Karen Quinn

Book Club Discussion Guide

The Ivy Chronicles Book Club Discussion Guide

1. After losing her husband and finding herself with no financial safety net, Ivy Ames decides that if she marries again, it will be to someone rich, or at least with good earning potential. What does this say to you about Ivy’s character? Is she a single mother who is just being practical, a shallow gold-digger, or something in between?

2. In the first two chapters, Ivy comes to blows with a chauvinistic, narcissistic boss and a power-grabbing co-worker. Are these people caricatures or do they exist in businesses today? What experiences have you had with people like Konrad Kavaler or Drayton Bird either in or out of the workplace?

3. In The Ivy Chronicles, Ivy is constantly faced with ethical dilemmas from impersonating an expert in school admissions to a reporter (lying) to teaching a child the answers to a kindergarten admissions test (cheating) to ruining a client’s chances for admission to a Jewish school (betrayal). How does Ivy rationalize this behavior in her mind? Do personal circumstances ever justify violating ethical standards? When all the other parents and schools were pushing the ethical envelope, was it fair for Ivy and her clients to do the same?

4. The Ivy Chronicles is about a world of people where racism, classism, anti-Semitism, anti-anyone other than me-ism is part of the social landscape. Do you believe people of economic privilege are more likely to exhibit prejudice than their middle or lower class counterparts? Could there be any excuse for high school students chanting anti-Semitic slurs at a basketball game? What if those chanting were Jewish themselves and this was typical of joshing ethnic banter at the school? Would it surprise you to know that this story is based on a real incident?

5. Ivy is a woman who is so obsessed with the superficial trappings of wealth—designer clothes, physical beauty, expensive homes, cars—that she even carries around an empty Barney’s bag so people will believe she can still afford to shop there. Why does she continue to worship at the altar of Prada when she can barely put food on the table? Is she right to believe that her new clients won’t take her seriously if they know she is not living the life of privilege that they are? What do you think about our culture’s fixation on symbols of affluence?

6. What do you think of Ivy as a person? Why is she likeable? What are her flaws? How did her experiences change her character? Would you want to be her friend?

7. In The Ivy Chronicles illustrates a world where children’s activities are dictated by their resume value, where four-year-olds are pressured to perform in school interviews and on kindergarten admissions tests, where little ones are raised by nannies and delivered to their parents after they have been fed, bathed and dressed for bed. How does this compare to the way your children are raised? What are these “privileged” children missing? What are their parents missing? What advantages do these children have compared to yours? Is it worth the price they pay?

8. The Ivy Chronicles is a story about a woman who reinvents herself after losing everything she values. Have you ever experienced a significant loss and had to start over? What happened? Do you feel you ended up better or worse when all was said and done?

9. After Ivy loses her job and stays home for a while, she realizes just how much she has been missing by having a nanny doing the day-to-day raising of her children. If you have children and are either working or staying home and raising your kids, how do you feel about the choice you’ve made? What are you missing by not having made a different choice? How do two parents with demanding careers give their children the attention they deserve?

10. The author wrote The Ivy Chronicles after owning a business that helped New Yorkers get their children into the city’s best schools. Have you ever wanted to write a book based on your own experiences? Would it be fiction or non-fiction? What are some of the great stories you could tell?