Discussion Questions for Suzanne Davis Gets a Life
1. At the beginning of Suzanne Davis Gets a Life, what goals does Suzanne set for herself? Do they change over the course of the book? If you think there is a change, what do you think causes it?
2. How would you describe Suzanne’s relationship with her mother? Is it a recognizable archetype of a mother-daughter relationship? We only see Suzanne’s mother through Suzanne’s eyes, so what can be said about the development of the relationship between mother and daughter?
3. Suzanne makes snap judgments about other characters. How do these judgments influence the plot? Does her approach to evaluating others change over the course of the book?
4. Suzanne’s judgment of others see-saws between often-derisive wit and sometimes-clueless vulnerability. Find examples of both. What explains this characteristic of hers?
5. As a reader, how do you separate your own opinions from Suzanne’s? When do you think she has misinterpreted, and how does author Paula Marantz Cohen let us know that Suzanne has made a mistake, before Suzanne herself realizes it? Do you think this separation between reader and first-person narrator keeps you engaged in Suzanne’s story?
6. A gap seems to exist between Suzanne’s perception of the world and the world as it really is. Sometimes Suzanne’s humor gives her sharp insights into her world, and other times she focuses jokingly on the appearance of something, rather than looking deeper for its reality. What explains her inability to “get” what is going on, and her growing clarity about her life? Does Suzanne’s use of humor change at all, over the course of the book?
7. What do you think about the way Suzanne Davis Gets a Life handles the subjects of cancer and the experience of undergoing cancer treatment? Do the details of Suzanne’s cancer treatment and her attitude throughout that process ring realistic and true to her character?
8. What role does the fear of death and illness play in adjusting the perspectives of the characters in this novel?
9. Paula Marantz Cohen has written two previous books with Jane Austen in the title: Jane Austen in Scarsdale or Love, Death and the SATs, and Jane Austen in Boca. In Suzanne Davis Gets a Life, the author refers to Jane Austen several times. What connection does Suzanne Davis Gets a Life have to Jane Austen’s books?
10. Suzanne Davis Gets a Life might be called a modern comedy of manners, that is, a “comedy that satirically portrays the manners and fashions of a particular class or set.” Have you read other modern novels that are comedies of manners? What do they share with Suzanne Davis Gets a Life?
11. As Suzanne’s chemotherapy progresses, she begins to lose her hair until she is completely bald. At this point she has no wish to cover her head. What has brought her to this decision?