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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

A Theory of Relativity

1. In whose home do you think Keefer would be happiest-Gordon's or the Nye's? On what would you base your decision? What makes a good parent? What makes a happy home?

2. Do you think Mitchard's portrayal of Diane as a mother and as a born-again Christian is a balanced one? How does she make Diane a sympathetic character?

3. There are many kinds of single parents in the novel: Gordon, Delia, Craig (after Delia's death), the birth mothers of both Gordon and Georgia. How would you use this book to argue for or against single parenting?

4. Gordon is first introduced as a highly analytic person, one who thinks that "life could be lived like an experiment conducted in keeping with scientific method, that a certain set of results could be obtained and, once obtained, repeated." Eventually he comes to realize "the pressure of the human hand behind the instruments."(p. 11) How do Gordon's relationships with Keefer, Lindsay, his Aunt Nora, and his mother bring about his own emotional development?

5. Discuss Gordon's decision to drop his petition to adopt Keefer. Was it the right one, given the circumstances? How much of it was based on his relationship with Georgia? How much do you think was based on the difficulties he would encounter as a single father?

6. Discuss how the phrase, "a theory of relativity" touches on the novel's themes: family, heredity, adoption, and parental love, to name a few. Can you think of any other issues this title suggests?

7. Do you agree with Judge Sayward's decision to deny Gordon's petition for adoption based on his own status as an adopted child? As a judge was she compelled to give a literal interpretation of the law, or do you think she should have assumed that Gordon's status was the same as any other blood relative of Georgia's?

8. Discuss the possibility that Ray and Georgia's accident was a suicide. How does it make you feel about Ray?

9. Where do you stand on the nature versus nurture debate? Do you think your personality has been determined genetically or by the situation in which you grew up? How do the characters of Georgia, Gordon, Alex, and Keefer support or contradict your beliefs?

10. In the last chapter, Mitchard offers us a glimpse of Keefer as a ten-year-old. Did she "turn out" the way you expected? How do you think Keefer would have been different if Delia had lived and become her mother?

A Theory of Relativity
by Jacquelyn Mitchard

  • Publication Date: June 1, 2001
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 351 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers
  • ISBN-10: 0066210232
  • ISBN-13: 9780066210230