31 Discussion Questions For Tom Lake by Ann Patchett + Free Pdf Guide

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Find 31 Tom Lake book club discussion questions, along with food ideas, activity guide .

The instant New York Times bestselling literary fiction  and Reese Witherspoon book club pick Tom Lake is a moving novel about romantic love, marital love, and maternal love. 

Set against the backdrop of the pandemic, Tom Lake follows Lara Nelson as she shares her past with her three daughters while they pick cherries in their picturesque Michigan orchard. 

In this post you will find book club discussion questions for Tom Lake that will help you book group have lively conversation about the novel. Plus, you will find sumptuous book club snack ideas along with some fun suggestion for hosting activities.

I  have also included a printable discussion guide so that your members in the book club can easily follow along and participate in the conversation.

Now, it’s time to explore these thought provoking questions for reading group discussion. 

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett Synopsis 

In the spring of 2020, Lara’s three daughters returned to the family’s orchard in Northern Michigan.

While picking cherries, they beg their mother to tell them the story of Peter Duke, a famous actor with whom she shared both a stage and a romance years before at a theater company called Tom Lake.

As Lara recalls the past, her daughters examine their own lives and relationship with their mother and are forced to reconsider the world and everything they thought they knew.

Tom Lake is a meditation on youthful love, married love, and the lives parents have led before their children were born. Both hopeful and elegiac, it explores what it means to be happy even when the world is falling apart.

As in all of her novels, Ann Patchett combines compelling narrative artistry with piercing insights into family dynamics. The result is a rich and luminous story, told with profound intelligence and emotional subtlety, that demonstrates once again why she is one of the most revered and acclaimed literary talents working today.

31 Tom Lake Book Club Questions

book club discussion questions for tom lake

How did the setting of Northern Michigan and the family orchard contribute to the atmosphere and themes of the book?

What is the significance of the title “Tom Lake” in the context of the story?

Discuss Lara’s relationship with her three daughters and how it evolves throughout the book.

What motivated Lara’s daughters to ask her about her past with Peter Duke and the Tom Lake theater company?

How does Lara’s retelling of her romance with Peter Duke affect her daughters’ perceptions of her?

In what ways does the story of Peter Duke and Lara’s past mirror the lives of the daughters in the present?

Explore the themes of love and romance in Tom Lake. How do Lara’s experiences with Peter Duke compare to her experiences with her husband and her daughters?

What role do the theater and acting play in Lara’s life and in the larger narrative of the book?

Discuss the significance of the cherry-picking scenes in the book and how they relate to the overall story.

Explore the dynamics of the family in the novel, including sibling relationships and the mother-daughter bond.

What do you think the book is trying to convey about the passage of time and the way people change over the years?

Consider the character of Peter Duke. What did you think of him, and how did your perception of him evolve as the story unfolded?

Discuss the concept of happiness as explored in Tom Lake. How do different characters define and pursue happiness?

How does the novel address the idea of regrets and the roads not taken in life?

What are some of the key moments or scenes that stood out to you as particularly moving or significant?

In what ways does the author use symbolism and metaphor to enhance the storytelling?

How does the book handle the theme of secrets and hidden pasts, both in Lara’s life and within the family?

What role do nature and the orchard play in the story’s themes and symbolism?

Discuss the writing style and narrative voice in Tom Lake. How did it impact your reading experience?

Explore the themes of forgiveness and redemption in the book. How do characters grapple with their past mistakes and regrets?

Consider the contrast between the past and the present in the novel. How do characters adapt to changing circumstances and expectations?

What did you think of the ending of the book? Did it satisfy your expectations for the characters and their journeys?

If you were to choose one character whose perspective you’d like to explore further, who would it be, and why?

In a hypothetical situation, if Peter Duke were the narrator of the book, how would the story have turned out?

Discuss the characteristics of Lara’s daughters—Maisie, Emily, and Nell. 

In what ways did Tom Lake resonate with your own experiences or perspectives on family, love, and time?

How does the book portray the complexities of family relationships, including the conflicts and reconciliations?

Discuss the favorite characters of book club members from Tom Lake.

How does the novel address the idea of personal fulfillment and finding one’s purpose in life?

Consider the role of memory and nostalgia in the novel. How do memories shape the characters’ lives and decisions?

How does Ann Patchett use flashbacks and storytelling to weave together the past and present in the novel?

Tom Lake Book Club Questions FREE PDF

Get book club discussion questions for Tom Lake as a FREE PDF- DOWNLOAD NOW

Tom Lake Book Club Food Ideas

When hosting a book club discussion for Tom Lake you can consider serving snacks that evoke the orchard setting, the northern Michigan location, or the themes of the book. Here are some Tom Lake book club food ideas:

  • Apple Cider: Northern Michigan is known for its apple orchards, so offer apple apple cider cocktails as a refreshing drink choice.
  • Fruit Platter: Create a fruit platter with a variety of fruits, including cherries, apples, and other seasonal fruits, to represent the orchard setting.
  • Cheese and Charcuterie: Set up a cheese and charcuterie board with a selection of cheeses, cured meats, and crackers. This can symbolize the elegant theater setting where Lara and Peter’s romance began.

More Book Club Ideas and Activities 

  1. Character Costume Night: Encourage book club members to dress up as their favorite characters from the book.
  2. Literary Games: Incorporate a trivia quiz about the book’s plot, characters, and author.
  3. Discussion in Nature: Since “Tom Lake”  is set against the lake, consider holding your book club meeting outdoors in a park or garden to connect with the book’s themes.
  4. Book to  Movie:  What if Tom Lake were to be a movie, explore the ideal cast for the main characters:
  5. Themed Playlist: Create a playlist of songs that relate to Tom Lake

Books Similar to Tom Lake

If you have enjoyed Tom Lake and looking for similar books to read here are a few of my favroites.

  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah: The Nightingale is historical fiction follows two sisters in Nazi-occupied France during World War II. A heartwarming book about family and relationships. 
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is a book similar to Tom lake
  • The Dutch House by Ann Patchett– Another great multigenerational drama by Ann Patchett. I absolutely loved The Dutch House that follows a family for five decades. I listened to the audiobook version, which was narrated by Tom Hanks. Definitely recommend for fans of Tom lake. 
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett is similar to Tom Lake
  • City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert:  City of Girls is an engrossing novel is set in a theatre group in NYC in the 1940s. If you have enjoyed Lara’s life in the theatre and her glamorous friends, Duke, Palace, and Sebastian, you should read this book. Just like Tom Lake this book is really moving and thought-provoking.
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert is a good book to read after Tom Lake

Frequently Asked Questions about Tom Lake

  • What is the story of Tom Lake about?

The story of “Tom Lake” is about Lara Nelson’s recollection of a significant summer in her life when she dated Peter Duke, a future celebrity, and participated in the production of Thornton Wilder’s play “Our Town” in Tom Lake. 

The novel explores Lara’s memories and how they captivate her three daughters during the pandemic. 

  • Is Tom Lake based on a real place?

No, It’s not. It’s a fictional town.

  • What is the play in Tom Lake?

The play featured in “Tom Lake” is “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder. This play is a classic of American theater and explores themes of life, love, and death in a small New England town. In the context of the novel, it appears to be a significant part of Lara Nelson’s summer memories and experiences.

How many pages is Tom Lake?

Tom Lake is 320 pages long.

Conclusion :

I hope these discussion-worthy questions and Tom Lake book club ideas will guide you to have a fun discussion in the reading group. Also, don’t forget to download the printable PDF with book club questions so that all the members in the book club can have access to the questions.

Related posts:

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett Review & Summary

12 Tom Lake by Ann Patchett Quotes

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Stephy George
Stephy George

Hi I am Stephy ! I became a bookworm in my late twenties. So I created this little corner of books online to share my love of reading with YOU! I want to help you find the best books to read so you won’t ever have to worry about your next read!

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