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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

The Turnaround

1. Discuss the character of John Pappas. How influential does he prove to be in the life of his son, Alex?

2. The Turnaround is a story in which many of the characters undergo difficult struggles and large transformations. Which character do you think learned the most and why?

3. Discuss the role of family in the novel. How does the way Alex thinks of family change after he becomes a father? How strong a force does family prove to be by the novel’s end?

4. How do the pressures of youth compare with the pressures of adulthood in the novel? How large an impact does American society in the two eras when The Turnaround is set, the 1970s and the present day, have on how the characters handle these pressures?

5. The Turnaround is told from the point of view of many different characters. Who did you find to be the most compelling character, aside from Alex? Did you find that your favorite character changed after the thirty year interim that occurs in the novel?

6. Early on James Monroe makes a tremendous sacrifice for his brother, Raymond. Have you ever encountered a similar sacrifice for a family member in the course of your life?

7. Cars prove a source of endless fascination for the male characters in The Turnaround, but also a source of major catastrophe. How do cars ultimately help the characters in the novel find a resolution?

8. George Pelecanos sets his novels in and around Washington DC. How does the city shape the events of The Turnaround? Do you think the city has a stronger presence in the novel when Alex Pappas is a teenager or an adult?

The Turnaround
by George Pelecanos

  • Publication Date: April 7, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 294 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books
  • ISBN-10: 0316040924
  • ISBN-13: 9780316040921