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Original Essays | June 20, 2014

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1 Beaverton Literature- A to Z

The Alphabet Sisters


The Alphabet Sisters Cover



Reading Group Guide

1. The Alphabet Sisters begins and ends with chapters from Betts perspective. Why do you think that author Monica McInerney chose to frame the novel in this way? Do you think that Bett is the guiding narrative voice in the story? Why or why not?

2. Which sister do you feel most sympathetic toward when the book begins? Did your allegiance shift as the story unfolded?

3. The girls grandmother, Lola, is a larger-than-life personality. What lessons have her son and grandchildren learned from her? What would you say are the guiding principles of Lolas life?

4. Lola christens her grandchildren “The Alphabet Sisters.” What does this group identity mean to Anna, Bett, and Carrie? How does each of them react to being on stage and in the spotlight?

5. How does Lolas invitation to her eightieth birthday spur each sister to make a change in her life? What do you think their parents felt about the daughters feud? Why didnt the sisters parents get more involved?

6. How does each sister resent and admire the other? How did their time apart strengthen their individual personalities and their bonds with one another? What detrimental effects does the feud have on the sisters?

7. “Still avoiding the truth after all these years?” Anna asks Bett. Do you think Bett is guilty of Annas accusation? Why or why not? What unpleasant revelations do her sisters muffle about their lives?

8. “Lola used to talk to them as if they were her co-conspirators, her equals,” remembers Bett. How is Lolas attitude toward her grandchildren unconventional? In which ways is she traditional? How does her mindset differ from that of her daughter-in-law, Geraldine?

9. What inspires Lola to force her granddaughters to produce her musical? Why do they agree to do it? How is music the glue that binds them together?

10. After Ellen is attacked by a dog, how does her personality change? In which ways is outward appearance an important element in Annas life, both before and after Ellens attack? How do her sisters also grapple with the ramifications of their looks?

11. How does the love triangle between Bett, Carrie, and Matthew affect each of its participants? What does Carrie love about Matthew? How does this compare to the way that Bett feels about him?

12. 12. Discuss Annas husband, Glenn. How does she characterize her relationship with him at the beginning of their time together? What about their marriage now?

13. By the end of the book, each sister has discovered—or rediscovered—her perfect match. How are Richard and Anna, Matthew and Carrie, and Daniel and Bett complementary to one another? How does each couple approach love and romance differently? How does this compare and contrast the relationship of the womens parents, Jim and Geraldine?

14. What does small-town life mean to the family? How does their position as proprietors of a motel give them a unique vantage point on the goings-on of the town itself? How does their lifestyle give them a sense of stability? Of adventure?

15. Were you surprised when Annas illness was revealed to be terminal cancer? How does her diagnosis change the family? How do they rally around her?

16. Bett is shocked to learn that the stories spun about her grandfather are untrue. How does this revelation give you, as a reader, a different perspective on Lola? How does Bett react to her grandmothers deception? Why do you think that Lola “especially hates” to lie to Bett?

17. Have you been in a similar position with a family feud that seemed irresolvable? How did your family solve the problem? Did it help or hurt when others—like Lola—intervened?

18. What do you envision next for Bett, Carrie, and Lola? Would you like to see a sequel of this book that follows one or more of the characters in The Alphabet Sisters? Which ones?

Product Details

Mcinerney, Monica
NAL Trade
McInerney, Monica
Identity (psychology)
Domestic fiction
General Fiction
Literature-A to Z
Family saga
Edition Description:
Paperback / softback
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
from 12
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects

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

The Alphabet Sisters Used Trade Paper
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$2.95 In Stock
Product details 448 pages Ballantine Books - English 9780345479532 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "McInerney's buoyant new novel chronicles the three Quinlan sisters' efforts to reconcile their combative past and reconnect when their grandmother, Lola, summons them home to South Australia for her 80th birthday party. Under the guardianship of Lola ('etiquette teacher, boot-camp mistress, and musical director'), Anna, Bett and Carrie had celebrated their youth on stage as the pop singing group the Alphabet Sisters. As adults, they stop speaking to each other when Carrie runs off with Bett's fianc, Matthew. But after three years of silence, they heed Lola's call and resolve to make their peace. Anna, a voiceover actress and the eldest of the three, arrives from Sydney with her seven-year-old daughter, Ellen, who is scarred by a horrific accident, but without her absentee husband. Bett, the middle sister, flies in from London, where she does PR for a record company, while the youngest, Carrie, lives close to Lola, running a motel and suffering in her foundering marriage to Matthew. When Lola announces she's written a musical starring the Alphabet Sisters to benefit the local hospital, Anna, Bett and Carrie put aside their differences, rebuild their relationships and grow closer than ever before. In this heartening if predictable novel, three struggling women relearn how the bonds of sisterhood can steady them against life's ebb and flow. Agent, Christy Fletcher. (May)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Synopsis" by ,
Months after a tragic accident, Ella OHanlon flees to London in an attempt to escape her grief, leaving behind the two people she blames for her loss: Aidan, the love of her life, and Jess, her spoiled half-sister. Taken in by her beloved uncle Lucas, Ella discovers that his extraordinary house holds many wonderful memories for her…and his group of transitory boarders provides a refreshing and welcome emotional tonic. But as Ella settles into a comfortable new role as unofficial cook and housemother, Jess secretly comes to London to pursue her own dreams, precipitating an unexpected family reunion and an exploration of the heart—one famished for love, for healing, and for forgiveness.


"Synopsis" by , Bestselling novelist McInerney makes her American debut with a big-hearted story of three generations of women who learn that being true to themselves means being true to each other.
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