Reading Group Discussion Guide
First Publication: 2005 ▪ Reissue 2012 ▪ List Price: $12.95
(trade paperback) ▪ Open Sea
Press ▪ isbn 9780982819746
“...a fantastic book that looks into the life of a
woman who didn't conform to the rules of society in her time....A
wonderfully realistic story"
About This Book
Beyond All Desiring is a novel of literary fiction with strong women's themes, elements of magical realism, and erotic passages. When Sara’s niece, Janice, is notified that her sharp-witted aunt, now in her 80s, hasn’t been seen for several days, Janice’s panicky drive to find out what’s happened begins our journey of discovering that Sara has led a life very different from what her relatives and friends assume. Historical events of the 20th century form a backdrop to Sara’s often tumultuous personal life, which we follow from Trenton, NJ, to Washington, DC. As Sara visits an art museum exhibit about Buddhism, we learn of her two marriages, the first to an abusive man and the second to a kinder man who was involved in top secret projects and who develops a bizarre illness. We discover her long but secret love relationship with a woman. And we learn of hidden booklets which hold the key to yet another secret. Beyond All Desiring received top honors from the Ulysses Award, and finalist awards from USA Book News' Best Book Awards and Media Darlings Word/Work Book Award, all in 2006.
Topics for Discussion
1. In what ways are Sara and Janice different? Are there any ways in which they are similar?
2. Does Sara consider herself heterosexual? Lesbian? Bisexual? How would you describe her sexuality?
3. How does Sara relate to children? What part
does that play in the story?
4. Though Sara's family discovers many secrets about her, there are at least two they never find out about. What are they? Why do you think the author keeps these from the family?
5. Which of her three nieces is most like Sara? Least?
6. What role does Sara's neighbor, Marge, play?
7. If Sara were young today, do you think she would still keep any of her secrets? If no, why not? If you think she would keep any, which ones and why?
8. What meanings do "desiring" and "desire" have in
9. What changes occur in Janice's outlook towards her aunt and other characters in the novel and her actions?
10. How would you describe Gail and her relationships? What is her importance in the story?
11. What do you think of Gregory?
12. The author describes herself as pro-choice. Whose choice is the abortion portrayed in this book? What are some of the differences between this abortion in 1930s America and legal abortion in the U.S. today?
13. How do the settings of Trenton, N.J., Washington, DC, and other locations affect your experience of the story?
14. How would you describe this novel's style and structure? How do they affect your reading experience?
15. Why do you think the narrator of Chapter 3 isn't named in that chapter? Did you notice the lack of name? Did it affect your reading experience?
16. Are you aware of situations or people in your family similar to the ones described in this novel?
About the Author
Judith Laura is author of five books. Beyond All Desiring is her second novel. Her first novel, Three Part Invention, also drew wide praise from reviewers. Her fiction, poetry, and articles have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She has worked as a reporter and magazine editor. She grew up in Ewing, NJ, graduated from Ohio University, and now lives near Washington, DC.
Visit the Beyond All Desiring information page on http://www.judithlaura.com/beyond.html
Copyright and Reproduction of this Guide
This reading guide is copyright © 2005 by Judith Laura; revised Jan. 30, 2006 and Aug. 4, 2012. Permission is given for reading groups and individuals to reproduce this guide in print for educational purposes and individual use. This guide is offered free on this site, and sale of it is forbidden.
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