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Monday, January 17, 2011

Book Discussion Questions: The Fortunate Pilgrim

The Fortunate PilgrimI will be hosting my monthly BPL Book Discussion later today.  We are discussing The Fortunate Pilgrim by Mario Puzo.  There are no prepared questions available for this novel, but using my trusty Fiction-L archived list of questions for when you have no questions as a guide, I created a nice list of 13 questions to lead our discussion.

I am posting them here so that other groups can use them to lead a discussion on this novel.  Please feel free to use them as you wish, just include the url to this post to credit me.  Also, discussion leaders may be interested in this great list of the novel's many characters and their relationships. More on the actual discussion later in the week.
Discussion Questions for Fortunate Pilgrim by Mario Puzo

1. Although the novel is in chronological order, the point of view skips around frequently and each chapter reads like a vignette, with a skip in time between chapters.  Did you like this writing style? Did it add or take away from the overall themes and tone of the novel?
2. In Fortunate Pilgrim, there are some passages which go into great domestic detail, about the gathering on the street, the food, etc…, while there are other larger issues like funerals, moving to Long Island, and Larry wedding which are completely glossed over.  How did you feel about the level of detail in this novel?
3. Did you find this book uplifting and/or depressing?  What is the overall tone of this immigrant story?
4. This was Puzo’s second novel, and as he put it in the introduction to the paperback, his most personal.  Have you read other novels by Puzo?  Did you enjoy this as much?  What are the book's strengths and weaknesses?
5. What was your favorite part of the novel?  What scenes stayed with you after you closed the book upon completion?  Which were the most revealing as you read?
6. This novel is deeply grounded in its NYC, Italian tenements setting.  Did you get a sense of the place and the time?  How different would this story be in Chicago?  How would this story of immigrants be different now?  How would it be the same?
7. What do you see as the major themes of this novel? Ideas for discussion: bonds of family, immigrant experience, “American Dream,” women’s lives and relationships.
8. This is a character driven story; the plot is secondary to the characters interactions, feelings, choices, etc…  Were the characters well developed?  Were they believable to you?  Was their growth or lack of growth appropriate to the story?  Are the male or female characters more vividly drawn? Who did you most relate to? Why?  Who was your least favorite?
9. Was the book believable to you? Why?  How does it compare to other immigrant books we have read and discussed?  Most recently, Brooklyn by Colm Toibin.
10.  What do you think will happen to the Corbo-Angeluzzi family in Long Island?  What will happen to Larry?  Gino?  Octavia?
11.  How did you feel about the ending of this novel?  It was a resolved ending, but still completely open.What will happen to the characters as they move into a post-WWII life in the suburbs?
12.  What is the significance of the title, “Fortunate Pilgrim?”
13.  I took this comment from Wikipedia and it is also reflected in the preface some of us had in the paperback:  “Until his dying day, Mario Puzo considered The Fortunate Pilgrim his finest, most poetic and literary work. In one of his last interviews he stated that he was saddened by the fact that The Godfather, a fiction he never lived, outshone the novel of his mother's honest immigrant struggle for respectability in America and her courage and filial love, as portrayed in The Fortunate Pilgrim, 1965.”  Does this comment color your reading of The Fortunate Pilgrim?  Does it make you feel differently about Puzo’s larger body of work?

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