One of the central themes of Finding Mrs. Ford is the question of a woman’s identity. Do you believe that our identities are fixed throughout our lives or do you think that we might be different people under different circumstances? Have you observed this phenomenon in yourself or someone you know? Or, do you believe that a person’s core essence always percolates up to the surface no matter what life brings to them?
Book Club Discussion Questions
Susan and Annie are very different types of women. An archetype I played with was Susan-as-Melanie and Annie-as-Scarlett, referencing the two main female characters from the book (and movie), Gone With the Wind. Annie, like Scarlett, is a survivor. She is a woman who operates with a high degree of self-interest and self-preservation. Susan, like Melanie, is more self-effacing, willing to take a back-seat to her friend, and more thoughtful of others. Alpha girl versus beta girl. Do you find yourself liking one of these women more than the other? Do you identify with one more than the other? Do you think you are one type but secretly wish you could try out being the other? And, finally, do you think all women have a little bit of both types inside of them?
Finding Mrs. Ford deals with many varieties of romantic love. Annie loves Frankie—or thinks she does—while Susan believes her friend is succumbing to obsession and raw passion. Young Susan feels a gentle love growing for Sammy, though she hardly knows a thing about him. In later years, Mrs. Ford finds lasting and deep love with her husband, Jack Ford, Sr. Do you think that we are able to love more than one person in our lives? And do you think that we are able to love different people in different ways? Do you think that if one love ends, that that love is diminished—or even erased—in retrospect? Or, do you think that—even if it is over—it lives on somewhere inside of us?
Mrs. Ford reinvents her life after something has happened in her past that she evidently wishes to keep buried. Do you believe that we have the option to recreate our realities—to recreate ourselves? Is there a cosmic re-set button? If we do enough work to better ourselves and learn from past mistakes, can we, in fact, have a second (third? fourth?) chance at happiness? Or, do you think—as William Faulkner said—that “the past is never dead. It’s not even past?” And, are these concepts mutually exclusive?
Hope. Both Annie and Susan experience that most uplifting of feelings—hope—though it manifests differently in each of them. As a young woman, Susan hopes to get out of Detroit, to go back to Paris, to have a relationship with Sammy. Annie’s hopes are a little more close to home and close to the present moment. She hopes to go out with Frankie on a given night, to get away from her stepfather, she even hopes that Susan will teach her a little French. How vital do you think that hope is to a human existence? How has hope played a part in your life—both from its presence and, perhaps, from periods of its absence? Do you believe that hope comes from an active spiritual or religious faith, or do you think we can lead a hopeful existence that is founded in another area of our lives?