Book Club Questions for Aviva Orenstein’s 2016 novel Fat Chance

The main information page for this book is found here.

This page is dedicated to questions and themes raised by the novel, suggested for classroom use and, especially, book clubs. For more information and interaction with the author, contact Aviva at aorenste [at] indiana [dot] edu.

Discussion Questions for Fat Chance

1. Claire struggles with her weight and her body image. Why does she feel so bad about her body? Is her attitude typical?  How does her self-image affect her life? How does it change over the course of the book?

2. At the end of Chapter 29, Claire asks herself: “Really, why was I so angry all the time?” Do you see Claire as angry? If so, how do you think she deals with her anger? If not, why does she think of herself that way?

3. How trustworthy is Claire as a narrator?  Do her first impressions and instincts serve her well? Is Claire unfair in some of her judgments? Is she sometimes willing to overlook red flags?

4. Is Sam, Claire’s son, out of control or just a typical teenager? How do you assess Claire’s relationship with Sam? How does it change over the course of the novel? Is Claire’s parenting effective?

5. What role does their Jewish faith play in the lives of the characters?

6. How does Claire use humor in her life? Is it an effective tool for her?

7. Many of the major events in the novel revolve around food (Claire’s doughnuts, her defiant bacon-eating, her making chicken soup for Rob, Joanie’s feeding her). What role does food and eating play in the novel?

8. What was you first impression of Rob? When did you figure out his identity? Does Rob change over the course of the novel or does Clare just finally see him for who he really is?

9. What role do sex and sexuality play in Claire’s life? What role do they play in Rob’s life?

10. In Fat Chance, there are those who cling to the rules and those who break them. Where does Claire fit in?

11. Beverly (the Rabbi’s wife), Kim (Jeremy’s new wife), and Marjorie (Ben’s mother) are women whom Claire initially dislikes. How does Claire’s opinion change over the course of the novel? What do you think of these women?

12. Many characters in the novel are naturally warm and genuine, while others seem cold and distant. How would you categorize various characters? How does Claire relate to each group?

13. How has Claire’s relationship with her parents informed who she is as an adult?

14. What role does Lydia play in Claire’s life? What role does she play in the novel?

15. What is in the future for Claire? What would you wish for her?