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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

The Legacy of Eden

1. How much is Lavinia the architect of her family’s downfall? Is she the cause of their destruction, or had they already willingly created the situations that would ultimately lead to their ostracism and exile?

2. What do you make of the role of mothers in the novel? Lavinia, Julia and even Antonia all have devastating impacts on their children. What do you make of their approaches to motherhood and their relationships with their children?

3. Meredith faces a heartrending and difficult journey back to Iowa to confront her family’s past. How much do you empathize with Meredith’s place in her family’s history? What do you make of the final reveal of her betrayal of Ava? Do you agree with the reasons for why she fled and her need for self preservation or do you find her ultimately as selfish and as cruel as the other members of her family?

4. What do you make of Piper’s relationship with Lavinia? Why do you think Lavinia cries when Piper dies, but doesn’t when she discovers Cal Sr., dead in bed next to her? How much of an adversary is Piper to Lavinia?

5. Is Julia a victim or does she deserve her exile from the farm? Is she the cruel, spoiled, capricious monster Lavinia portrays her to be, or is her character poisoned and influenced by the jealous influences of her stepmother? What effect does her abandonment have on Cal Jr.? And why do you think she never comes back for him?

6. Forgiveness is a running theme through the novel. To what extent, if any, do the characters deserve forgiveness or sympathy for their actions?

7. To what extent are the men passive participants in the novel? Are they merely puppets manipulated and controlled by the female characters in the book or do they willingly and actively participate in the family’s politics?

8. To what extent can it be argued that Aurelia is the central character of the novel? What do you make of the bloodletting ritual of the Hathaways and the notion that the farm was a world in its own right? What do you make of the portrayal of the outside world compared with that of Aurelia?

9. How do you interpret the ending of the novel and the last line “And I go home”? Do you think this means Meredith has accepted her past or is unable to escape it?

10. What do you make of the relationship between Meredith and her sisters? Do you agree with her assertion that they never really knew each other because of how much they hid from one another? Was their relationship doomed because of the effects of Lavinia’s machinations or were Meredith, Ava and Claudia the cause of the break in their sisterly bond?

The Legacy of Eden
by Nelle Davy

  • Publication Date: January 31, 2012
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Mira
  • ISBN-10: 0778329550
  • ISBN-13: 9780778329558