Book Club Discussion Questions: The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

Last weekend, my local book club met for our September meeting to discuss The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner. I struggled with the bleak nature of this novel and was eager to find thought provoking discussion questions. I searched online and found questions posted on a couple different sites, but they were either a bit dense or too generic for my liking.



I tweaked the questions I found online and added ones that came up with during our discussion, to create this list that I believe lend to deep discussion.

Remember: Book club should be a place where you feel safe voicing your opinions on controversial topics that appear in your reading!


Book Club Discussion Questions: The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner


1. The majority of people will never spend time in jail or prison. Should those who don’t have that destiny worry for those who do? What impression do you have now about who goes to prison versus who doesn’t? Is it different form before you read the book?


2. The San Francisco depicted in The Mars Room is not a classic one. Was that a surprise to you? How did it change the way you view the city? Did it change how you see California as a whole?


3. What role does gender play throughout the novel? What differences did ou see between the experiences of incarcerated men versus women?


4. What do you think would have needed to happen in Romy’s life to change her trajectory?


5. Some themes prevalent in the novel are: gender inequality, unfairness in the justice system, societal judgement, and overcoming the circumstances one is born into. Which theme affected you the most?


6. Which character was your favorite and why?


7.Gordon Hauser was the prison GED teacher who did nice things for the inmates. Did you see those as acts of kindness? What do you think his intentions were?


8. Why do you think Doc the dirty cop was included in the storyline? Do you think he was a significant character?


9. Do you think Romy made poor decisions that led her to prison? What could she have done differently, and why didn’t she choose differently?


10. Why do you think we are given Creep Kennedy’s point of view? How does that affect the story?


11. Who would you recommend The Mars Room to, and why?


I hope you find these questions useful for your book club’s discussion. I’d love to hear if you use them, and if your club came up with any others. 



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