The Interestings

January abm book clubWelcome to the very first ABM Book Club discussion. We're making history today guys! First off I wanted to say THANK YOU to everyone who has already left comments, emailed or shown their support on IG. I was actually pretty nervous that no one would join in and I'd look like that dorky lonely girl clutching her book during lunch at school. You know what I mean? Anyway, thanks for joining and agreeing that yes, indeed, reading is way cool. 

So, The Interestings was pretty awesome, right?! I'm going to throw out a few topics for discussion. I may (or may not) add my two cents to each, but I'd love to hear what you thought. Please chime in and if you'd like to reference the discussion point by number feel free. If there's something you wanted to discuss that's not listed you're welcome to start a new point of discussion as well.  If you want to respond to something another commenter said just hit "reply." 

(Also, yes, this has spoilers! So, if you're not done reading yet you might hold off on reading the discussion points below.)

1.) Jules' (aka Julie's) name changed once she attended her first summer at Spirit in the Woods. Do you think she changed too? If so, in what way(s)?

2.) One big theme from the book is the idea of classism, or at least feeling like you identify with one class in society and not others. What are your thoughts on this?

-Jules feels out of place and lucky to be invited into the Wolf family partly because they are in a higher (and therefore, to her) better class than her. I really liked the scene where Jules is talking to her sister at the end of the book and asks if her sister was ever jealous of her. Jules assumes her sister was jealous, since she obviously had a more interesting life with higher class friends. While her sister is surprised she ever thought that, because she was never jealous. Maybe classes only exist to those who care?

-I really like how the book explores the friendship between a lower income family (Jules and Dennis) and an extremely wealthy family (Ash and Ethan). They have awkward moments, for sure, but I like that none of them (aside from sometimes Jules, more on that in the next point) really seem to care.

Ash and Ethan embody the two extremes from the upper class: old money and new money. I think it's interesting that Ash seems to be more inherently entitled and blind to her and her families wrongs, while Ethan is described as the morally fair and upright character in the book.

3.) Jules' jealousy.

I really loved and sometimes identified with this character. I also feel like what I learned from her most was a life lived jealously is such a waste of time. She makes herself (and her husband) so unhappy with her jealousy of Ash and Ethan's life, even though she obviously loves them both a great deal. I also think it's interesting that Jules is the only one feeling disappointed by her life, while Dennis and Rory seem perfectly happy with their home, how much money their household has, etc. It seems that jealousy makes you discontent when you really don't need to be. 

4.) Art. Most of the main characters in this book consider themselves creative and most of them pursue artistic careers. What do you think about that? 

I loved watching Ethan's success. You meet his character as a boy who is just filling up notebook after notebook with doodles, dreaming of being an illustrator in some capacity. He also created Figland orginally as a way for his teenage self to deal with his parents divorce. I love that he used art as an escape and a outlet for the difficult and complicated things he encountered in life. He found a productive and positive way to deal with his hardships. I love that.

Jules discovers this world of creative kids when she first attends Spirit in the Woods after her father as passed away when she's a teenager. She falls in love with this world and wants to be a part of it. She tries to have a career in comedic acting but it doesn't ultimately work out. She becomes a social worker and seems to be pretty good at it. Later in life she has the opportunity to return to the world of Spirit in the Woods to run the camp with her husband. They quit their jobs, leave the city and give it a shot. She ends up feeling disappointed about the experience and not renewing their post after the first summer. The whole scene where Dennis spells out why he thinks she is disappointed by the experience I think is just so good.

Jonah I think is the most tragic character with regard to "art." He feels his art was stolen from him as a child because of the whole Barry Grimes thing. And I agree, he was stolen from and just, frankly, abused through that relationship. I think Barry deserved a lot of jail time for his actions rather than the mediocre career he gets out of it. But anyway, because of this Jonah gives up on music and goes into robotics. By the time he's in his 40s he realizes he has really missed music all his life. Ethan encourages him to just do it for fun, just play music with anyone/for anyone. Jonah does, and he seems much happier for it. I love that even though maybe Jonah could have had a successful career in music by the time he realizes (or maybe admits) that he even wants that he is well into another career and he feels perhaps the time to pursue that has already passed. So he does it for fun-and he's content with that. I love it. Art doesn't have to be your career for it to be a meaningful and awesome part of your life. Just do it. Like Jonah. 

5.) Goodman Wolf.

First, what a cool name that is wasted on such a bad character. Here's an example of a rich kid getting away with a crime if there ever was one. Based on what Cathy told Jules, and the fact that Goodman did flee, I think it's pretty safe to say that he did rape Cathy. But instead of jail time he instead receives a life abroad supported by his parents and then his sister Ash with her husband's money. 

Although it's perhaps a cliche, I really like that the book has Goodman starting out this absolutely beautiful and much loved/admired character and then by the end of the book he is this old, ugly, has nothing without the charity of his family, wreaked human being. It's fitting, I guess poetic justice? Is that what that saying means?

It's so sad/disgusting that he not only wreaked Cathy's adolescence, but he also very nearly ends Ash and Ethan's marriage by his life and willingness to accept his families support over the years. I think Ethan was right, Ash did choose her family over him by keeping the secret all those years. But I don't think that makes their marriage unrepairable. And in the end, they did reconcile.

6.) Did you cry a little when Ethan died? I did. 

Ok, I'll stop rambling for now (I'll probably continue in the comments). What did you all think of the book? xo. Emma

  • When I first started reading this book, I was not interested in it at all. I can’t explain why, but I kept reading. I ended up really enjoying the book! I liked the character Jules. I like that she seemed so real. Like you mentioned I could relate to her at times, and learn from her. I also love stories that continue over a long period of time. I like seeing the characters evolve over years, and to see how each deals with the changes of life. I was annoyed with the Wolf family for basically ignoring their son’s crime. I also found the part where Ethan talks about how if Ash is so into women’s rights, why did she assume Cathy was lying, and dismiss her. I can understand sticking by family, but Goodman seemed so guilty, and they just seemed so blind to his real character. You could sometimes love and dislike Ash. All of the characters were interesting. I thought it was a great book. And thank you for suggesting it, I might not have ever read it otherwise!

  • Hi,
    I thought the book was briliant and loved how it showed the different relationships that you can encounter through out life. The hardest part for me in the book was Jules jealousie. Jealousie is such an ugly emotion and I think I try to run away from it as much as possible. It was hard for me to face Jules jealousie but I think it also very good for me to do so.

    I want to thank you for this book club! I have been searching for one for sometime but its hard to find ones that are’nt old and were the members all know eachother and you feel like a little alien.

    Thank you for an awesome book club and a very insperational blog!

  • Sam, I felt the same way about the beginning. It takes a while to get into it, but I’m so glad I kept going!

  • I found it hard to like Jules–even though she was the main character. I also found it hard to believe that Ethan would be lusting after her for so long–or even that he’d like Ash for that matter.

    Jules didn’t learn that being jealous of what others have is a waste of time until she was much too old. Granted, I don’t have friends who are mega-rich on the scale that Ethan and Ash were, but I think all of that evening out and getting used to what you have plays out mostly in your twenties. As I am nearing the end of mine, I find I am quite happy with what I have and not insanely jealous of those who have more. She seems to have taken too long to deal with that and I am surprise that Dennis stayed with her through all of her pettiness. Her family was great and she was living in the greatest city in the world with her best friends–what’s not to be happy about?

    The only time I really felt for her adult character was when she was dealing with Dennis’ depression. Depression in a family member is hard to deal with as you can’t just force them out of it–that went on for quite a long part of the book and I was glad she stood by him.

  • I did cry when Ethan died…probably more that a little. I loved this book! It was a really interesting to follow the characters through their lives as they all navigate wealth, success and failure.

    I didn’t think Goodman was all that horrible (all though maybe I should have) I think it was a good representation of unconditional love that families and friends have for one another. I found the relationships between Ethan and Cathy and Jules and Cathy very interesting after the the fact. That Ethan kind of kept up with her and tried to make up for things. A very complication situation for sure!

    http://tulipsandrain.com/

  • #6, yes I did. Ethan was my favorite character and it was so sad. I identified strongly with the classism in the book. No, it’s not worth it to be jealous of what others have, but it is so hard not to be. It’s hard not to feel discouraged when you walk through your own house and notice the old worn looking curtains, how your sheets are not as crisp as they used to be, and stuff on the floor gets stuck to your feet. You can only “fix” those things to a certain degree, but it doesn’t help you stop feeling a bit disappointed. At least for me anyways. I try very hard to be grateful for what I have, but when I’m in the presence of grandeur, it can make my stairwell that’s missing a banister and crumbs on the table seem like squalor (I’m being a bit dramatic here for a point). I think Jules’ big problem with most of that is because she’s seeing what she could’ve had if only she loved Ethan as much as he loved her and Ash was her best friend. Ash sort of “inherited” what Jules dismissed. I also really liked Dennis. He just felt so “safe” to me, even with his history of mental illness. I felt so bad for him when he couldn’t find medication that worked and just tried to slog through day-to-day life.

  • I was so mad about Goodman… who does that? I think it’s a good example of how family is willing to do literally anything to not watch a member of it suffer. But I think he deserved to suffer a little, not go away to a foreign country and have fun.

    I do think Jules changed when her name did… she wouldn’t have experienced half the things The Interestings introduced her to if she hadn’t been invited to their group. I was a little mad when she decided not to keep running the camp just because she was disappointed in it, especially because Dennis really wanted to.

    I love that Ethan never seems to feel truly comfortable with his money and success. He still relates to being that kid in the woods doodling in his notebook. And I like that he and Ash give Jules and Dennis financial help when they need it, even though they hesitate to accept it.

    Overall, I think the book tells a good story about classism, lifelong friendships, mistakes, and growing as a person. I really enjoyed reading it!

  • The Interestings is such a beautiful evolutionary tale of friendship. How Julie feels a little left out at first and then Jules quickly becomes such a rock for Ash (and even Goodman) is great. I think adolescence is the perfect time to start exploring interests and skills more in-depth than children. Spirit-In-The Woods provided creative children a space to hone in on their specific talents. Changing names or types of dress or groups of friends is really common in trying to establish self-indentity and Julie changing to Jules is a great example of this!

    I think that, even with Jules’s career in Social Work, she was allowed to use a certain degree of creativity. Not many people have the financial means to make a career in the arts the way Ash was able to, nor the guidance that was given to Ethan. And it’s SUPER hard (maybe even impossible) to recreate a magical moment. I think Jules’ return to Spirit-In-The-Woods is a prime example of this.

    Jonah’s loss of music was especially hard to read. However, I do love that he was able to share his gift with Mo. Such a selfless way for Jonah share his love.

    Great discussion points!

  • Hi Sam,

    Glad you did end up getting into it. I think there were parts that I was more interested in than others. I actually loved when they were all kids. I think I feel nostalgic about summer camp, since I went to a few myself and always loved it. I thought the season where Dennis was very depressed was hard to read at times, since it felt like there was nothing that could be done for him.

    Yes, I thought that was probably one of the best parts of the book, when Ethan points out how Ash’s assumption of Goodman’s innocence doesn’t line up with her feminist views. Well said Ethan.

    I agree Ash is easy to dislike at times, but impossible not to love.

    -Emma

  • I agree, Jules jealousy was very annoying at times. Her jealousy was like Dennis’ depression, a sickness that made their life worse. Although Jules could have chosen not to be jealous, while of course Dennis was stuck with his depression.

    -Emma

  • This book was such a great study of humanity. I particularly loved the honesty of Ethan’s relationship with his son Mo. Although it was painful to see how alienated they felt from each other, it was so real. Those are the types of struggles we deal with in life and Jules’ perspective on it was lovely – “just love him and love him and love him.” This is such a motherly statement and easy for her to say when Mo isn’t her child, but it’s the absolute truth. In life, sometimes all you can do is love a person. We all have family members or friends in our lives who are challenging to deal with, but would we ever want to give them up? No. So all we can do is love them.

    This relationship also makes me think of Ethan’s relationship with his dad – who was unavailable and an alcoholic (I might be confusing this with another book – forgive me!. Ethan could have gone that route when he realized that he had a hard time relating to his son, but he didn’t! Sure, he worked a lot because that was easier, but at least he addressed the issue when he spoke to Jules and tried to be the best he could.

  • Yes, Ethan’s seemingly life long love of Jules is sort of strange. I didn’t quite know what to make of it really, since he obviously also loved Ash. Maybe it’s meant to comment on the lasting impacts of your first love?

    I think watching Jules cope with and stand by Dennis through his depression shows her strength and that she is indeed a good person despite her struggle with jealousy. I think it’s easy to write someone off as a good or bad person. But that’s rarely the case, right? Everyone is a mixture. Jules chooses to be jealous and that’s bad, while on the other hand she supports and stands by her depressed husband and that’s good. I also think this is a big reason Dennis supports her through her trials, because she does for him. I think that’s an awesome picture of marriage-supporting each other in our own weaknesses.

    -Emma

  • I suppose it is a picture of unconditional love. I didn’t think of that way, good point.

    But let me ask you this, do you think love should be unconditional in this way? Do you think Goodman’s life was better or worse for this unconditional love from his family?

    Yes, Ethan trying to help Cathy is such a touching picture. I love Ethan’s character for many reasons but I especially love how he just tries to be good to people.

    -Emma

  • Ok confession. I struggled to get through the first chapter and gave up. The wording felt too much like being in school for me and a bit overdone. Im a stay at home mom and by the time night time comes around I need simple and it needs to grab my attention before my eye lids give way. I fell asleep trying to read this book and I wanted to so badly to “get into it” as other poster mentioned. I even debated on getting the cliff notes in order to participate here, but obviously I didn’t since I have nothing to chat about…and wow, Jule’s is a social worker! Social workers rock! I was a social worker in my former life 🙂 With that said, i do look forward to the next read!

  • I was really sad when Ethan died and cried, he was the redeeming character in the book for me as he was the only one who seemed to have a moral compass. I loved how the 6 main characters took a sort of cross section of classes and cultures. I thought it was clever how they were all friends but all had their own place in society. It was a very real book and I too didn’t really identify with Jules a great deal. I could understand Ethan’s undying love for her though, I think the power of unrequited love is strong and so is the memory of your first love. Imagine you were still friends with your first crush now? I think I would also think a lot about the path untaken if I was in his position.

    Great questions Emma, I wasn’t sure about the book at first but was totally into it by the end. Looking forward to reading another. Zoe

  • Yes, I think it was harder for Jules since she probably did feel like she would have been the rich one had she loved Ethan. But then at the end of the book when they kiss she finds that she still doesn’t love him. And I like that the fact that he had money and success didn’t change the way she felt, like she didn’t choose to love because he was rich.

    -Emma

  • Oh yes, I love how Jonah begins teaching Mo how to play banjo. Jonah is such a great guy even though he’s a bit of an odd duck. Like when he was part of that cult for awhile and his friends had to rescue him. What did you think of that? And it’s weird how his mom finds purpose there, while she attempts to rescue him. Funny how that worked out, right?

    -Emma

  • Well, I definitely cried a bit when Ethan died. He was the most pure and kind character in the whole book. Although I could sometimes identify with Jules’ jealousy to an extent, I just thought it was so sad and disappointed that she allowed it to ruin not only her own life, but the lives around her (Dennis and at times Rory). Even though her friends would have gladly given SO MUCH to Jules (and let’s be honest, they were pretty nice friends by not only bringing her on AWESOME vacations, but also giving them $100,000!) she still seems so ungrateful of them. It’s sad to see a wonderful friendship tainted because of her jealousy.

    As far as Goodman goes, such an awesome name in both the sense that it’s cool and the irony in it, because he definitely is NOT a “good man” in my opinion. I also appreciated the justice in his life. I thought it was a little weird that Jules was still somewhat attracted to him at the end. Not physically, but she did blush and I think no matter what happens, she will always be blind to what he did because of the memories she associates with him and the camp.

    p.s. can’t wait to get started on “The Fault in Our Stars”!

    xoxo
    Taylor

    http://www.welcomehometaylor.com

  • I’m glad you brought up Ethan’s relationship with his son Mo. It’s sort of his achilles heel. He’s such a good person, so thoughtful toward others and seems to choose the “right” thing to do in ethical situations but then he finds himself unable to connect with his son. It’s another great example of people not being all good or all bad, but rather complicated an (always) imperfect. I do love Ethan’s honesty, and that he obviously lives his whole life trying to be there for his son. Jules’ advice was perfect and so simple.

    -Emma

  • I couldn’t agree more. I think “the path untaken” as you put it, is always going to be more mysterious (and therefore, interesting) than how your life actually turns out. It’s probably a little bit of that “the grass is always greener on the other side” kind of thing.

    -Emma

  • I think Goodman was way worse off because his family never made him face his own mistakes. It’s no wonder he ended up so foolish, he never had a natural consequence to anything so had no idea of the impact what he did had.

  • I also had a hard time liking Jules. She just seemed so wrapped up in herself (i.e. thinking her sister had been jealous of her all those years). There were things I could relate to like being “disappointed” in how her life turns out. I think almost all of us imagined certain things that didn’t turn out or wishing we could return to a certain time period in our life. She just seemed to concentrate too much energy on those aspects and not appreciate the life she did have.

  • Like others, I struggled getting into this book but finally hit a point where I couldn’t put it down. I did cry when Ethan died. Goodman’s character was a real problem with me (probably because I have a brother that my parents have supported his whole life and he is not exactly a good person but everyone pretends otherwise), but I did appreciate seeing how his “golden boy” status didn’t reflect who he was inside. Jules was a little hard for me to like off and on but I guess that’s real life, isn’t it!?

  • The book grabbed me right away … maybe because I went to summer camp and have such fond memories of it. The character of Jules is so real to me, having been surrounded by art and pushed into theatre and praised for my abilities, only to find out that I wasn’t that good or dedicated to it when the time came to study or make a career of it. Also, the jealousy thing. A lot of people I worked with in college have very enviable careers now, and though I am doing better than I imagined myself doing at this age, I find myself very jealous of them. I really need to appreciate what I have.

    Other than relating to Jules, I keep lingering on Ethan’s relationships with Jules and Ash. Usually unrequited love and rejection can really hurt someone, especially in formative years. How was he able to keep Jules as a friend even while still loving her so much? How did that love never wane as Ash became what seemed like a fulfilling partner? Did he ever feel like he was being unfair to Ash? Everything about Ethan (except his relationship with his son) painted him to be so nonjudgmental, untainted by his success and wealth and always loving with abandon. Maybe I’m cynical, but it’s hard to imagine that Ethan’s success and his marriage to Ash wouldn’t have had a negative effect at some point on both his marriage and his relationship with Jules.

  • I really enjoyed this book and I love, love, having a book club. I’ve been meaning to make time for reading again because I love it so much but it’s so hard to know which book to choose, this takes the guess work out of that and I can just enjoy reading. It’s also great to have a timeline on when to finish it made me really carve out time for reading which I need to do. Anyway, so happy this was started and I can’t wait for next month!

    xo Savannah

  • I guess based on the comments I should continue reading. I’m about a third into the book and it’s been really painful. I find the characters to be pretty shallow and vapid. I just can’t connect with them at all. I could care less about what happens and even find myself leaning towards disliking them.

    I’m also not a huge fan of the jumping from past to present to not so decent past. Though I’ll admit that Wolitzer is pretty good at making this not too painful of an experience. I think she’s a good writer and I might enjoy a different book of hers but it felt too “Girls” to me.

  • Yes, I think Ethan’s quite interesting that he could stay friends with Jules over the years. I don’t if his love for her stopped and then started again once he and Ash were breaking apart. Doesn’t seem like it. So I think it would be extremely weird to be friends with someone I still sort of loved. Not sure I could do that.

    -Emma

  • Same for me. I’m really thankful a some of you all are joining me. I really loved making time to read this past month, even though there were nights I was tempted to just click around online or scroll through IG for way too long. 🙂

    -Emma

  • I also took Ethan’s love for Jules some sort of reference to her being his first love. Especially at the end. No matter what the story evolved into, it was always truly about the camp and how it was the cause of most of their joy and some of their pain (Goodman and Cathy, Jules jealousy).

    I really enjoyed the dynamic being Dennis and Jules. It was such a comforting image. And there were definitely times during their struggles that I had to go over and hug my own guy and just know that no matter what happens, we’ll always stick together.

    xoxo
    Taylor

  • There are some very well-said comments here! Just a couple more to add:

    Jules, though she flip-flopped between being a beloved and disappointing character, spent too much of her life comparing herself to others. Life is so short, and we all battle with negative thoughts (like jealousy), but we must make a conscious effort to choose happiness more often than not. Jules’ jealousy, which defeated her happiness way too often, was wonderfully juxtaposed to Dennis’ depression which, conversely, had nothing to do with conscious choice.

    I believe in unconditional love for a child, but I think a parent should have different, but pretty much equal, love for all children, if that makes sense. (Can’t we all just love each other?!… and have world peace?! – I’ll admit that I’m a naive idealist at times). I believe that it would have been even more loving to force Goodman back into reality instead of letting him believe that he was somehow invincible to consequence. And it would have shown love to Cathy, who maybe wouldn’t have suffered as badly throughout her life if her pain wasn’t made out to be insignificant and ignored.

  • Oh no, I just wrote a long post and lost it all…:-( Oh well..

    #3 I loved the part where Jules looks up the difference between jealousy and envy, – jealousy being the feeling of wanting what someone else has, and envy being the feeling of wanting what someone else has, but also wanting to take it away from the person you’re jealous of. I think Jules will always be a bit jealous, because her life turned out so differently than she wished, but I think that she ultimately got over her envy, which was a major destructive force in her life. When she got to that point she could finally see the value of her own life, and how much she had that Ash didn’t.

    #6: I cried and cried over Ethan. What I liked the most about him was that he so naturally did what he loved. Even at such a young age he just knew what he loved, and did it. Easy as that.

  • Hi Jackie! I felt like it was very disjointed and not a page-turner, as well. About a week after I finished it I started to appreciate some of the real life scenarios simply because they stuck with me, and I found myself thinking about them. Overall, I think the author crammed in a few too many issues: rape, depression, autism, cancer, class privilege, greed, child labor… and it goes on! Still, in the end, I had some worthwhile takeaways. I hope this helps your choice!

  • I read The Interestings last fall after hearing a lot of hype about it and was sort of disappointed. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. However, I did absolutely love Ethan as a character. When he passed away it seemed like it happened so quickly that I wasn’t prepared, and, yes, I did some full on ugly crying.

    I’m so glad ABM is doing a book club! Can’t wait to get started on next month’s book. 🙂

  • I agree with your points about Goodman. I think showing love can mean a lot of different things, sometimes letting those you love face consequences is love.

    Also, I think the world would be better with a few more naive idealists in it. 🙂

    -Emma

  • I hate when that happens!

    Yes, I too loved how Ethan just always did what he loved. And really, we was just very lucky that it turned out to be a career path. But even if it hadn’t worked out, I bet he still would have been filling up journals with doodles and making up stories about Figland. He sort of reminds me of Elsie in this way. 🙂

    -Emma

  • You know, I feel like a lot of things get ruined due to hype. It’s really hard to live up to usually. But, that being said, I still really like hearing about something over and over so I can check it out and make my own decisions about it.

  • i absolutely loved this book! i read it all in one weekend while i was sick at the beginning of this month, and the story and characters have stuck in my head. i think that is the sign of a good story, right? when it stays with you for awhile. anyway, i definitely identified with the whole initial magic and later nostalgia about spirit in the woods, because i formed some strong, long-lasting friendships at summer camp as a teen. {i am 33 now and have a group of friends whom i met when i was 13 at a camp, and we have all been part of each others’ lives since then, going to graduations and weddings and there’s even one couple who married within the group, like ash and ethan! 🙂 we all live in different parts of the country now, but have gone on a couple of friend trips together over the past few years. :)} so, needless to say, i really enjoyed how the book followed the group’s stories throughout the years. and i also liked that it wasn’t just a “then she met a boy and they fell in love and lived happily ever after” story. i do love a good love story, but the older i get, the more i realize that there is so much more than just that, and i like how this book addressed all of the other stuff, too, instead of just giving us a disney-type of ending. anyway! i could go on and on about this book {or really, most topics, haha}, and i really wish we could all just sit around and drink coffee or tea or wine and chat about this fo ra couple of hours, so that’s how i am imagining this. *cheers!* thank you so much for starting this book club, as i am sure i would have never read this book otherwise. i am already looking forward to reading the next one! 🙂

  • I really identified with the classism as well, and I think that jealousy is especially hard to avoid when you really struggle financially. For Jules and Dennis money is this constant obstacle in so many aspects of their life, while Ash and Ethan are so, so rich. There’s definitely that feeling of being a charity case when Ethan offers them money, but at the same time I think anyone who struggles financially feels how inherently unfair money is. Jules worked so hard and sacrificed, while Ash never had to (in the same way at least), and although Ethan clearly was so talented and deserving of his success, he earned more money than he could ever need in his life. But of course, he was given such a short life, which makes money seem irrelevant..

  • I loved this book! I found it way too easy to identify with Jules. I totally got her displeasure with her family after being at camp. My family is from the Deep South and sometimes I have a hard time not looking down on them,so Jules’s displeasure with her family is easy to understand. I thought it was so strange that Ethan still had feelings for Jules long after he had married Ash and Jules had rejected him. I also kind of bated Jules. I wish that Ash had been more of the main focus since I would have liked understanding her relationship with Goodman better. Overall it was fabulous! I’m excited for.February’s book! The Fault in Our Stars is one of my favorites!

  • Loved this book. I think there is a lesson to be learned from Jules and Denis’ initial hesitancy to embrace the wealthy couple that Ash & Ethan were friends with. They just assumed that they had nothing in common with them and had no interest in getting to know them. And then they were the ones who mentioned the medicine to Jules that ended up pulling Dennis out of his depression. Without them, her marriage would have been suffering forever!

    Also, Jonah’s story is a reminder of how tough times were for the gay community in the 80’s. It wasn’t that long ago! I can’t imagine a time where all my gay friends are terrified of a little-understood disease.

  • Liz, I completely agree. I grew up in a pretty poor family, so I guess it’s a completely different story depending on which side of it you’re on. It’s not like I spend most of my time thinking about it though, but that dichotomy is always there and pops up sometimes when you’re in the presence of money. I like how you say that Jules worked so hard and Ash never had to yet the money fell in Ash’s favor. Totally unfair how money is.

  • Yes, it seems he never stopped loving her … Jonah notices it too while Ethan is with Ash — I think when he was in the cult maybe? — but it really cemented that Ethan was truly in love with her his whole life. I don’t think I could be friends with someone I still sort of loved either … I don’t think most people could!

    I suppose Ethan is the least “real”-seeming character in the book to me, but he really serves a purpose in uniting not only the characters but the themes and emotions in the story.

  • Thank you for this bookclub! I had been searching for one I could connect with and I found yours at the perfect time. Loved this book. Ethan is my favorite character, and I was so sad when he died. I actually teared up earlier when he gave Jules a check to help her and Dennis out. They were struggling for so long and Ethan was able to give them peace of mind to make their lives just a little bit easier. I was surprised Ash didn’t support Cathy. Perhaps her taking the path and becoming such a strong feminist was her hidden guilt at not believing and standing up for Cathy all those years. 

  • I just loved the idea of Spirit in the Woods and how summer camp and experiences like that set the foundation for children’s whole lives. Often the friends we make when we’re young like that become our friends for life. In fact, most of my current friends are from back in grade school and high school. But we all evolve and become different people, so I can see how trying to relive that special adolescent connection by returning to camp didn’t work out for Jules. She already had those people in her life!

  • Hi Emma,

    you’re definitely not reading alone! Although I have to admit, I first had a hard time with the book. If I like a book, I get sucked right into it and can’t put it down and that, unfortunately, didn’t happen with The Interestings. I think the writing style made me kind of blind for the content. I didn’t like the air of foreboding that’s hanging thickly over the first chapters of the book (maybe also the rest? I’ve yet only made it through a third of the book, so maybe my opinions aren’t totally qualified).

    Weirdly enough, the writing style reminded me of Peter Pan (the book) and maybe Oliver Twist! In these old children’s books, the authors often abandon the plot for ‘asides’ drawing attention to the morale of the story and hinting that they already know how things are going to end. Your post actually helped me to see the point of why this happens in The Interestings.

    I read a few blurbs about the book online and they all mentioned how ‘relatable’ Jules was. I didn’t see what they meant until I read your comment and started thinking about it. I feel like we are seeing the story from Jules’ point of view (despite the 3rd-person narration) and this is what leads to the tinged view (the ‘Jules Shades’). Looking back at her old memories, but, of course knowing, what was to happen afterwards, the memories get tinged, maybe a little twisted, but certainly nostalgic. It got me wondering whether we all do that: Ruining perfectly happy memories because we have since realised “that was the last time I was with that person”.

    Also, I find that Jules is very much stuck in ‘her place’. Like you said, she’s very aware of class differences and believes that everybody else is, too. I also noticed how aware she is of ‘mental states’ (for a lack of a better word for it). The first we get to now about her future husband is that he is depressed. Again, these traits make her real and relatable. I’ve just realised that sometimes I was angry at the book, which means angry at Jules’ viewpoint. And mostly, if a character in a book or film makes you angry, it’s because you share some trait – one you don’t like about yourself. And Jules’ way of thinking in categories of “artistic”, “non-artistic”, “upper class”, “lower class”, “depressed”, “sane” and thus depriving herself and others the chance of getting out of their box, to develop and to be seen from other perspectives is probably something we all do. So that makes Jules very relatable.

    So much for now. I still have a lot of reading to catch up on (hope I have more time next month)
    Thanks for starting the book club!

  • The friends were so supportive of Jonah and so kind in their attempts to help him find his way out of the cult. I was really impressed with the development of each character individually and how they related to the group. I think it would have been easy for them to grow apart after that first amazing summer, but they all stayed in touch despite some really drastic differences in their lives.

    One of my favorite things about the book is how everyone is searching for ways to find their place in the world. Like Ethan trying to fit into the corporate world without compromising his values and ethics or Susannah and the cult that appreciates her musical talents in present tense rather than past.

    You’re right about how weird it is that Jonah’s mom went to rescue him from the cult and ended up there herself. Kind of like how Jules went back to capture the magic at Spirit-In-The Woods with Dennis and he ended up loving it so much more than she did.

  • Thank you for starting a book club. I am not in agreement with most of the comments left here. Although I did finish the book, I did not enjoy it. I felt the author did not trust in her own writing and felt the need to repeatedly note the strong bond between Ash and Jules. I also felt that the name “Goodman” was so contrived. At the point in the book when Larkin states after all she is her brother’s keeper I was hoping the book would take a turn and explore how Ash had recreated her life with her children. I am looking forward to reading “The Fault in Our Stars”, and am still having a grand time just reading. Thanks again.

  • I am about 44% in to this book according to my kindle. It was a bit slow in the first couple of chapters but then I started to identify with some of the characters in the book and relating it to my teen years, which by the way I was about the same age as they were in 1974. It was almost like a walk down memory lane when the discussed things from that era. At this point in the book I am really enjoying it and looking forward to what happens next. I did not read through the whole post because of spoilers…but will go back once I finish to read through what was discussed. I am excited to finish and start Feb. book selection.

    thanks for motivating me to start reading again. I am really enjoying it. Sometimes you need something like this to get you back into something you really enjoy. Have a great weekend.

    Kim

  • Perhaps it was hidden guilt. I hadn’t thought of that and I actually really like that idea. I know she mentions she does it bc her mother never did “do” anything career-wise with her life. But maybe Cathy had something to do with it too.

    -Emma

  • Yes, I really like that idea. That Jules way of viewing the world tends to put people in boxes, and then they cannot escape them easily. That would kind of explain why for so long she just ignored the very likely fact of Goodman’s raping Cathy. She can’t really see any fault in the Wolf family, because she already has them in a superior category to herself. Also why she assumes Ash and Ethan’s rich friends won’t like her or find her interesting.

    -Emma

  • Good points. I think for me the one time I felt the book was a little contrived was a plot twist where Goodman shows up at Spirit in the Woods. He traveled all that way just to be easily talked into leaving? A little bit of a stretch. This lead to Jules accidentally telling Ash in front of Ethan, so it was very important to the story moving forward. But it just felt a little forced, and not all that believable.

    -Emma

  • Hi Kim,

    How cool-I love when a book has the power to transport you or relate so closely with your own past experiences.

    And don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll be caught up in no time. This book was quite long. I honestly had to hustle a bit to finish by the end of the month. Next month’s selection is quite a bit shorter. 🙂

    -Emma

  • I loved this book. I’m usually a super slow reader, but I read the whole thing in a week. I really liked Jules because in some ways I can relate to her. I never changed my name or went to artsy summer camp, but when I left my small town for college I got a new sense of who I was, for better and worse. She definitely becomes more cultured and exposed to the world but she regards her families normalcy with disdain. She confuses money and culture with morality which is so evident when it comes to the Wolfs. I mean how could you not even question his innocence?!? The most annoying thing about Jules was how she never really appreciates what she has. Even when she ends up back at Spirit in the Woods and things are going well she lets her jealousy and envy get the best of her. It’s a trap that is so easy to get into.
    I think the best part of the book was how it followed all the characters through adolescence to adulthood. I liked how, even though they all grow up, they’re pretty much still the same people.
    I also appreciated the way it dealt with Dennis’s depression in a very honest and realistic way.
    And yes, Ethan dying made me cry.

  • I cried when Ethan died! I found the book compelling – all the characters were flawed and certainly brought up some great topics surrounding talent, happiness and making the most out of your life. I found it interesting how little the parents’ roles played in the characters’ lives. Apart from the Wolfs – Ethan, Jules and Jonah’s parents don’t seem to be key roles in their lives. Was this intentional by the author?

    I found Jules really frustrating. She is completely blinded by the “glitz” of the Wolfs and is envious of Ethan and Ash’s lives. Her blindness and envy stops her from enjoying a full, content life – after all life is what you make it. But worst of all – she doesn’t accept what Goodman has done to Cathy and turns her back on her.

    I also found it interesting the contradiction of Ash being a feminist director when she couldn’t even sympathise with Cathy’s plight. Perhaps this is why Ash becomes a feminist director – partially out of guilt or redemption?

    I agree that Jonah’s story is the saddest but I find it upsetting that he went through 30 years of his life before he opened up about his worries. Despite having close friends for the nearly 40 years that the book covers, it seems that this close group of friends holds closely guarded secrets from one another. Would they have been better off if they trusted each other to confide in? Perhaps their poor relationships with their parents left them with trust issues.

  • Thank you for this book club idea, it has forced me to get back on reading a little bit, as I seemed to never find the time these past few years…
    The Interestings was a good choice as well 🙂

  • The blurb (/kindle description) of this book really grabbed me as something I would’ve picked out when I was a teen…I imagine I myself would’ve been desperate to be part of something such as “The Interestings” group. As a UK reader, I can’t entirely relate to the summer camp part, but I can empathize to the bonds of pre-adult friendship and the desire to be a part of something, part of the in crowd like Julie/Jules does.
    The thing about the book that stuck out to me, was that although generally I could feel for the characters, be sad when they were, be happy when they were- I can’t say I particularly liked any of them a large amount! When Cathy describes Jules as weak, I think she was right. Her desire to be liked is too overwhelming- as a teen and as an adult. This carries into her work life where she almost becomes friends with some of her patients (by no means a bad thing) particularly the lady (I forget the name!) who asks if Jules wants to hang out with her after she closes her practise. Apart from baddie Goodman, my least favourite character was Ash…I thought she too was weak and dependent on her family and/or husband. Her redeeming feature is her love and perseverance with her son Mo. Conversely Ethan is very hardworking and always trying to help/please everyone but finds it hard to deal with his own child…and then feels so guilty because of that.
    It was refreshing to read a book with flawed characters, that just told the story of their lifetimes, good parts and bad parts, and although I didn’t find them likeable-I did like their lifelong friendships, despite their class differences, I hope my friendships go the distance like most of theirs!

  • I guess I am not with the majority in terms of this book. I did not enjoy it at all. And I trudged through it despite my dislike. I found the characters flat and unlike able and they almost felt like they had not developed enough since they were teenagers. I almost feel there was just no real climax the book was building up to., no impetus to keep going. And because I found them so hard to identify with I just could not care about their long life journey.

  • I definitely get why you think Ethan seems unreal – makes total sense! But I think, for me, he makes sense. He’s always been the type of person who uses his art as his outlet, so maybe that’s how he can handle his feelings for Jules without it getting in the way of his life with Ash? Plus, what else could he have done after Jules rejected him – just keep trying to pursue her even though he knew it wouldn’t work out? I feel like he had to try to move on from her and that’s what he was doing with Ash.

    I have definitely (uncomfortably…) had feelings for two people at the same time. One, a boyfriend I was with, and also an ex, so I can really understand where Ethan is coming from with this. It would certainly be really difficult to see Jules often, having feelings for her, but she offered him a lot as a friend, too – she was the only one he really felt comfortable being truly honest with. Of course, it’s sad that he didn’t feel like he could talk to Ash about certain of things, but I guess his position just isn’t that weird to me. It just makes the situation all the more believable in my eyes!

  • 1. Oh, yeah! Jules’s name change definitely signified her coming into her own. I think we see that when she “kills” that summer during her first performance. She also changes as the result of forming these new friendships.

    3. I thought Jules’ jealousy was a pretty interesting plot element. It certainly made her character seem very human — I’m sure that, in her shoes, most of us would feel that way. Dennis’s reaction to her jealousy was perfect, too. Toward the ending when he calls her out on her feelings was such a pivotal moment in the story. His frustration with her disappointment made their relationship feel so real to me.

    4. I felt myself relating to Jules as she noticed the role that art played in her friends’ lives and wondered where it fit into hers. I come from a family that boasts several artists of varying mediums. While I have my own creative pursuits that I enjoy, over the years I haven’t kept up with them as much because I fear that I’m just not good enough. Looking at all these talented people around me has made me feel a bit insecure, I think. I felt like a message that I took from the book (whether it was intended or not) is that everyone lives out their creativity in different ways, and that there’s no “right” or “wrong” way. It was fun to see how each character figured out what the arts meant to them and where their interests fit into their lives. I also loved that, towards the end, Jonah decided to pursue music for his own enjoyment. It made me realize that sometimes just having fun with a creative pursuit is enough of a reason to do it — you don’t have to be the best or make it your whole life, although there is value in that, too.

    6. Oh, I definitely cried. It is hard not to love a character as earnest, unconditionally loving, and full of integrity as Ethan. I felt completely stunned when he died. The end had me in tears all over again. So, so sad, but it was perfect.

    A commentary on the characters as a whole: when I initially started reading this book, it seemed like the characters were being set up as total stereotypes. As I kept reading, though, I saw that I was wrong. The characters are definitely archetypes, but they’re well developed. I felt like I knew someone a bit like each of them without things feeling predictable or dry. (Except for maybe Larkin. She seemed a little too perfect.) Jules was the perfect choice for the protagonist; I found her very relatable. I’ve seen reader reviews on other sites where people have complained that she’s self-absorbed, but I don’t think that’s totally accurate. I think she feels self-conscious that her life isn’t as glamorous as her friends’, but I think that is pretty normal in her circumstances. Even her negative behaviors and emotions felt very relatable.

  • I know exactly what you mean about gauging a book based on how well it sticks with you! After I finish a really good book, I find that the characters pop into my head and I sort of wonder how they’re doing! I wish there was a way I could check in with them after the story has ended, as if they were real people. That’s happening for me with this book, too!

  • Has anyone wondered why Ash’s mom had to die? I mean, usually there is a point to things like that happening in books. Was it so we could envision the passing of time? So we could see how the characters dealt with death as adults? Maybe I’m just missing it, but I feel like there’s really something there. Thoughts anyone?

  • I agree that it took a while to get into it. After finishing the book, I liked it a lot because I could relate to so many things going on with the characters. It was interesting to see their (almost full) life story, and it makes me wonder where my life will go.

    I’m an actor and know a lot of artistic people, so I could relate to a lot of what was going on with the characters in terms of their artistic passions. I’ve never been to a summer camp. I’m sure if I went, I probably would have been just as much in love with it as they all were.

    I can also relate to the relationship that Jules/Dennis have with Ash/Ethan. I know someone who grew up with not very much and is now doing well financially because of his talents. Like Ethan, he is very generous with his wealth because he doesn’t want to be selfish with what he has. I love that and feel like I would do the same if I were in that position, but I understand why it would be difficult for people to accept money given to them. It’s all about pride and feeling independent or capable of taking care of one’s self and family. I’m glad that, in the end, Jules and Dennis accepted Ash and Ethan’s help and, overall, accepted their friends’ having more money than they did.

    It was frustrating to see that Goodman never made anything out of himself and, instead, leeched from his family. Whether or not he raped Cathy, he had the chance to start over and do something, but he chose to waste away his family’s money on drugs. Ash should have stopped giving him money because she was only supporting all of his bad habits.

  • I think it was to show that Ash’s life wasn’t perfect and that not everything in life can be avoided. Goodman avoided being charged for rape, but no one can avoid death.

  • I loved the timelessness of the book. There wasn’t an overwhelming feeling of any particular era. I felt Dennis was the most honest character of the friends. Even Jonah and Ethan kept secrets from those closest to them. Jules was the one most affected by class in the story, although as the one who grew up in the ‘lowest’ class of her friends I can understand that. Goodman Wolf, really a perfect name for him. You wanted him to be a ‘good man’ but truth won out he was just a ‘wolf’. It was sad that none of them for all their ‘promise’ ended up really really happy. Jules always caught up in the have and have nots, Jonah consumed with what happened with Barry, Ethan a brilliant mind, rich and married to a beautiful woman but still beneath it pining for Jules, and Ash the poor little rich girl who’s brother changed the dynamic of not only her and her parents lives but her marriage with the secrets she kept. Great choice Emma! Thanks for organizing the book group. I’ve read February’s book already cause I just couldn’t put it down.

  • 1. I think she felt like she had a fresh start with her name, so was able to grow and create a new personality to go with the fresh start.

    2. Jules was always reaching towards this dream of wealth but did not attain it (during the book at least). It caused her to be bitter later in her life, over her friend’s statuses in the world of wealth. She both resented Ash and Ethan for their wealth, and she seemed to have a “I’d rather suffer than accept help” attitude towards Ethan and Ash’s offer of financial help. I wondered why she wouldn’t have just worked with Ethan and Ash’s charity or his studios. She never seemed passionate about her career.

    3. I went back and forth with Jules and her jealousy. I loved her at first, but found as she got older I liked her less and less. I was flat out mad at her, and bummed, when she left the camp after a year. And when Dennis loved it so much! I thought the story was going to be wrapped up in a bow, but their story was became listless and dreary. I felt it was a weird place where she took her characters in the end.

    4. I identified with the characters as teens, outcasts in school but having a place and being celebrated for their art at the camp. I also identified with the idea that sometimes art can’t pay the bills, and a practical approach is to find a career that will pay the bills. I had a dream of being some sort of ambiguously hazy artist, and tooled around for 10 or so years before a happy accident found me in medicine. It’s surprising to me how creative a job I have now. You can be creative AND passionately love something else too! Jules sort of settled in her career, but it never was a passion and she never seemed to go for it 100%. Alternatively, I loved Jonah, and loved how his story eventually resolved. He was able to find passion and apply creativity in his new computer career, and eventually was able to recapture his passion for music. I kept wishing he would tell his friends what had happened. So much secret keeping in this book, and it went wrong every time!

    5. Ugh. Goodman. The author kept foreshadowing at a dark and dreadful future. I was convinced they were going to find his body somewhere at the camp, and was pretty surprised he just kept on living. The rape, the escape and cover up by the family was unpleasant, and trappings of being in a “rules don’t apply to us” wealthier caste. The weirdest part was the family being OK with asking Jules not to tell. It would be hard to be whisked off on a wonderful vacation as a teen and then break the trust of these people who were including you in their secret. But later, she should have encouraged Ash to tell Ethan.

    6. I loved Ethan. I was pretty irritated with Jules at then end. I do wish we’d found out how he split the money, but understand why the author left that up to the imagination.

  • Looking back over the other comments, I felt so much relief to come to yours and see I was not the only one to strongly identify with Jules. I felt her emotions so deeply sometimes I actually had to step away and take a break from the book for a while!

  • I’d encourage you to finish it, Jackie. But it does take some time to plow through! I recently read another book by Wolitzer- “The Position”- and it was written in very much the same style. She definitely doesn’t seem to be the author for folks who enjoy an easy read. I usually read a book in just a few days but this one took several weeks for me to read and I almost gave up, too.

  • I’m really enjoying reading over all the comments here! Definitely a lot to think about. At one point in the book, she describes the feeling of flipping to the end of the book and seeing a bad ending and then trying to avoid the inevitable when you know what’s coming. Soon after that, I accidentally glimpsed the words “after Ethan died” at the end of the book and laughed at the irony, but felt the weight of that coming the rest of the time while I was reading.

    I did strongly identify with Jules and her feelings about being disappointed with how her life has turned out. At 33, I’m probably older than a majority of your blog readers here, and I’ve reached a point in my life where I definitely wonder sometimes, “Is this it? This is what I got? Because I sure was hoping for more.” So Jules’ emotions about class and her lot in life were extremely poignant for me.

    I thought it was interesting in the end that you find out that Ethan had financially supported Cathy’s firm after 9/11 without Ash knowing- even though we’d already read that he secretly resented his son’s autism and learned that his actions around the time of Mo’s diagnosis were less than honorable, I was stunned at the revelation that Ethan had also kept other huge secrets from his wife over the years. Yet even carrying those dishonesties with him through the years, he finds it hard to forgive Ash’s loyalty to her parents’ wishes about hiding Goodman. I thought that was very hypocritical, but it also makes Ethan that much more human.

    This book was on my list of books I wanted to read this year- and so is February’s selection! I’m excited about this book club concept, and so far you’re already tuned in to exactly which books I already want to read. Keep it up!

  • Thanks so much for the book club idea! I loved this book so much that I broke a blogging hiatus to reflect on it: (http://inklingsandafterthoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/the-interestings-meg-wolitzer.html).

    In summary, the point I picked up on was related to Jules’ jealousy. Seeing her life unfold over time made me realise how easily I expend energy on wanting things to be different in the future, but at the expense of my present experiences.

    The plot made me wake up to the fact that we create our future opportunities now – enjoying and persevering with things as they come with an open mind to where they could lead, whether foreseen or unexpected. That’s how Ethan became “successful” (following his passion without any real master-plan, responding to his conscience – first with his relationship with Old Mo and later with the charity work). It’s also how Jules operates at the points in the book where she seems most alive – her first experience of camp, marrying Dennis, the work with teenagers she eventually falls into.

    I found it an inspiring read on that basis – I love it when fiction gives me more clarity on how I want to be in the real world.

  • I really enjoyed this book. Especially considering it was not something I would have picked up on my own. Ethan was my favorite character….he came off as so human and wise….wish I had had a friend like this guy 🙂
    While I related to Jules, I also found her annoying. What does that say about me?? LOL!
    Great pick! Can’t wait to read February’s choice!

  • I think that parents have an obligation to love their children unconditionally, however, i think I take issue with their expression of love. Like Zoe said, is it really an act of love to enable your son, thereby crippling his ability to have a fruitful life? By not encouraging Goodman to take responsibility for his actions he actually fails to put the situation behind him and this ends up being the backdrop of his entire life.

  • What does everyone think the title means? It can’t just be the group name of a bunch of kids. I find it fascinating that those who didn’t like the book generally argue that the characters aren’t interesting so the irony of the title is humourous.

    Also, did anyone else feel that the book ended very abruptly? After such a detailed story, it felt like everthing dropped off quickly after Ethan’s death.

  • I really enjoyed this book. The character were brilliantly written, very real and raw. They all had their flaws and baggage and yet many of them remained likeable – perhaps because they were so relatable. I particularly loved the stories from when they were kids. Their ambition and excitement for the future was kind of contagious. Was interesting to see how it played out for them.
    Dennis was my favourite character. Didn’t like the Wolfs. Still undecided on how I feel about Ethan…

  • I posted a post about this book on my blog today. I really loved the beginning of the book, but I actually hated it by the end. I found Jules’ attitude exhausting and felt like the book left you with no point or hope. I almost never don’t finish a book, so it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve picked up, but it’s definitely not a read I would want to repeat. I got to the end and felt like “that was it?” Surely there must be some sort of something after all Wolitzer made me suffer through…

    I sympathized with Jules in some parts. I both understood and was angry at Ash for her staunch opinion that Goodman was innocent. I was incredulous that she kept it from Ethan for so long and completely understood why it caused a rift in their relationship when he found out. I felt really bad for Ethan; it seemed to me that he was trying to hard to make up for Goodman.

    I think, besides the very beginning chapters of the book when they were talking about camp, the only part I really liked was Goodman showing up on again later and being so completely transformed – the complete opposite to what he had been before. It felt very much like poetic justice.

    This was one of those cases where I totally got what the author was going for – but disagreed with the ways she ended up handling it.

  • I was not a big fan of this book overall simply because of this element. Jules did.an unbelievable amount of whining, comparing, complaining etc. The last straw for.me was when she hauled her husband off to work at the camp, he found his stride, then she said no to the permanent position. What?!? Am I awful to understand why their.daughter didn’t come home much?

    Maybe I am being a little harsh…..

  • Eloise. I.had the same feelings about these characters. My overall feeling about the book was that it was a story of a collection of lives that.read just like many lives of a random group of friends would play out. It was hard for me to relate and feel for them too.

  • I read this book last year and was worried I wouldn’t be able to participate because it’s been a while. Reading your answers reminded me of the story (I almost forgot Jonah’s story completely…Ethan definitely stuck with me the most).

    1) I think that Jules’ outlook of the world changed. She didn’t feel like an individual, and being a part of a smart and artsy crowd made HER feel smart and artsy. Did she ACTUALLY change, though? I don’t think so. She went into acting a bit, because everyone told her she was funny and that was her artistic expression of choice. But really, I think she liked the idea of being as glamorous or different as her friends. With Ethan especially, his art WAS his life and his passion. Hers sort of came from being around these people. I definitely think she worried more about what everyone else thought without realizing that she had supportive and caring friends and family. That is ultimately the most important thing, but does she realize that?

    2)Class or not, I think we always like to see the world from another person’s eyes. A lot of my friends had more (or at least different) than me, and it’s intriguing to see the way another family unit works. Jules was unhappy with her home life because nothing exciting happened. But to anyone else, they feel the same. Ash doesn’t know to feel lucky, because she’s only known that life. Ethan worked his butt off and sold his passion to gain the money he got.

    3) We can’t help but be jealous, I think. But the most important thing is to look around at what we DO have, and that was so hard for Jules. As you said, her family truly cares about her. She has a great husband and daughter who dote and love. Ethan and Ash have a son who needs a great deal of attention and lives that steer them apart. That’s not to say that success and money do that, but having everything you want financially doesn’t equal having everything you want emotionally. I also feel bad, because Ethan will always love Jules. Straight to the end. There’s a quote of his that I will always cherish, and is so blatantly him (goofy, charming, insecure): “That was a nostalgia kiss. It’s sepia colored. People in that kiss are…wearing stovepipe hats…and children are rolling hoops down the street, eating penny candy.”

    5)Goodman proved his guilt by running away. If he wasn’t guilty, he would’ve stayed. Money, supportive parents…he could’ve proven his innocence. It’s sad that he ruined both his life and Cathy’s life (and, okay, his family, as well) with his behavior. Cathy may have loved him, and may have had a weak moment by spending time with him…but that’s not an invitation and he tried to act like the victim. Awful. Jules held him on a pedestal and it was crushed. What a creep.

    Sorry if this was too long…I love talking books! Can’t wait for next month’s discussion!

  • I loved this book, and I’m so thankful that I got introduced to it thanks to this book club! It totally made my holiday season 100x more enjoyable, so thanks!

    I thought the theme of “talent” was interesting in this book. At the beginning, it seemed like “talent” was believed to be enough to get The Interestings to where they wanted to go in life. Indeed, talent was the thing that Spirit in the Woods seemed to most value recognizing and fostering, and the campers there seemed to treat the term like a right that they were all due and a ticket to an easy, mapped-out life. Yet, as the book continued, it seemed that even in a group filled with talented individuals, the only Interesting who fulfilled his pre-ordained future talented career was Ethan. Jonah, an extremely promising musician walked (or really, ran) away from his promising career in the music industry. Cathy and Jules, while they initially strove to fully-realize their talent in their chosen careers, were ultimately unable to break into those professions. Instead, Ash, who, while talented, always seemed to fall back on her connections–either through her parents or her husband–was only modestly successful, and really, was only famous because of who she married. Jules, who certainly had the drive and the desire, ultimately found out that she lacked the ability (and perhaps, luck) needed to make it big in the acting world. Yet ultimately, all of The Interestings, with the exception of Goodman, who never actively pursued anything except for the easy way out of every situation, found that they had “talents” in some field or aspect of their lives. Jules proved to be a talented counselor. Ash proved to be a talented mother and caretaker of a child with special needs, and Jonah proved to be a talented designer of adaptive equipment. While I don’t think any of the characters would have thought of their ultimate professions as being a manifestation of their “talents,” their success at finding careers beyond the Arts spoke to the flaw in their (and really, society’s) concept of what talent is. Reading about how “talent” shaped the lives of these characters and manifested itself in different ways in their lives has caused me to reexamine how the striving for and definitions of talent that our society uses, impact our own perceptions of what we are capable of and how we define success in our lives.

    Again, thank you so much for recommending this book! It’s rare that when I put down a book after completing it that I’m filled with a sadness, not by the content of the book (although Ethan’s death was devastating at the end), but rather, because I’m so sad that the book is over and I have to leave the world that was so richly created by Meg Wolitzer. I can’t wait until I can read The Interestings again!

  • 1.) The changing of Julia to Jules changed her, I think most kids have a moment where something happens to make them either comfortable with themselves or a change that they make to seem comfortable with a group of kids in a “higher” social circle.

    2.) I think that classism exists and it’s up to each person to decide how they want to be made to feel about it. I’m a big believer in you create your psyche and if you buy into feeling like less of a person because you have less, you’ll always be unhappy.

    3.) Jules jealousy was had to get through sometimes because it was so honest but at times it was a bit much I wanted to reach out and bat her in the back of the head to snap her out of it.

    4.) I’m a dancer that decided to pursue it with my life. I’m now 32 and not in a place I would have ever imagined I would be but I’ve enjoyed my journey and you can’t go into fields like that without loving it and being ok with the journey taking you to different places. I liked that Jules wasn’t successful with her comedy because she liked performing because it made her feel like a better (more loved) person and not because she enjoyed the craft. I thought the scene with the acting teacher was rough but truthful.
    I loved Ethan’s art and how it was introduced into the book. He was so sweet and nervous and you could picture Figland by the end of the description.
    Jonah’s story was resolved but I was still upset that the bastard that changed an innocent kid and stole his music essentially had little repercussions for his actions.

    5.)I think as far as the Goodman storyline went, I was intrigued at how most of the Interestings turned on Cathy because he as not only such a strong character but his sister was violently supportive of him. I never really doubted that he raped her and by doing so altered her life and forced her to lose her closest friends. I’m glad the author decided to show how far he had fallen by the end of the book, he was where deserved, alone, small, and drifting.

    6.) I cried when Ethan died, you know it’s coming but it was still heart wrenching.

    I enjoyed this book and can’t wait to read the Feb book. Thanks for putting this together!

  • I was also mad at Jules about quitting running the camp after one season! I guess I’d kind of like to run a camp like that, lol.

    I so loved this book with its warts and all. I was 16 in 1974 so I could really relate all the way through, and the good and bad parts of each character made it so believable. Wolitzer was artful in the way she jumped around in time and yet I was never confused.

    Your summation of the book is right on Sarah Ashley, and thank you Emma for choosing this one – I doubt I would have read it otherwise.

  • Ah I found this book kind of frustrating the whole way through but the ending brought me to tears! Ethan dying and Ash sending Jules the old comic was so sad. I also really wanted to know if he left them the money. Definitely a thought-provoking read but not my favorite.

  • I read this book about a year ago, but absolutely loved it. I thought seeing the dynamics of a group of friends over time was just so interesting. My favorite character was Ethan–he was so different in a really interesting way-I agree with the people who say that his inability to come to terms with his wealth was a redeeming characteristic. He was so kind hearted, I wanted him to be happy throughout the book. I thought Jules was sometimes relatable, sometimes self centered, but definitely an interesting character. I have a friend who can’t get over HS (we’re in our 30s) and she kind of reminded me of that in a way-unrealistic goals, obsession with camp, etc. She was so stuck back then, and had such a need to measure her life against that of her friends that it kept her from happiness which is too bad. Ash was so needy, and so wrapped up in her own world. Her dedication to keeping her secrets from Ethan was flawed logic, but easy to understand. I felt bad for her, but was rooting for Ethan so much that I was always a little hesitant about her and almost wanted Ethan to have Jules so he could get what he wanted. In the end, I was happy with how everything turned out–he loved his family. And I DEFINITELY cried. Goodman really was an unredeemable character-such a villain, so dark. It was interesting to see how living without the support of his parents took a toll–he wasn’t handsome or charming anymore, his darkness came out in every word and action and everything about him was as repulsive as his character. I enjoyed the contrast between Jules’ family and Ash’s family–rich vs. middle class. I thought it was a really interesting dichotomy of what was acceptable and there was no clear ‘better’, just different. They were all just trying to do their best for their children and families, no matter how wrong they actions were. I loved that you could be invested in any of the characters and still need to get to the end to see how that all played out. I

  • A wonderful book. I think the way I have enterpretated Goodmans guilt and Jules’s jealousy is interesting. Strangely it never crossed my Mind that Goodman could be guilty. Maybe I am Nieive but I think if a family member told me they were telling the truth I would believe them. I guess only the writer knows the truth. When reading about Jules’s jealousy it really made me think. At times in my life I have noticed and I admit to being jealous of others situations, wealth etc. It’s the most unattractive thing but I admit it has happened. Luckily I have a partner I guess in this instance a bit like Dennis that knows me so well and can listen and reassure me and turn it around. I think Jules over came her jealousy aswell. The hardest thing for me through this book was them growing up and sadly dying. It seemed so quick. I also felt quite uncomfortable when Jules and Dennis decided to run the camp. A motto of mine is to never go back and this really was strange. I was disappointed in Jules at the lack of support for Dennis when he was well. A very well written book that got the old cogs in my head working and it’s nice to see it built different opinions between the readers.

    Thanks guys x

  • The characters’ names have so much meaning and irony (a consistent theme in the book). Goodman is not a good man, quite the opposite. He definitely raped Cathy and he is a huge jerk in many other ways throughout the story. He was like the lone wolf: he is rebellious and dangerous and is shown sulking on his own pretty much the entire book. But wolf packs are known to stick together no matter what, just as the wolf family did. And then you have Jules, whose name is a homonym with jewels, yet she struggles to make ends meet her whole life while her friends become enormously wealthy. Even Ethan’s son Mo turns out to be nothing like Old Mo Templeton, much to Ethan’s disappointment.

  • I agree with Jessica. My closest friends are ones from high school. Even though we have all grown and developed into different people, we always come back to one another. I think this book is a true testament to life long friendship.

  • I was really struck by the introduction of young Mo and the chapter where Ethan made an excuse not to accompany Ash when Mo was being tested, and so Jules accompanies Ash instead.

    I think up to that point it seemed as if Ethan and Ash were living a charmed life with Ethan’s old money and Ash’s new money and anticipations that their children would grow up into a mini-Ethan and Ash (which made it really easy to empathize with Jules’ jealousy and self-consciousness around Ethan and Ash). But when Mo received his diagnosis and Jules was able to be there for Ash, the two families were able to put aside their class differences for a bit and I thought it was a really good portrayal in a nutshell of how parents often have big dreams for their children that later tend to get whittled down over time and how the wealthy are not immune to some circumstances.

    Thanks for suggesting this book!

  • LOVED this book when I read it last summer and i would read it again! Such a lovely eavesdropping view on the life among friends and how time and life change us.

  • At the begenning, the book did not seem that interesting, but soon i was invested in the characters and their lives. I loved Jules, she represented a person in real life. She wasn’t rich, she was sometimes jealous of her friends, and she always wanted to changes things that were completely out of her control.I also loved how the story went from their teenage years to their 50’s/60;s, and even for the death of Eathan. I love how Jules went to work at Spirit in the Woods to try to connect with her childhooh again. When they decided to run the camp for the summer i totally thought that all the friends would end up there working together where they met. So i wa a little sad that they did not all come back together, but that’s life. I like that the characters did not always get what they wanted out of life because sometimes things don’t work out how you plan them to. I love how the book ended, about how maybe things and you are not that interesting.

    On another note, I totally already read Feburuary’s book, i just could not wait. Once you start it, you will not want to stop. I will not give any spoilers, but you will laugh and cry, it is a amazing book. And they are also making it into a movie! Exciting.

  • Love this book! I think there’s an interesting relationship between talent and privilege. Ethan comes from a poor background but his talent is enough to overcome that and he’s able to be successful. Then there’s Ash, who may or may not be particularly talented. Through her parents’ money and Ethan’s, she’s able to direct plays whenever she feels like it and they are well reviewed if not really popular. Then there’s Jules, who is neither super talented or rich.

    Not sure where I’m going with this, but I thought it was interesting. I love that the author doesn’t beat you over the head with anything in this book. She understands that life is full of shades of gray, and her characters are complex and their lives are messy.

  • I agree. I think people sometimes look at the parents of special needs kids as a different breed. It can appear like they are just able to deal with their children’s challenges without struggling. This part of Ethan’s story feels so real. Caring for and loving any child may not come naturally to everyone and of course there are frustrations and heartaches. And for Ethan is was a choice he made. He chose to love Mo and to work at loving Mo.

  • Did Ash ever realize Ethan’s feelings for Jules? I don’t remember that ever coming up. It seems like it might never occur to Ash to be threatened by someone like Jules (less beautiful, less wealthy, less successful).

  • I really enjoyed reading about Jules’ and Dennis’ relationship. They definitely had their share of frustrations with each other, and there were times when their marriage was hard. But they never gave up on each other. The years Jules supports their family while Dennis is unable to work are really difficult.

    There’s a parallel storyline with Ash and Ethan, when Ethan wants to quit his well-paying job and Ash supports his decision. But I feel like Jules and Dennis are so much more relatable. Jules and Dennis need the money Dennis’ income had provided. Ash has always had money and she knows she always will because of her family. (Can you tell who my least favorite character was?)

  • These are all really good points, Liz. I really related with Jules’ jealousy. I thought it was darkly funny how she just planned to get depressed whenever Ethan and Ash’s Christmas card arrived. That made me laugh.

    Sometimes I feel like telling yourself to stop being jealous just makes it worse. Because then not only am I jealous, I’m also annoyed at myself for being jealous. Jules hated that she was jealous but she couldn’t stop. For me, I can let myself feel jealous for a little while and then I just try to redirect that energy. Maybe by examining why I feel jealous and seeing if there’s anything I can do about it. Or by thinking about the good things in my life or by doing something I enjoy or just finding something to distract me. How do you guys deal with jealousy?

  • I loved this book, and I’m so thankful that I got introduced to it thanks to this book club! It totally made my holiday season 100x more enjoyable, so thanks!

    I thought the theme of “talent” was interesting in this book. At the beginning, it seemed like “talent” was believed to be enough to get The Interestings to where they wanted to go in life. Indeed, talent was the thing that Spirit in the Woods seemed to most value recognizing and fostering, and the campers there seemed to treat the term like a right that they were all due and a ticket to an easy, mapped-out life. Yet, as the book continued, it seemed that even in a group filled with talented individuals, the only Interesting who fulfilled his pre-ordained future talented career was Ethan. Jonah, an extremely promising musician walked (or really, ran) away from his promising career in the music industry. Cathy and Jules, while they initially strove to fully-realize their talent in their chosen careers, were ultimately unable to break into those professions. Instead, Ash, who, while talented, always seemed to fall back on her connections–either through her parents or her husband–was only modestly successful, and really, was only famous because of who she married. Jules, who certainly had the drive and the desire, ultimately found out that she lacked the ability (and perhaps, luck) needed to make it big in the acting world. Yet ultimately, all of The Interestings, with the exception of Goodman, who never actively pursued anything except for the easy way out of every situation, found that they had “talents” in some field or aspect of their lives. Jules proved to be a talented counselor. Ash proved to be a talented mother and caretaker of a child with special needs, and Jonah proved to be a talented designer of adaptive equipment. While I don’t think any of the characters would have thought of their ultimate professions as being a manifestation of their “talents,” their success at finding careers beyond the Arts spoke to the flaw in their (and really, society’s) concept of what talent is. Reading about how “talent” shaped the lives of these characters and manifested itself in different ways in their lives has caused me to reexamine how the striving for and definitions of talent that our society uses, impact our own perceptions of what we are capable of and how we define success in our lives.

    Again, thank you so much for recommending this book! It’s rare that when I put down a book after completing it that I’m filled with a sadness, not by the content of the book (although Ethan’s death was devastating at the end), but rather, because I’m so sad that the book is over and I have to leave the world that was so richly created by Meg Wolitzer. I can’t wait until I can read The Interestings again!

  • I really enjoyed this book. In your order:
    1. Yes, her name changing was a big deal. The book starts with Julie as a complete outsider, or at least she feels that way inside. She’s full of insecurities; she doesn’t feel like she belongs in that teepee. What’s ironic is no one felt that way about her. Then she is dubbed Jules and she feels accepted. She takes on Jules and throws away Julie who lived in a boring town and watched her dad die. Jules is made for bigger and better things, or so Jules thinks, because she is a part of the Interestings and all Interestings are destined for greatness (all of this is in Jule’s mind).
    2. I think a lot of this is in Jule’s head which is interesting. I mean, I kept waiting for Dennis to totally do the whole insecure husband thing when he wasn’t working and they were buddies with Ash and Ethan. But no. As for new money vs old…how hilarious was the entire “The Drama of the Gifted Child” and how Ash brought it up all the time? I loved it when Ethan flipped on her about it.
    3. I agree with everything you said about Jules’ jealousy. She makes herself miserable. She has a husband who loves her. He really does. She wants so badly to feel “complete.” Hence taking over the camp for awhile. But life doesn’t work that way when *internally* your issues are your issues.
    4. Art. I thought it was interesting that Ethan was, arguably, the most talented but also the most humble. I just wanted to hug him and be his friend. And I don’t get Jules and her inability to be with him, but okay. As for Jonah, I saw that coming but felt horrible. I am a writer and once some plagiarized something silly on the internet but it was painful. When you create, it is a part of you. Plus, Jonah was incredibly talented, even on LSD. As for Jules, I can relate. When do you give up? I feel that way with writing. I am not there yet but some of the writers I most admire experienced rejection after rejection. They were accepted on the 38th try. What if they gave up on the 35th?
    5. Goodman. Yes, a good name. In my opinion, probably the least talented or at least the laziest. And yeah so what? Your dad made fun of you? Get over it. You sucked the soul out of Cathy and you strained two generations of your family.
    6. I definitely cried when Ethan died. He was the heart. At least for me.

    One other thing I found interesting (no pun intended) is the relationship of the Interestings with their children. How Ethan rawly admits that he doesn’t know if he loves his son and Jules just tells him to “love him” basically fake it until you make it. Yet Jules is kind of bewildered by her daughter. Meanwhile, I felt like Ash took a lot of her anguish over Goodman/Being a Gifted child out on her kids.

    Oh and this quote I also think is discussion worthy: “Jealousy was essentially ‘I want what you have,’ while envy was ‘I want what you have but I also want to take it away so you can’t have it.” (363) Jules goes on to say she has felt both ways at different times.

  • I loved this book, and I’m so thankful that I got introduced to it thanks to this book club! It totally made my holiday season 100x more enjoyable, so thanks!

    I thought the theme of “talent” was interesting in this book. At the beginning, it seemed like “talent” was believed to be enough to get The Interestings to where they wanted to go in life. Indeed, talent was the thing that Spirit in the Woods seemed to most value recognizing and fostering, and the campers there seemed to treat the term like a right that they were all due and a ticket to an easy, mapped-out life. Yet, as the book continued, it seemed that even in a group filled with talented individuals, the only Interesting who fulfilled his pre-ordained future talented career was Ethan. Jonah, an extremely promising musician walked (or really, ran) away from his promising career in the music industry. Cathy and Jules, while they initially strove to fully-realize their talent in their chosen careers, were ultimately unable to break into those professions. Instead, Ash, who, while talented, always seemed to fall back on her connections–either through her parents or her husband–was only modestly successful, and really, was only famous because of who she married. Jules, who certainly had the drive and the desire, ultimately found out that she lacked the ability (and perhaps, luck) needed to make it big in the acting world. Yet ultimately, all of The Interestings, with the exception of Goodman, who never actively pursued anything except for the easy way out of every situation, found that they had “talents” in some field or aspect of their lives. Jules proved to be a talented counselor. Ash proved to be a talented mother and caretaker of a child with special needs, and Jonah proved to be a talented designer of adaptive equipment. While I don’t think any of the characters would have thought of their ultimate professions as being a manifestation of their “talents,” their success at finding careers beyond the Arts spoke to the flaw in their (and really, society’s) concept of what talent is. Reading about how “talent” shaped the lives of these characters and manifested itself in different ways in their lives has caused me to reexamine how the striving for and definitions of talent that our society uses, impact our own perceptions of what we are capable of and how we define success in our lives.

    Again, thank you so much for recommending this book! It’s rare that when I put down a book after completing it that I’m filled with a sadness, not by the content of the book (although Ethan’s death was devastating at the end), but rather, because I’m so sad that the book is over and I have to leave the world that was so richly created by Meg Wolitzer. I can’t wait until I can read The Interestings again!

  • I loved this book, and I’m so thankful that I got introduced to it thanks to this book club! It really made my holiday season 100x more enjoyable, so thanks!

    I thought the theme of “talent” was interesting in this book. At the beginning, it seemed like “talent” was believed to be enough to get The Interestings to where they wanted to go in life. Indeed, talent was the thing that Spirit in the Woods seemed to most value recognizing and fostering, and the campers there seemed to treat the term like a right that they were all due and a ticket to an easy, mapped-out life. Yet, as the book continued, it seemed that even in a group filled with talented individuals, the only Interesting who fulfilled his pre-ordained future talented career was Ethan. Jonah, an extremely promising musician walked (or really, ran) away from his promising career in the music industry. Cathy and Jules, while they initially strove to fully-realize their talent in their chosen careers, were ultimately unable to break into those professions. Instead, Ash, who, while talented, always seemed to fall back on her connections–either through her parents or her husband–was only modestly successful, and really, was only famous because of who she married. Jules, who certainly had the drive and the desire, ultimately found out that she lacked the ability (and perhaps, luck) needed to make it big in the acting world. Yet ultimately, all of The Interesting, with the exception of Goodman, who never actively pursued anything except for the easy way out of every situation, found that they had “talents” in some field or aspect of their lives. Jules proved to be a talented counselor. Ash proved to be a talented mother and caretaker of a child with special needs, and Jonah proved to be a talented designer of adaptive equipment. While I don’t think any of the characters would have thought of their ultimate professions as being a manifestation of their “talents,” their success at finding careers beyond the Arts spoke to the flaw in their (and really, society’s) concept of what talent is. Reading about how “talent” shaped the lives of these characters and manifested itself in different ways in their lives has caused me to reexamine how the striving for and definitions of talent that our society uses, impact our own perceptions of what we are capable of and how we define success in our lives.

    Again, thank you so much for recommending this book! It’s rare that when I put down a book after completing it that I’m filled with a sadness, not by the content of the book (although Ethan’s death was devastating at the end) but rather, because I’m so sad that the book is over and I have to leave the world that was so richly created by Meg Wolitzer. I can’t wait until I can read The Interestings again!

  • This book! From the very beginning, I found Jul(ie)(es) to be so incredibly relatable. I think jealousy is a much bigger issue for a lot of people (me included) than we even allow ourselves to believe. While Ethan & Ash definitely had their fair share of problems, they were so different than Jules’ and Dennis’, and the grass is always greener…
    My heart kind of broke for Dennis. He simply loved Jules for who she was and wanted the same in return, and I don’t think that was something Jules was equipped to do. At least not with the constant reminders of Ethan & Ash’s success.

    I love when Jules realizes that she was so insensitive to her mom, forgetting that it wasn’t just her dad that died, but her mother’s husband. I wish that when Jules had children, she would have made more of an effort to appreciate and be there for her mom.

    I think Ethan’s love for Jules is so sweet. I often wondered how much of this Ash realized. Did she know, but not care? Did she think that Ethan was too devoted to her to ever do anything about it? I think deep down, Jules wanted to love Ethan, but I think it was admirable that she never tried to force anything, even with the promise of financial security.

  • Once Julie became Jules, I think that she changed as a person. She was opened up to this new world of creativity and excitement, something she never had before. She became Ash and Ethan and Goodman and Jonah. She became artsy and interested in more than she currently had.

    To me, Jules really exemplifies this idea. Throughout her life, especially during adulthood, Jules felt as if she and Dennis were in a completely different realm than Ash and Ethan. Wolitzer shows Jules’s increasing jealousy, which eventually levels out but never fully disappears. Jules and Dennis both grew up modestly, and stayed this way. Ethan, however, grew up modestly as well, but became transformed through his talent and connection with Ash. I think that people can identify with one class in society and not others, but they aren’t limited by this. You can always change yourself and your circumstances and become someone different, much like Ethan did. Ethan also shows how one can change and step into another class, but can still be moral and connect with those from a lower class in society.

    Like I mentioned briefly above, Jules had an intense jealousy for Ash and Ethan. I feel like everyone experiences some form of this in life: feeling jealous of those close to you for what they have and experience and what you don’t. Her feelings were natural, albeit obsessive, and she just never felt like she truly connected with her old friends once they all became the current versions of themselves in adulthood.

    I love how this book focuses on a group of friends coming together because of art. Art is such a powerful thing and has so much potential to bind people together, even those who would otherwise have nothing in common with each other. While Ash and Ethan chose to pursue artistic careers, which worked out for them and they were happy with, Jules and Jonah chose not to. It was more of that Jules wasn’t fit for the creative career she thought she was, while Jonah didn’t want to pursue music because of his past. Jonah experienced a pretty harsh trauma of being drugged as a child, which drove away all creative interests of his concerning music until later on it life. But he found another creative outlet, mechanical engineering, which shows that everyone has art in them; whether or not it’s traditional and obvious or different and new.

    Goodman is such a lovable character, yet one who drives you crazy. I feel like this is how Jules and Ash and the other characters in the book felt as well. Goodman holds some sort of power over everyone else during their childhood days spent at Spirit in the Woods. But his father’s expectations and the constant comparison to Ash really get to Goodman. Whether or not he actually did rape Cathy I’m not too sure. I feel sort of like Jules regarding this topic. He could have done it, but at the same time I don’t want to believe that he did it. He just snapped and needed to be somewhere else, away from everything familiar to him. But his life never really got better and he ended up wrecking other people’s lives and placing stress on those who had to keep the secret that he still existed and was okay.

  • Jules definitely re-invented herself after she changed her name and it was quite sad that she was so determined to detach herself from her family. The very few interactions she had with her mum and her sister in her adult life were very cold and distant; it showed a lot of pent up resentment that her own family couldn’t give her what the Wolfs did.

    I also found Jules hard to like because her jealousy made her a bitter person. The times that she stepped up through Dennis’s depression was a credit to her but had she not caved in and accepted Ethan’s money to get them a new house I wonder how much longer she would’ve supported the family.

    I really liked Dennis and Rory’s relationship; they made the best of what they had and were happy to live their lives being themselves, unlike Jules who was always comparing herself to others.

    As for Ethan, I think his character is admirable except for how he struggled to love Mo. That made me very uneasy about him. His generosity and the fact that money didn’t really change his fundamental values was great to see. I definitely didn’t predict that he would die at the end. Very sad.

    As for Goodman and Ash; I think Ash was blinded by her parents influence to keep covering for Goodman. She was only a teenager when this big family scandal happened and she had no choice but to go along with what her parents started. It doesn’t make it right though.

    I enjoyed the book. I liked the slow pace of it because it gives you a chance to really connect with the characters.

    Can’t wait to start on the next book! 🙂

  • Jules definitely re-invented herself after she changed her name and it was quite sad that she was so determined to detach herself from her family. The very few interactions she had with her mum and her sister in her adult life were very cold and distant; it showed a lot of pent up resentment that her own family couldn’t give her what the Wolfs did.

    I also found Jules hard to like because her jealousy made her a bitter person. The times that she stepped up through Dennis’s depression was a credit to her but had she not caved in and accepted Ethan’s money to get them a new house I wonder how much longer she would’ve supported the family.

    I really liked Dennis and Rory’s relationship; they made the best of what they had and were happy to live their lives being themselves, unlike Jules who was always comparing herself to others.

    As for Ethan, I think his character is admirable except for how he struggled to love Mo. That made me very uneasy about him. His generosity and the fact that money didn’t really change his fundamental values was great to see. I definitely didn’t predict that he would die at the end. Very sad.

    As for Goodman and Ash; I think Ash was blinded by her parents influence to keep covering for Goodman. She was only a teenager when this big family scandal happened and she had no choice but to go along with what her parents started. It doesn’t make it right though.

    I enjoyed the book. I liked the slow pace of it because it gives you a chance to really connect with the characters.

    Can’t wait to start on the next book! 🙂

  • I found this one tough to finish and am still going.

    As others have mentioned, some of the characters have captivated me, but at times I became disheartened with Jules’ constant dissatisfaction with her life.

    It is, however a good eye opener into how easily time can be wasted worrying about what you do not have.

  • I absolutely loved this book. I was initially drawn to it because I’ve spent several years working in camping and can vouch for the fact that the friends people make at camp are truly the best friends a person can have.

    I loved being able to see what this connection brought over the course of several years. There were times, I’m not going to lie, that the book frustrated me. I often wanted to yell at Jules and couldn’t always tell if she was on good terms with Ash and Ethan. But overall, I think this was a great book and spoke wonderfully to the connections that people can and do make every summer at camp.

  • While I loved this book, I thought it was fascinating that with the exception of Ethan, Jonah, and Dennis, most of the characters populating this book were unlikable yet fascinating anyway. It was nerve-wracking in a good way to see parts of myself and people I know in these characters. This book is a beautiful portrayal of the imperfections of human relationships and yet how worthwhile and amazing they are anyway. Except Goodman – nothing good really going on there, except he was an excellent example of how wealth and a life without consequence can ruin a person.

  • I LOVED The Interestings too! I especially loved Ethan. His scenes with Jules just broke my heart. And i loved Jules. All the characters were so flawed and so human. The whole story was very bittersweet. I can’t remember the last time I cried after finihsing a book. I reviewed it here: http://margotmcgovern.wordpress.com/2014/02/01/the-interestings-meg-wolitzer/ Have you read any of Wolitzer’s other books? I haven’t, but very keen too. Looking for an idea of where to start.

  • Better late than never (I just finished the book yesterday)…

    1.) I think Jules changed a lot since the first time she went to camp. I think the fact of being accepted by the cool kids made her become obsessed with them. She wanted to be like Ash and be liked by Goodman, and that’s also where she started to become unsatisfied with her poor, not-pretty-and-talented-enough self and started feeling a never ending jealousy.

    2.) One big theme from the book is the idea of classism, or at least feeling like you identify with one class in society and not others. What are your thoughts on this?
    I think the way Meg Wolitzer explores relationships between classes and the jealousy toward the higher class is amazing. I’m not very rich but I went to private schools and university with the wealthiest kids in my country, so I really could see myself in Jules, envying other people’s lives.

    3.) Jules’ jealousy.

    Although that jealousy made me think she was pathetic –her life revolving around Ethan an Ash as opposed to herself– , but at the same time I think it’s absolutely normal. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be talented, beautiful, lucky, and rich?

    4.) Art. Most of the main characters in this book consider themselves creative and most of them pursue artistic careers. What do you think about that?

    I like the realistic outlook on art: no matter how passionate you are about it, sometimes you just don’t have what it takes, like Jules. Or perhaps you make it, but not because of your true talent, but for the people you are associated with, like Ash, who was more talented that Jules but not as much as Ethan. I feel bad for Jules, though… it would have been nice to see her succeed artistically… especially because she never seemed to get what she wanted in any aspect of her life.

    5.) Goodman Wolf.

    He’s a jerk and I kind of find him interesting because of that. He’s rude and cynical, which makes him stand out from the rest of the characters. It made me sad to see how stupid he was, though. With his parents’ support he could have gotten his act straight and make things work for himself. Instead, he just used his money to drink and do drugs, and end up being a pathetic old man with a golden tooth. So sad.

    What I found really interesting was how the story developed in a long period of time. It makes you think about how people change through adulthood. How you can start with nothing and end up being a legend of your generation, like Ethan, or just keep waiting for better times that never seem to come, like Jules, who didn’t achieve any of her dreams. She just survived. It was harsh but comforting at the same time, you know? Realizing that if you don’t live the dream you’re most probably not the only one. Or that, one day, no matter how unlikely you might think it is, you can achieve your biggest dreams.

  • i can’t speak for the person who made the comment but i would imagine they are referring to the show “girls” on hbo with lena dunham? maybe?

  • Gina, I have to agree with you on being upset at Jules convincing her husband of the joys of camp and then being mad at him when he took to the position. Ethan was always encouraging and challenged his friends to think which I admired. However, his love for Jules became convoluted when I imagined Ash at his side. Dennis seemed to encourage their relationship sans jealousy. His depression was so vividly described. I was cheering when they found a remedy. It was interesting to me how Jonah’s mother re-discovered her calling with the worshippers after trying to rescue her own son from hiding away with them. Two things frustrated me to no end: the Wolf family enabling Goodman and Jonah not telling his mother about Barry. I really wanted Jonah to be content. Maybe he finally was when he picked up his guitar again.

  • I liked the book. It also took me a while to get into. I just finished, which is good that you are reading The fault in our Stars this month because I’ve already read that one. Really. Excited to see what the March book is. Dorothy

  • I final finished…over the past few days I could not put it down. could not wait to get home from work to read it. I really could relate to Jules…A lot of her feelings and differences with her friends I could related to having those same feelings through my life of 50 years. It left me taking a look at my friendships through the years…from the close friends I have had and still have, to the jealousy one some times feels of those more fortunate friends and being thankful for the good friends I do have. I am about the same age as the characters in this book so the time period of this really hit home for me through each decade. I really admired the relationship with Jules and Ethan…it was a special friendship that everyone should have in their life. Thanks for a great selection and very excited to start the next book.

    kim

  • 1.)Jules’ (aka Julie’s) name changed once she attended her first summer at Spirit in the Woods. Do you think she changed too? If so, in what way(s)?
    When Jules’ name changed at Spirit in the Woods, I think she started to believe that she had changed in a way and made the nickname more into a persona as such. It’s as if being nicknamed Jules’ gave her a huge bout of confidence and the little lift that I think Jules needed to get her out of her shell after her father’s passing.
    2.)One big theme from the book is the idea of classism, or at least feeling like you identify with one class in society and not others. What are your thoughts on this?
    Class in this book seemed to be involved a lot with the storyline. You were always reminded on how “poor” Jules felt and how other characters did not seem phased by money at all. Like for example further on in the book when Ethan excels in his career with Figland and earns a lot of money, it’s as if he tries to hide the fact that he is so well off. Jules is the only character that appears to be so focused on money, which is why I think Ash tries to help out Jules and Dennis moneywise quite a lot to try and help Jules not to worry and concentrate on it so much.
    3.)Art. Most of the main characters in this book consider themselves creative and most of them pursue artistic careers. What do you think about that?
    Art did seem to be quite a theme throughout the book as well. The book starts off with all of these characters all in their teenage years spending a considerable time together in the camp. Spirit in the woods as the founders seem to put it across as the home for arty individuals, whether it be dancing, art, singing or music to name a few. I’m not sure if it marketed that way to keep artistic qualities in people in the new modern age, instead of them sitting in front of a computer playing games all day.
    The book contains the happy side of people carrying out hobbies that they love and enjoy and turn into a very successful career (Ethan). It also has the very sad side about what happened to Johan and how music was ruined for him by Barry Grimes.
    What happened with Johan is very sad and I feel very sorry for his character that he feels he needs to avoid music entirely and not even use it as a hobby until he is well into his 40s. I think that is due to the fact that Johan doesn’t want the association with music and the abuse that he received when he was younger. What pains me the most about this character is the fact that the abuse affects him for the rest of his life including his relationships, it’s as if he is always living in fear and the drugs are always not far away from his experiences, which they are far away but for him they aren’t.
    4.)Goodman Wolf.
    All the way up until near the end of the book I was sort of in the frame of mind that Goodman could quite possibly be innocent and Cathy had possibly made it all up. But, when near the end of the book that Jules found Goodman on the parameters of the Spirit at the Woods camp and the way he was and the way he acted, all I could think about was how much of a sleaze he was! I was very disappointed in myself to believe for a split second that he could very well have been innocent, to be honest he could have been innocent (only the author would know) but in my opinion I believe he was not.
    5.)Did you cry a little when Ethan died?
    I didn’t cry, but I was definitely feeling a lot of emotion as Ethan is someone I would have related to the most as I was reading it, more so in his younger years than his adulthood.

  • Jules definitely re-invented herself after she changed her name and it was quite sad that she was so determined to detach herself from her family. The very few interactions she had with her mum and her sister in her adult life were very cold and distant; it showed a lot of pent up resentment that her own family couldn’t give her what the Wolfs did.

    I also found Jules hard to like because her jealousy made her a bitter person. The times that she stepped up through Dennis’s depression was a credit to her but had she not caved in and accepted Ethan’s money to get them a new house I wonder how much longer she would’ve supported the family.

    I really liked Dennis and Rory’s relationship; they made the best of what they had and were happy to live their lives being themselves, unlike Jules who was always comparing herself to others.

    As for Ethan, I think his character is admirable except for how he struggled to love Mo. That made me very uneasy about him. His generosity and the fact that money didn’t really change his fundamental values was great to see. I definitely didn’t predict that he would die at the end. Very sad.

    As for Goodman and Ash; I think Ash was blinded by her parents influence to keep covering for Goodman. She was only a teenager when this big family scandal happened and she had no choice but to go along with what her parents started. It doesn’t make it right though.

    I enjoyed the book. I liked the slow pace of it because it gives you a chance to really connect with the characters.

    Can’t wait to start on the next book! 🙂

  • I am just now joining in the discussion because I just now finished the book and didn’t want to see any spoilers! I am so glad I joined in on the book club, because I don’t know I would have ever read this book. I finished the book feeling a little depressed but also inspired in a way. Wolitzer really captures real people, with all their faults, and I guess that was what was depressing to me. Jonah and Dennis were the most likable characters to me, because they really seemed to have the best and purest intentions, but they were also tragic. Jules’ envy was hard to read about at times, but the book made it so clear how completely fruitless and toxic jealousy is. What I got out of it most was that it’s most important to do things that make you happy and enjoy your life in whatever form it may be, because envying won’t make you rich, and money won’t save you from death. All in all this was a fascinating read and study of human behavior and character!

  • I AM SO LATE TO THIS, OH MY GOSH!

    I just finished the book today and my oh my..it took me forever to get through that. On a scale of 1-5..five being the best book ever and 1 being the absolute worst..i’m going to say it’s a three. There were interesting parts here and there but I feel Wolitzer failed to fully develop a story. I wish she would focus on a centralized plot versus briefly touching different points here and there. Jules, to me, seemed to be a very annoying, jealous person who had such low selfesteem but at the same time held herself above her family and husband.

    I didn’t cry when Ethan died from cancer because her words didn’t captivate a feeling for me but i can sense sadness from it..i just didn’t cry. Overall, it was an okay book but unlike a few others that I’ve read..this failed to keep me glued.

    Christina

    promisesofcoffee.com

  • I really wanted to like this but I just didn’t. It had a few cool moments but overall I thought it was boring. Sorry!

  • Thank you so much for starting this book club! I am an avid reader of novels and have been delighted with your selections! So much so, that I have gifted my mother-in-law (a high school literature teacher) every book after reading! And for the record, she has thoroughly enjoyed every one!

    On a more personal note, I work as a trauma therapist in a pediatric ET, within a large U.S. city. As a result, I work odd hours and often have days off in the middle of the week that are not congruent with those of my fiends and family. Reading novels is a wonderful form of self-care for me and your book club has added a nice feeling of community for me while partaking in such great reads!

    Thank you for the beauty you all bring to the world! Sorry this isn’t directly about the book 😉