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These Tom Lake book club questions will help you think and have a meaningful discussion about author Ann Patchett’s masterful, #1 New York Times bestselling Reese’s book club selection that’s topped so many readers’ “best of the year” lists. Plus, get printable book club discussion questions to prepare for your in-person book club.

tom lake by ann patchett held up in a reading room.

Tom Lake quickly became one of my own top reads of 2023, as I am a huge fan of Ann Patchett’s books. I also think a lot of people will be picking this one up for discussion as it’s an amazing book club book, so I have hand-crafted some questions for you to discuss together or ruminate on your own.

Let’s analyze Tom Lake by Ann Patchett, a novel as alive and naturally beautiful as the flowers on its book cover.

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Tom Lake Book Club Questions

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett is about three adult daughters who return to their parent’s Michigan cherry farm during the pandemic. Their mother tells them the story of how she dated a famous actor in her youth at a Summer theater job. It’s a rumination on real love, how the past leads to the present, and what parts of a story to retell.

(For more details, read my summary of Tom Lake and/or review of Tom Lake.)

There are spoilers in these discussion questions for Tom Lake.

Did you read or watch Our Town too?

If so, did you draw any comparisons between Our Town and Tom Lake?

Of all plays, why do you think Patchett chose Our Town for Tom Lake?

If you’ve read Ann Patchett before, how did Tom Lake stack up for you?

Discuss the format by which you read Tom Lake.

Discuss the significance of the cherry farm setting.

Discuss the timing of COVID-19 in Tom Lake.

Did you identify most with any of the three daughters?

Tom Lake was decidedly not a “sliding doors” (What if?) type of novel. Why do you think Patchett made this choice and made it so clear to the reader?

Who would you cast in a movie adaptation?

Did the “story within a story” work for you?

Discuss any significance of the age difference between Lara and Duke.

What attracted Lara and Duke to each other?

Why did Lara end up with Joe?

Why did Tom Lake remain so memorable to the characters?

Describe Lara’s career path and how it, and she, changed over time.

Why does Lara tell her life story beyond that of her romantic relationship to her daughters?

Why does Lara keep certain parts of the story to herself?

How does Lara view the past?

How does Lara view the present?

Describe the reactions of Lara’s three daughters to her story.

How may this story differ from another character’s perspective?

Describe Lara’s view of motherhood.

Discuss Lara’s life view and what the reader can take from it.

Did each character “end up” the way you expected?

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Tom Lake is an incredibly thought-provoking novel that offers so many topics for discussion about love, life, and the choices we make along the way. It’s also good to compare to the play that is featured in it, Our Town. These Tom Lake book club questions foster engaging discussions that explore the depth, characters, and themes of this popular tale.

Keep the discussion going! Share your thoughts on Tom Lake or any remaining questions you may have in the comments below.

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