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Tom Lake Book Club Questions for Discussion

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Welcome to this blog post, where we’ll explore the heart of the novel Tom Lake and explore interesting book club questions. You will also find some FAQs about the novel on this page. This is a moving book by Ann Patchett that deals with the complexities of family, love, and the decisions we make. Tom Lake is a journey through time rather than just a story. It examines how her youthful love affects Lara Nelson, the protagonist, and her family. Come explore the complexity of the past, the power of forgiveness, and the strength of love with us.

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Book Club Questions for Tom Lake

Tom Lake Book Club Questions for Discussion
Tom Lake Book Club Questions

1. What effects does the COVID-19 pandemic environment have on Lara’s family relationships during the lockdown? How does it affect the novel’s overall atmosphere?

2. In what ways do Emily, Maisie, and Nell represent different paths in life? How do their interactions with each other and Lara change when they return home during the lockdown?

3. Explore Lara’s journey from a young woman in the 1980s to the present day. How does her early theatrical experience influence her decisions and interactions throughout the book?

4. A turning point in Lara’s life occurs as a result of her interaction with Peter Duke. Talk about how their connection affected Lara’s growth as a character and her interactions with other characters.

5. The novel often addresses the theme of infidelity. How do Lara’s daughters react to knowing that their mother had an affair with a married man? How does it affect the way they view relationships and love?

6. Examine the significance of the cherry farm in the novel in relation to Lara’s past and present. What does this mean in terms of growth, change, and passage of time?

7. Lara’s choice to give up acting and return to a simple life in Michigan raises issues of priorities. How does this decision relate to the themes of happiness and fulfillment in the book?

8. Examine Peter Duke’s character. How does his impact endure in Lara’s life even after his death? What does his burial in the family cemetery mean?

9. The story places a strong emphasis on how interconnected the past and present are. How have Lara’s past experiences impacted the way she currently interacts with her girls and her husband, Joe?

10. Forgiveness is a recurring theme. Discuss how the characters grapple with forgiveness. How does the author present it as an act of letting go rather than forgetting?

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11. Lara’s return to Michigan and reconnection with Joe is a turning point. How does the story’s exploration of married love and the effects of past choices on the present reflect in their love story?

12. Consider the character of Sebastian. How does his unexpected visit add layers to the narrative? What role does he play in resolving the story?

13. The novel touches on the theme of happiness amidst a world in chaos. How do Lara and her family find moments of happiness despite external challenges?

14. In what ways does the novel challenge conventional notions of a “happy ending” in love stories? How does it redefine what it means to be happy?

15. Reflect on the role of the cemetery in the story. How does the burial of Duke’s ashes symbolize closure and the acceptance of the past?

16. Discuss the impact of Lara’s storytelling on her daughters. How does it reshape their understanding of their mother and her experiences?

17. Explore the broader societal context of the COVID-19 pandemic in the novel. How does it contribute to the characters’ reflections on their lives and relationships?

18. The novel portrays the complexity of emotions, from love to loss. How does Ann Patchett use language and style to capture these emotions, making them relatable to readers?

19. How does the title, “Tom Lake,” contribute to the overall meaning of the novel? What symbolism or metaphorical significance might be attached to the name?

20. How did the characters and their stories directly resonate with you as readers? What elements of the book really resonated with you, and why?

Some funny puzzle questions about the book

Character Connection Puzzle:

Match each character to a significant event or location in Lara’s life.

A. Emily
B. Peter Duke
C. Tom Lake
D. Our Town performance


i. Summer of 1980
ii. COVID-19 lockdown
iii. Lara’s acting career
iv. Family farm in Traverse City

Timeline Challenge:

Arrange the following events in the correct chronological order.

A. Lara meets Peter Duke in Tom Lake.
B. Lara auditions for “Our Town” in high school.
C. Lara and Joe reconnect in New York.
D. Lara’s daughters learn about Peter Duke’s death during the lockdown.

Quotable Quotes Puzzle:

Unscramble the words to reveal quotes from the novel.

A. “eh dah smtaikne em rfo na tdiio.”
B. “acthWing ehr acfe si ekil oingg ot a mveio.”
C. “odoG siarragme era reven sa gnitseresting sa dab ffaiars.”

Watch an Evening with Ann Patchett and “Tom Lake” on the National Writers Series YouTube channel:

FAQs about the Novel

Q. What is “Tom Lake: A Novel” about?

A. It’s a story about a family dealing with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The main character, Lara, shares her past, including a significant love affair, with her three daughters during the lockdown.

Q. Who are the main characters in the book?

A. The central characters are Lara Nelson and her three daughters, Emily, Maisie, and Nell. Other important characters include Lara’s husband Joe, and a famous actor named Peter Duke.

Q. What are the trigger warnings for this novel?

A. Alcohol, death, and some closed-door romance.

Q. What happens during the lockdown in the story?

A. Lara’s three grown daughters come back home due to the lockdown. During this time, they learn about their mother’s past love affair with Peter Duke, a famous actor.

Q. Why do the daughters want to know about Lara’s past?

A. The daughters are curious about their mother’s life before they were born, especially the love story with Peter Duke. They learn about their mother’s choices and how they shaped who she is.

Q. How does the story explore the theme of love?

A. Lara’s love affair with Peter Duke is a central theme. It shows that love can be both powerful and complicated, with the characters dealing with the consequences of their choices.

Q. What life-changing events happened to Lara in the past?

A. Lara gets involved in acting and falls in love with Peter Duke. She experiences the challenges of a complicated relationship and faces the impact of her choices on her life.

Q. Why is forgiveness an important theme in the book?

A. The story suggests that forgiveness is about letting go of anger and resentment. Characters learn that understanding the past is crucial for healing and moving forward.

Q. How does the book connect the past and present?

A. The narrative switches between the past and present. It shows how events from Lara’s earlier life influence her relationships and choices during the lockdown.

Q. Why would you recommend this book to others?

A. The book is thought-provoking and beautifully written. It explores emotions like love, loss, and forgiveness, making it relatable and inspiring for readers who enjoy deep and meaningful stories.

Final words

In her book Tom Lake, Ann Patchett spins a story that transcends time and touches on the nuances of human relationships. These book club questions are intended to help you explore the depths of the novel Tom Lake as you begin your discussion by provoking ideas such as love, forgiveness, and the important influence of the past on the present. Let the reading of the story be an investigation into the essence of storytelling, where each page reveals a new insight and each character captures the complexities of our own lives.

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