This reading group guide for All the Water in the World includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book. Introduction
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Maddy is sixteen. Smart, funny, and profound, she has loyal friends, a mother with whom she’s unusually close, a father she’s never met, devoted grandparents, and a crush on a boy named Jack. Maddy also has cancer. Living in the shadow of uncertainty, she is forced to grow up fast.All the Water in the World
is the story of a family doing its best when faced with the worst. Told in the alternating voices of Maddy and her mother, Eve, the narrative moves between the family’s lake house in Pennsylvania; their home in Washington, DC; and London, where Maddy’s father, Antonio, lives. Hungry for experience, Maddy seeks out her first romantic relationship, finds solace in music and art, and tracks down her father. With voices that range from tender to funny, despairing to defiant, this novel is an unforgettable portrait of the mother-daughter bond, and the experiences that change us forever.Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. On the first page of the novel, Eve looks out over a lake and observes that “to have a child is to have a twofold mind” (page 5). How does the structure of All the Water in the World
reflect this idea?
2. From the lake house to Frank Lloyd Wright’s house Fallingwater,
places play an important role in this novel. What does the lake house mean to Eve and to Maddy? How does each of their relationships to it change over the course of the novel?
3. The reader first meets Maddy in the coziness of her room. In the scene when her friend Fiona drops by, how do Maddy’s surroundings and preoccupations reflect those of a healthy teenage girl, and how are they different?
4. Like many mothers and teenage daughters, Eve and Maddy are unusually close. How do they express their affection for each other? What about their annoyance? Does their intimacy make Maddy’s ordeal easier or more difficult to manage? In what ways?
5. Compare the parent/child relationships in this novel: Maddy and Eve, Eve and her parents, and Maddy and her grandparents. To what extent are their dynamics shaped by their individual personalities, and to what extent are they shaped by the circumstances of Maddy’s illness?
6. Eve is a single mother. Why has she kept Maddy’s father, Antonio, away from Maddy? Why is Maddy so interested in building a relationship with him?
7. Describe the relationship Maddy and Antonio develop over email. What’s the tone of their exchange? What does each choose to reveal and to keep private?
8. Consider Maddy’s relationship with Robin, her mother’s partner. What role does he play in her life, and in Eve’s?
9. Through her friendship with Jack, Maddy is drawn to climate-change activism. What compels her about the issue? Does she see it differently than other sixteen-year-olds do?
10. Why is it important that Jack and Maddy knew each other as children? How does their dynamic change over the course of her illness?
11. Maddy has always loved a statue called Serenity in Meridian Hill Park. What is it about this figure that appeals to her? Why does she end up being inspired to use the statue in her art?
12. Religion and spirituality are another strong theme in All the Water in the World.
Why is Maddy looking for meaning? What does Maddy enjoy about her grandparents’ church? After all her questioning, does she ever come to a conclusion about spirituality?
13. Why does Eve go to London? Is she being honest with herself about her motivations? Why does she bring her young colleague Alison? What does she see in Alison that others don’t?
14. When Eve and Antonio try to recall a difficult conversation of many years’ past, they have very different memories of it. What does that reveal about time and the nature of memory? If they’d understood each other better then, what might have happened?
15. How does Eve’s trip to London complicate her relationship with Robin? With Maddy’s voice in her head, how does she feel about herself afterward?
16. Over the course of the book, how does your understanding of Eve and Maddy’s relationship change? Does it depend on who’s narrating? Can you point to an example?
17. When did you realize what the outcome of Maddy’s treatment was? How and why does the author conceal this?
18. At the end of the novel, as Eve and Maddy’s two voices come together, how did you understand their relationship, their ability to communicate with each other, and their love? What does Maddy mean by “anything good” (page 342), and why is she determined to communicate that to Eve?Enhance Your Book Club
1. Maddy loves Fallingwater, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. If there’s one close to you, visit a Frank Lloyd Wright house and journal about your trip.
2. Read other books with characters facing illness, like John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars
, Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything
, and Anna Quindlen’s One True Thing
3. Read other novels about strong mother-daughter relationships like Elizabeth Strout’s My Name Is Lucy Barton
, Anne Tyler’s Clock Dance
, Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club,
and Ann Patchett’s Patron Saint of Liars
4. For more information about Karen Raney and All the Water in the World
, visit karenraney.com.