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Book club questions for The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan provide an in-depth look at this engaging and chilling novel about motherhood. There will be spoilers so for more context about the book, check out my spoiler-free review first.
This novel really got to me. That ending! Wow, so many emotions as I read this story. It was a reminder of the intense and relentless pressure mothers are under and how society expects a mother to be perfect and without faults.
Frida is quite complicated. I could not get over her bad decision (or very bad day as she called it) but yet, I felt for her in many ways. I will say we got to know who Frida is—and yet, there are still many questions about her.
I would love to know your thoughts about the story. Feel free to comment below!
Frida Liu is struggling. She doesn’t have a career worthy of her Chinese immigrant parents’ sacrifices. She can’t persuade her husband, Gust, to give up his wellness-obsessed younger mistress. Only with Harriet, their cherubic daughter, does Frida finally attain the perfection expected of her. Harriet may be all she has, but she is just enough.
Until Frida has a very bad day.
The state has its eyes on mothers like Frida. The ones who check their phones, letting their children get injured on the playground; who let their children walk home alone. Because of one moment of poor judgment, a host of government officials will now determine if Frida is a candidate for a Big Brother-like institution that measures the success or failure of a mother’s devotion.
Faced with the possibility of losing Harriet, Frida must prove that a bad mother can be redeemed. That she can learn to be good.
Book Club Questions for The School for Good Mothers
- In your opinion, what is a ‘good’ mother?
- We meet Frida at a low point. Let’s first discuss our thoughts as we learn that Frida left Harriet alone for two hours. Why did she do this? What were the events leading up to this catastrophic decision?
- Did you feel sorry for Frida? Or did you find yourself judging her decision making when it comes to Harriet? What is your opinion on her as a whole?
- Frida’s ex-husband Gust cheated on her while she was pregnant and shortly after Harriet was born, he leaves her for Susanna. Yet, Gust and Susanna try to maintain a somewhat good relationship for the sake of Harriet. How would you have reacted if you were in Frida’s position?
- The story is set in a world very similar to ours—except for the government program to turn ‘bad’ parents into ‘good’ parents. Why did the government set up a program like this? Could this happen in our world?
- What was the purpose of the school Frida attended?
- What type of impact did caring for the robot children have on the mothers? What did you think about Frida’s relationship with Emmanuelle?
- Frida is the only mother of Asian descent at the school and she doesn’t feel like she really fits in with anyone. People also make plenty of judgments about Frida and how they expect her to behave. Let’s talk about our thoughts about this.
- There’s also a school for fathers—but their treatment is much less harsh compared to the mothers. Why did the fathers have it easier? Generally speaking, what does this say about society’s expectations on mothers compared to fathers?
- What was your impression of Frida’s relationship with Tucker?
- As you read the novel, did you think that Frida would regain custody of Harriet?
- Was the program and the school built with the idea to give these mothers a second chance? Or was the decision already made that they would not get custody back? Do you believe any of the mothers in the story were able to see their children again?
- Now let’s talk about the ending! What did you think when you read that Frida took Harriet—knowing she will get caught? What will happen next for Frida?
- The last line of the novel is Frida imagining one day telling Harriet everything that happened. She says, “I am a bad mother. But I have learned to be good.” What does she mean by that?
Hope you enjoyed book club questions for The School for Good Mothers! Here are some more recommendations along with links to book club questions.
The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
Another engaging story about a complicated family is The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave.
Before Owen Michaels disappears, he smuggles a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her. Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers—Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.
As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered, as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss, as a US marshal and federal agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity—and why he really disappeared.
Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they’re also building a new future—one neither of them could have anticipated.
With its breakneck pacing, dizzying plot twists, and evocative family drama, The Last Thing He Told Me is a riveting mystery, certain to shock you with its final, heartbreaking turn.
Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult
Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult is so good and takes unexpected turns. I highly recommend this one.
Diana O’Toole is perfectly on track. She will be married by thirty, done having kids by thirty-five, and move out to the New York City suburbs, all while climbing the professional ladder in the cutthroat art auction world. She’s an associate specialist at Sotheby’s now, but her boss has hinted at a promotion if she can close a deal with a high-profile client. She’s not engaged just yet, but she knows her boyfriend, Finn, a surgical resident, is about to propose on their romantic getaway to the Galápagos—days before her thirtieth birthday. Right on time.
But then a virus that felt worlds away has appeared in the city, and on the eve of their departure, Finn breaks the news: It’s all hands on deck at the hospital. He has to stay behind. You should still go, he assures her, since it would be a shame for all of their nonrefundable trip to go to waste. And so, reluctantly, she goes.
Almost immediately, Diana’s dream vacation goes awry. Her luggage is lost, the Wi-Fi is nearly nonexistent, and the hotel they’d booked is shut down due to the pandemic. In fact, the whole island is now under quarantine, and she is stranded until the borders reopen. Completely isolated, she must venture beyond her comfort zone. Slowly, she carves out a connection with a local family when a teenager with a secret opens up to Diana, despite her father’s suspicion of outsiders.
In the Galápagos Islands, where Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection was formed, Diana finds herself examining her relationships, her choices, and herself—and wondering if when she goes home, she too will have evolved into someone completely different.