Review" by , "This may be the best first novel I've ever read."
"Review" by , "With characters who touch the heart and dialogue that rings true, Braselton does a masterful job of telling Jessie’s story in this warm, moving, and remarkably accomplished first novel."
"Review" by , "Braselton's confident first novel is [a] depiction of love on the rocks in the New South that combines small town charm with major league angst....A down-home Proustian recherché search...[An] entertaining, rueful account of an apparently 'normal' marriage."
"Review" by , "Simply extraordinary. [This novel] has the wit and modern comedy of Nora Ephron and the literary force of Flannery O'Connor."
"Review" by , "Braselton's depiction of the plight of restless women and her brilliant descriptions of sheltered suburbia and smalltown life are delivered with scathing wit."
"Review" by , "I thoroughly and absolutely loved this novel....A False Sense of Well-Being hits a nerve....[Braselton] has a genius for the offhand comment that cuts right to the core of life. Gutsy, moving, and memorable."
"Review" by , "This is regional fiction at its best."
"Synopsis" by , At 38, Jessie Maddox has a comfortable life in Glenville, Georgia, with Turner, the most reliable, responsible husband in the world. But after the storybook romance, Rhappily ever afterS never came. Now why can't she stop picturing herself as the perfect grieving widow?
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