Women’s Fiction: THE GODDESSES OF KITCHEN AVENUE

Goddesses_coverTHE GODDESSES OF KITCHEN AVENUE
Barbara Samuel
Trade Paperback, 304 pages
ISBN:
0345469135

READER GROUP QUESTIONS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE

ORDER NOW    Also available as an audiobook

"A compelling
        emotional portrait . . . Samuel’s writing is a gift to readers, her voice,
        a demand for us to feel everything in our lives and to meet it with courage.
        . . . Samuel has crafted a truly luminous novel."


        -Contra Costa Times

      

"Barbara
        Samuel’s writing is, quite simply, splendid. . . . These women are as
        familiar as your next-door neighbor and as exotic as the goddesses who
        archetype their lives. Samuel soars with genius in the humanity of her
        storytelling."
        -BookPage

      

Struggling
        to pick up the pieces after her marriage falls apart,

        Trudy Marino finds support from a quirky, eclectic group of friends –
        her goddesses of Kitchen Avenue. There’s Jade, a fiery social worker who’s
        finding unexpected strength to deal with her "player" ex-husband;
        Jade’s grandmother, Roberta, who has just lost her husband of sixty-two
        years – and through memory and grief wonders what to do with the rest
        of her life; Shannelle, an aspiring writer, determined to realize her
        talent despite formidable obstacles; and Angel, a young, quietly knowing
        photographer who makes Trudy uncover a sensuality she never knew – even
        as he tries to get over the one love he can never really forget.

      

When Trudy
        weighs what she and her husband still share against new possibilities,
        she’ll surprise everyone-including herself – as she tries to reconcile
        the best of both.

REVIEWS

From Booklist
For a married woman, perhaps nothing is more devastating than the loss
of love, yet out of that loss often comes a renewed sense of self. Such
a painful yet poignant journey of self-discovery is navigated by Trudy,
Jade, Roberta, and Shannelle–four luminous, laudable, and loving women
nearly overwhelmed by their losses. For Trudy, it’s a bewildering
separation from her husband of 20-plus years. For Jade, it’s a bitter
divorce from a heartbreaking scoundrel. For Roberta, it’s the death of
her adored husband; and for Shannelle, it’s an unhappy marriage to an
unsympathetic man. Samuel, author of such popular novels as A Piece of Heaven
(2002), confronts the dynamic of what it means to be a woman in and out
of love–the rejection, doubt, anger, confusion, denial, and
remorse–and conveys these roller-coaster emotions with a profound,
passionate, and often playful wisdom through characters whose
sensitivities ring genuine and true. Strong in ways they don’t always
realize, vulnerable to things they don’t expect, Trudy, Jade, Roberta,
and Shannelle are women whom readers will recognize, respect, and
revere. Carol Haggas

from BOOKPAGE

  BY SANDY HUSEBY

Coming to terms with your womanhood is a process neither easy nor straightforward, as Trudy, Jade, Shanelle and Roberta
each learn in Barbara Samuel’s sublime Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue. The
four friends have defined their lives through one facet: the men they love. For Trudy, that love is shattered when she
earns her husband has been having an affair. Roberta’s husband dies after a 62-year marriage. Jade’s ex-husband,
Dante—the conman with too much con in him—still haunts her. Even Shanelle is tormented by the conflict
between her love for writing and her husband Tony’s expectations.

Barbara Samuel’s writing is, quite simply, splendid. And there’s nothing simple about it. As she peels away the layers
of relationships, Samuel creates a nuanced story as finely wrought as a beautifully woven tapestry. Each of these
women-in-transition finds that her truest identity is the one she makes for herself. Whether literally fighting for
  her sense of self, like Jade, or rediscovering true fulfillment in her earliest dreams, as Trudy finally does,
  these women are as familiar as your next-door neighbor and as exotic as the goddesses who archetype their lives.
  Samuel soars with genius in the humanity of her storytelling.

AUTHOR NOTES

I receive more mail on this book than any other.   Also, the women in the book look nothing like the women on the cover.  Trust me.

THE GODDESSES OF KITCHEN AVENUE
BY BARBARA SAMUEL
READING GROUP QUESTIONS AND TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION
 
1. The novel opens with a visit from Trudy’s childhood mentor,
Lucille.  Lucille inspired Trudy in a way that changed Trudy’s life forever.  At
the same time, her presence created fear and anger in other women in their small
town.  Why do people find women like Lucille threatening.  Have you ever known
anyone like Lucille in your life?
 
2 Roberta asks Trudy why she thinks Rick comes by so often,
and Trudy responds that she supposes is out of habit.  Do you think that’s why
Rick stops by? What do you think keeps a person returning to the one they ‘ve
loved, even if it causes pain?
 
3. When Jade and Trudy go out for a night on the town, their
experiences are completely different. Trudy marvels at how Jade’s life is so
marked by her stunning appearance.  How does the way a woman looks affect her
everyday life?
 
4.  After Ed’s funeral, Roberta is unable to imagine going on
without him. Do you think it’s possible to will your own death? What turns
Roberta’s powerful sorrow into strength?
 
5. Why did Trudy, as a child, look down on the traditional
roles of women? What characteristics mark a strong, independent woman? Can a
homemaker be those things?
 
6. Trudy and Jade both say that, knowing everything they do
know about Dante and Rick, they would still have chosen to love these men who
hurt them.  Do you feel that you can have regrets about the choices you’ve made
if you’re happy with the person you’ve become?
 
7. When Jade first meets Rueben, she tells him "pretty has
never gotten me one damn thing." Rueben remarks that a plain woman would
disagree.  How do the perspectives of "plain women" and pretty women" differ? 
What are the pros and cons of physical beauty?
 
8. What was your impression of Angel at the beginning of the
book? Did you think he would be good for Trudy, or did you think he was a
character similar to Jade’s Dante: a charmer who would only break her
heart?
 
9. Tony feels threatened by Shanelle’s dedication to her
writing.  He tells her that if she truly loved him, she wouldn’t "get up and
write all night long."  Do you think it’s harder for a man to accept a woman
having passions outside of the relationship?
 
10. Trudy and Caroline have an intense and sometimes
antagonistic relationship, even though they don’t know each other at all.  Why
do you think wives tend to feel more anger toward "the other woman" than toward
their husbands?
 
11. Why does Rueben feel it is so important to hold off on
making his relationship with Jade physical? Do you agree that it’s better for
couples to develop a deep emotional connection with each other before they
become lovers? How can physical intimacy weaken a relationship? How can it
strengthen a relationship?
 
12.  At the beginning of Chapter Twenty, Samuel quotes Lorca:
"They come to me, my essential things.  They are refrains of refrains."  What
are Trudy’s essential things?  What are yours?
 
13. Shanelle harbors a lot of resentment about the fractured
world where she grew up up.  In one of her emails she wonders, "Why do girls who
see everybody else get pregnant and old too fast go out and do it themselves?" 
Why do you think that people in this sort of circumstance make the same mistakes
as those around them? What is different about the people who manage to break old
cycles?
 
14. Rueben tells Jade that she has to make a choice in her
boxing career, to be pretty or to be strong.  Does this only apply in the boxing
ring? Or are women forced to make that choice in the world, as well?
 
15. Several characters in The Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue
wrestle to hold themselves back from the ones they love, even if they seem
unsure of their own reasons for doing so.  When is holding back a mark of
courage? When is it a mark of fear?
 
16. Do you think Trudy initially decides not to go to Seville
because she feels she must stay and help Shanelle? Or does she use this as an
excuse? Why does she finally decide she will go?
 
17. Trudy has never felt as beautiful as when AngeL takes her
picture.  Shanelle never feels truly talented as a writer until her book is
bought by a publisher.  Why do you think the approval of others tends to
outweigh our faith in ourselves?
 
18. Before she gets into the ring at her first real boxing
match, Jade says, "I know my anger lead me here, to a strong and mighty place." 
We often think of anger only in negative terms, but here Jade uses it as a
vehicle to reach a positive end.  How do you deal with anger? How do you think
you could turn it into strength, the way Jade has done?
 
18. When the women of Kitchen Avenue finally begin to
accomplish their goals and aspirations, they become motivated by one another’s
successes.  Can you think of a time when someone else’s passion and drive
inspired you to do something you otherwise may not have done?
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