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    Lists | June 22, 2015

    Stephen Jarvis: IMG Robert Seymour — 13 Pictures

    1. Self-Portrait. My new novel, Death and Mr. Pickwick, tells the story of the origins of Charles Dickens's first novel, The Pickwick Papers. Its... Continue »
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      Death and Mr. Pickwick

      Stephen Jarvis 9780374139667

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Necessary Sins


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Reading Group Guide

1. The book opens with this line from the preface: “On the fifth floor of Cabot Hall, the freshman women talk endlessly of sex,” (page 1). Discuss the role that physical love played in Lynn Darlings life. What did precocious 16-year-old Lynn understand of it, and how does this change or not change throughout the memoir?

2. Lynn describes the many ways in which she and her husband were different-she was wild, unformed, reckless; he was refined, worldly, restrained. But how were they alike? What was at the core of the attraction between them?

3. What do you interpret the books title to mean? Does life make some sins necessary? If they are necessary, are they sins?

4. “Im afraid,” I said finally, “of not being any good. If I dont write, Ill never find out how bad I am,” (page 26). Lynn details her inherent lack of confidence and how it adversely affected her life and work. Do you think these issues are resolved? Discuss what makes having confidence in oneself so challenging for many, both men and women.

5. “Everyone has their drug of choice. For some its sex; for others, alcohol or religion, or art, or even drugs themselves. Mine was transgression, or so I liked to think,” (page 41). Explore this statement. What were some of the transgressions Lynn made? Did she correct any of them? What does the writing of this memoir represent?

6. Discuss the authors narrative style (her use of flashbacks, and foreshadowing). How did it affect your reading experience?

7. “Once, in college, a good friend had asked which I would prefer-to be immortalized as a character in a novel, or to be cherished as a friend for life. A character, I said, of course,” (page 118). How would you answer this question?

8. Discuss the relationships between the mothers and daughters in Necessary Sins, considering this statement by Lynn: “Mothers and daughters live in a matrix of emotions that blind insight and hobble love,” (page 156). Yet, she dedicates the book to her daughter. Why do you think she chose to do so?

9. Lynn describes being devastated when Lee gives her towels for the first Valentines Day they shared after getting married, lamenting that Lee had become different from the man she first fell in love with, “the individuals we once were had been permanently changed by the life we lived together,” (Chapter Nine). Do you agree that people change once they are married? What was she really lamenting? Do you sympathize?

10. The author writes candidly about her rage during the time she was caring for Lee in his illness. What is your response to this?

Product Details

Darling, Lynn
Dial Press
Personal Memoirs
Biography - General
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8.30x5.56x.53 in. .44 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
Biography » Women
History and Social Science » Journalism » Journalists

Necessary Sins Used Trade Paper
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Product details 240 pages Dial Press - English 9780385336079 Reviews:
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