Book of Polly Discussion Questions

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The following questions are designed to help you guide your students through a structured discussion about the 2019 Kathy Hepinstall novel 'The Book of Polly.'

The Book of Polly

The Book of Polly is a 2017 novel by American author Kathy Hepinstall that explores the relationship between a young girl and her much older mother. Students reading this story should find plenty to talk about with these characters, and the reading may open the way to exploring their own thoughts on family, mortality, and life. This discussion is intended for high school students, although it can be adapted for other ages as well.

Questions about Plot and Characters

  • In one sentence, how would you describe The Book of Polly? What is this story about?
  • How does The Book of Polly begin? What do we learn about these characters and their lives? Do you think we learn more about Polly or the narrator from this opening? Why?
  • How does the narrator describe Polly? How is Willow's early life defined by her mother's age and attitude? Which do you think has the biggest impact on Willow's narration, sense of self, and personality?
  • How is Willow trying to deal with her mother's age? What does it mean to make her mother 'larger than life?' How does Polly encourage this? How does this fit into Willow's quest to learn about her mother's past? Are the myth of Polly and the reality of Polly's life compatible?
  • How does Polly and Willow's relationship develop throughout this novel? In your opinion, what scene in this novel was most crucial in the development of the plot and of the relationship between these characters?
  • While this book is primarily about Polly and Willow, there are many side characters who play important roles as well. Which of these was your favorite? Why? How do these characters impact Polly and Willow as well as their respective goals and attitudes?
  • What is the climax of this novel? How does this represent a chance for the major characters to demonstrate growth or make a choice about their futures? How does the conflict resolve? What did you think about this resolution? What did you think about the way the novel ended?

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