Out of the Shadows – Topics for Book Clubs

  • Out of the Shadows alternates between the Clara and Mary Shelley’s stories. Did you like this narrative style? Did you find that the two stories echoed and spoke to each other? Did you enjoy the mix of historical and contemporary fiction?
  • According to the character Kay, “Losing our mothers. It’s the hardest thing. But it can change us, too, sometimes in profound ways. It can shape our direction and who we will become.” Both Clara and Mary have lost their mothers, although at different points in their life. How did these losses shape and change them?
  • Have you lost your mother? If so, how did it change and effect your life?
  • Attention-seeking and inconsistent Maxie seems to be the antithesis of her bookish and steadfast sister Clara. But do you think the sisters have more in common than they would care to admit? Did you feel sorry for Maxie toward the end of the book? Did you agree that, in some ways, she’s been living in Clara’s shadow?
  • Almost two hundred years separate the lives of Clara and Mary Shelley. How have women’s roles changed from the eighteenth century to the twenty-first century? What about their opportunities and obligations? Do women still have to struggle to find their way out of the shadows?
  • Anthony allows his desire for profit and status to get in the way of his professional ethics. Did Out of the Shadows make you think about the potential downsides of mixing profit and medical science? Is Anthony just a “bad apple” or do you think it is likely that more scientists and drug companies are cutting ethical corners to get drugs on today’s market?
  • If the story had been told from Anthony’s perspective, how would it have been different?
  • How is Kay and Kay’s story a counterpart to Anthony and his desires to extend life?
  • Was the end of the novel shocking to you? How else do you think it could have ended?
  • Knowing what you now know about Mary Shelley’s childhood, why do you think she wrote Frankenstein, a story of a man who tried to create life but ended up creating a monster? How do you think the loss of her mother, the tumultuous relationship with her father and stepmother, her love for the wild-eyed Percy Shelley, and her time in Scotland factored into the writing of her most famous novel?
  • If you’ve read Shelley’s Frankenstein, what similarities do you see between Victor Frankenstein and Anthony in this novel?