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Book club questions for The Body Politic by Brian Platzer takes a closer look at all the different character dynamics in this engaging read. For more context about the story, check out my spoiler-free review.
New York City is still regaining its balance in the years following 9/11, when four twenty-somethings—Tess, Tazio, David, and Angelica—meet in a bar, each yearning for something: connection, recognition, a place in the world, a cause to believe in. Nearly fifteen years later, as their city recalibrates in the wake of the 2016 election, their bond has endured—but almost everything else has changed.
As freshmen at Cooper Union, Tess and Tazio were the ambitious, talented future of the art world—but by thirty-six, Tess is married to David, the mother of two young boys, and working as an understudy on Broadway. Kind and steady, David is everything Tess lacked in her own childhood—but a recent freak accident has left him with befuddling symptoms, and she’s still adjusting to her new role as caretaker.
Meanwhile, Tazio—who once had a knack for earning the kind of attention that Cooper Union students long for—has left the art world for a career in creative branding and politics. But in December 2016, fresh off the astonishing loss of his candidate, Tazio is adrift, and not even his gorgeous and accomplished fiancée, Angelica, seems able to get through to him. With tensions rising on the national stage, the four friends are forced to face the reality of their shared histories, especially a long-ago betrayal that has shaped every aspect of their friendship.
Book Club Questions for The Body Politic
- The story starts off with Tess at a nightclub—getting a break from daily life. And then in chapter two starts with her still feeling drunk and her children are awake. Let’s discuss this opening introduction to Tess and her life.
- We quickly learn that David had an accident that results in constant dizziness. Let’s talk about how David’s condition impacts every aspect of their lives. How did it change his relationship with Tess?
- Before the accident, Tess had an affair. She thinks to herself that she “has a hard time making sense of her role as perpetrator after a lifetime of victimhood. The last eight months aren’t even close to enough to make up for the previous thirty years.” Let’s talk about this thought process from Tess. How did the tragedy of her past continue to set her back in her present?
- The story follows various time periods but the majority is set after the 2016 election. Let’s talk about how we felt after the election.
- Tazio is a constant presence in Tess and David’s life but he’s also unreliable and pretty much disappears for a majority of the book. Until we find out that David asked him to leave town because of fears that Tess and Tazio could get too close. Let’s talk about Tazio’s relationship with both Tess and David. Do you think that Tazio and Tess were/are ever actually in love? Or was it lust?
- Why did Tess choose David over Tazio?
- Why did Tazio decide to go into politics? What did you make of the section of him working at the Trump White House?
- Angelica is engaged to Tazio but he leaves her behind. However, a key storyline for her is confronting Gerard about his assault of her. Let’s talk about that section and how it brought her and Tess closer.
- Why was it important for Tess to confront her father about his murder of her mom? It becomes apparent that her father is still abusive with his new family. Let’s discuss this. Do you think Tess finally experienced closure in the end?
- What do you think happens next for the four main characters?
- What are some of the key takeaways and themes of the novel to you?
What to Read Next
Hope you enjoyed book club questions for The Body Politic! Here are some other literary fiction choices along with links to book club questions.
Long Bright River by Liz Moore
Long Bright River by Liz Moore is an impactful story about the opioid epidemic and the complicated dynamic between sisters. While it also features a crime storyline, it’s very much written in a literary fiction style.
In a Philadelphia neighborhood rocked by the opioid crisis, two once-inseparable sisters find themselves at odds. One, Kacey, lives on the streets in the vise of addiction. The other, Mickey, walks those same blocks on her police beat. They don’t speak anymore, but Mickey never stops worrying about her sibling.
Then Kacey disappears, suddenly, at the same time that a mysterious string of murders begins in Mickey’s district, and Mickey becomes dangerously obsessed with finding the culprit–and her sister–before it’s too late.
Alternating its present-day mystery with the story of the sisters’ childhood and adolescence, Long Bright River is at once heart-pounding and heart-wrenching: a gripping suspense novel that is also a moving story of sisters, addiction, and the formidable ties that persist between place, family, and fate.
The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin
The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin is a rich story that explores the lives of four siblings. It’s another story that will stick with you.
When the renowned poet Fiona Skinner is asked about the inspiration behind her iconic work, The Love Poem, she tells her audience a story about her family and a betrayal that reverberates through time.
It begins in a big yellow house with a funeral, an iron poker, and a brief variation forever known as the Pause: a free and feral summer in a middle-class Connecticut town. Caught between the predictable life they once led and an uncertain future that stretches before them, the Skinner siblings—fierce Renee, sensitive Caroline, golden boy Joe and watchful Fiona—emerge from the Pause staunchly loyal and deeply connected. Two decades later, the siblings find themselves once again confronted with a family crisis that tests the strength of these bonds and forces them to question the life choices they’ve made and ask what, exactly, they will do for love.
A novel that pierces the heart and lingers in the mind, The Last Romantics is a beautiful meditation on the power of stories—how they navigate us through difficult times, help us understand the past, and point the way toward our future.