About the book:
In Victoria Redel’s mesmerizing first novel, the question of what happens when a mother loves her child too much is deeply and darkly explored. Left with a small fortune by her parents and the cryptic advice, “it would do to find a passion,” Redel’s narrator sets out to become a mother–a task she feels she can be adequately passionate about. She conceives her son Paul through a loveless one-night stand, surrounds him with a wonderful, magical world for two–a world filled with books, music, endless games, and bottomless devotion–and calls him pet names like Birdie, Cookie, Puppy, and Loverboy. She wonders, “Has ever a mother loved a child more?” But as life outside their lace curtains begins to beckon the school-age Paul, his mother’s efforts to keep him content in their small world become increasingly frantic and ultimately extreme by all definitions.
In this exquisite debut novel, Victoria Redel takes us deep into the mind of a very singular mother, exposing the dangerously whisper-thin line between selfless and selfish motivation that exists in all types of devotion.
About the author:
Q. The narrator is an anonymous narrator who awakes in a hospital. We know her only as Paul’s mother and by the names they have invented for her in their enclosed and magical games. Why has Redel chosen to keep the narrator unnamed?
Q. As the narrator’s obsessive relationship to her son and to mothering becomes more obvious, Redel maintains the reader’s empathy toward the mother. Do you believe the character remains simultaneously both a disturbing and sympathetic figure? How does Redel manage this?
Q. Unlike much contemporary literature, Loverboy does not have a happy ending. Nor even one in which redemption is a genuine possibility. Instead, Loverboy falls into the realm of tragedy as it seems to draw from the literature of classical tragedy. Can you think about ways in which the protagonist is and is not a typical tragic hero?
Q. Redel takes on many taboo subjects regarding mothering. In what ways does she do this and does she manage through an extreme example to say something larger about love and separation?
Q. Loverboy is told in many short chapters, some even less than a page. Is this short vignette form effective? How does it help create a tone to the novel?
Q. Magic and magical worlds figure highly in the invented world created by Paul and his mother. On the night before he leaves for school Paul announces, “Magically I will cover my eyes and when I open them, I will be gone.” How has the very rich world the mother has created with her son ultimately backfired on her?
Q. The bird box, the spy game, and the fenced schoolyard are examples of the imagery Redel uses to indicate a potent internal and external world. These images are compounded by things lost and things found-for example, the hide and seek game. Even Paul himself seems lost to his mother in the neighborhood playground. What is the effect of this imagery and what does it indicate about the mother’s psychology?
Q. In short flashbacks, the narrator reveals moments in her own childhood where she pretended to limp or displayed exorbitant knowledge in order to be noticed and seen by her self-enraptured parents. How has this childhood affected her? What do these glimpses tell us about the mother’s relationship with her son, even about her decision to have and how to have a child?
Q. The narrator’s equation, “Many men equal no father” is the subject of the center section “The City of Fathers.” She backs up her equation with facts about the mating practices of other cultures and even other animal species. How and why does she ultimately revise that equation?
Q. “It would do well to have a passion” is a repeated phrase throughout the novel. What does this mean to the narrator and how does it inform and justify her actions throughout the novel?
Q. Throughout the novel there are odd characters-Mrs. Yarkin, Jacob, even Emerson-that have a brief but enduringly powerful impact on the narrator. Why do these characters figure in the novel? Is their role largely symbolic or do they represent certain options that the narrator accepts or rejects?
Q. At the end of the book the mother says, “I am saving my son from the ordinary. I am saving him from an obvious life.” What does “the exceptional” and “the ordinary” mean within this novel? And is the mother’s judgment or wish for her son entirely wrong for a parent?
Q. The obsession of the mother is clearly outside the realm of most parenting. But do her beliefs or behaviors represent ways many parents feel or behave? What is the line she crosses? Does Redel lead us to believe that the mother had a choice?