About the book:
About the author:
Martha McPhee is the author of Bright Angel Time, a New York Times Notable book, and coauthor with Jenny and Laura McPhee of Girls. She teaches at Hofstra University and lives in New York City.
Q. Gorgeous Lies opens with the statements: "They loved Anton. Every single one of them." How do Anton’s wife, former wife, children, step-children, and others show that love? How is each person’s love for Anton unique? What obstacles or contraries are there to the love each has for Anton?
Q. There is a saying that "you can take the man out of the Jesuits but you can’t take the Jesuits out of the man." How applicable is this saying to Anton and his life during all the years after he leaves the Jesuits? What is the role of religion and faith in Anton’s life and the lives of his children and step-children?
Q. What is the effect of the author’s narration of events out of chronological sequence? How does McPhee influence our responses to characters and events by shifting among various levels of time, ranging from Anton’s childhood to the months and years following his death? How might McPhee’s storytelling technique reflect the dynamics of thought, feeling, and memory within the Furey-Cooper family?
Q. What is the extent of Anton’s control over the members of his family? How would you explain the power of his personality and the willingness of all family members to focus on him before themselves and their own needs? How true is the statement that "this was not, under the reign of Anton, ….a society of individuals"? How would you describe "the reign of Anton"?
Q. We are told that everyone in the Furey-Cooper household "had at least one lock on his or her door" and that "all over the house, as it happened, there were keys." What is the significance of locks and keys in relation to each family member? What kinds of psychological and emotional locks does each install, and what is the provenance of the "rainbow of keys" in relation to those locks? What "master key" might exist to all those locks, and who possesses that key?
Q. What is the significance of the statement that long ago Agnes "had accepted and forgiven" Anton’s betrayals? What instances of betrayal and of acceptance and forgiveness are there in the novel? What importance does McPhee place on forgiveness and reconciliation?
Q. We are told that fairy tales are Alice’s belief; "her father always taught her to believe in the possibility of the impossible." To what extent has this been Anton’s primary teaching to all his children and step-children? How has belief in the possibility of the impossible influenced all their lives, including those of Anton and his wives? Under what circumstances might it be advisable or appropriate to believe in the possibility of the impossible"?
Q. In his 1971 proposal for establishing "an organic community," Anton states that "we hope to grow by giving up our manipulative, dishonest game playing." To what extent does this actually happen? What instances of manipulation and "game playing" occur? To what extent does "manipulative, dishonest game playing" affect every family, and how might it be corrected?
Q. How does Anton’s attitude toward sex and sexuality, sexual repression, and sexual expression determine his behavior within the family? To what extent are his theories a justification for, or rationalization of, his own behavior? What do the excerpts from his notes reveal about his thinking and his attitudes?
Q. As Anton approaches and then suffers through his final illness, he thinks about his still-unfinished book, with its various titles. Why do you think Anton never finishes his book? What is the significance that, in Alice’s view, the book "added up to this-a few collages and crates of notes, more debris at the foot of his deathbed"? How should we understand Eve’s final thoughts?-"His book was all around her. His book was here. It was him, and she defied the wind to tell her that that wasn’t something."
Q. Saying goodbye to her father, Alice thinks, "For twenty-five years this family has tried to be a family." In what ways has the family succeeded or failed? Why has it fallen upon Alice, the youngest, to be her family’s "savior"? Why do you think it falls upon her to be the one to "kill" her father? Is her action justified? Why does Alice refer to the Anton to whom she administers the morphine as "this imposter"?
Q. In what ways is the story of Anton and the Furey-Cooper family an illustration of "lives affecting effecting infecting other lives"?
Q. "What is it we all want anyway?" Sophia asks, and then answers her own questions: "Love, of course. We all want love." How does McPhee present the theme of everyone”s desire to be loved? What efforts are made to capture the love of others and to love others? What other desires and needs interfere with the giving and receiving of love? How does the desire to be loved differ from the desire to be needed?
Q. What "gorgeous lies" characterize the life of the Furey-Cooper family over the years? When do those lies occur, and why? Why do they take on such importance? Which family members are most emphatically associated with the gorgeous lies of the novel’s title? In what ways are these lies "gorgeous"?