Discussion Questions for How to Climb the Eiffel Tower
- When we first meet Lara, her only friends are the characters in her books. Are there any fictional characters that you consider friends?
- Lara and Jane ease each other through their cancer experiences, yet they met entirely by chance. How do you think their experiences would have been different if Jane and Lara had not run into each other several times?
- Lara meets several people along her journey through cancer treatment – Cherry Red Sweat Suit, the man in the droopy suit, Lorraine, The Badger – that change the way she experiences her treatment. How have chance encounters changed the way you have experienced stressful events in your life?
- When you first met Garlic Breath and Pathetic Dog Owner, did you think they would be working for Lara by the end of the novel? Why do you think Lara wanted them on her team?
- Lara receives excellent medical care from both Dr. Lander and Dr. Obatu, yet comes away with very different impressions of her doctors. How important do you feel a physician’s interpersonal style affects their patients?
- In How To Climb The Eiffel Tower, Lara Blaine, the MC, suffers from severe social anxiety. Although she is the best analyst in her department and has been there for seven years, no one in the office knows her. She further distances herself from her co-workers by not learning their names. Instead, she gives them nicknames like Garlic Breath, Short Red Head, Bald Guy, and Pathetic Dog Owner. Why do you think she objectifies her co-workers? (Hint: Elizabeth Hein addresses this question on her writer’s blog.)
- The opportunity to be part of a team changes the way Lara sees herself in relation to other people. How has being part of a team changed the way you look at yourself?
- Several young men show interest in Lara, but she is not interested in any of them. Why do you think she found Sebastian attractive?
- Jane struggles to cope with the loss of her health as well as the loss of her professional identity to cancer. At one point, she reads Buddhist philosophy to help her cope with her psychological anguish. At another, she is drinking heavily. What do you think you would do with losing your identity to illness?
- Lara’s mother knew where Lara was and that she had stolen Dale’s money. Why do you think Mama did not contact her earlier? Do you think she was protecting Lara from Dale, or that she did not care to see Lara?
- Where do you think Lara’s mother was during the years Lara lived with her grandparents? Do you think Lara’s father knew he had a daughter?
- Lara’s mother knew about Lara’s inheritance all along. Why do you think she stayed with Dale? Do you think Dale knew that Lara was a wealthy girl when he was abusing her? Would it have changed anything?
- Do you think Lara and Tom will remain close after Jane’s death? Could he be a brother-like figure in Lara’s life?
- Many times, cancer survivors will say that their experiences have given them wisdom and insight. What experiences in your life have left you wiser? Was that knowledge worth the suffering you endured to acquire it?
- This book is titled How to Climb the Eiffel Tower and yet the actual Eiffel Tower doesn’t appear in the book. What roll do you think the Eiffel Tower plays in the novel? What does it represent?