Always Happy Hour
Reading Group Guide
- “Instructions” ends with the boyfriend telling his girlfriend that he worries about their relationship. She comforts him, telling him everything is fine. “We’re happy, she assured him. There are no great storms here.” What does she mean by this? Is she right?
- What sort of town does “The House on Main Street” take place in? How does the narrator describe it? What effect does the frequent comparison to New York City create, and how does this reflect on the characters?
- Why does the narrator of “The House on Main Street” go into her roommate Melinda’s room when she is away? What is their relationship like? How are relationships between women portrayed in these stories more generally?
- How does the story “Proper Order” deal with gender roles? Does it reinforce or undermine them?
- In the story “The Longest Covered Walkway in the World,” the narrator reveals her boyfriend’s name only by writing it on a napkin. Why do you think she chooses not to call him by name otherwise?
- Many of the stories in this collection are about relationships between women and men, but “Big Bad Love” is about a young woman and a young girl. How does this story fit in with the others? How is it similar and how is it different?
- The narrator of “Uphill” says, “I went to school with some identical twins named Lacey. They were of average intelligence and attractiveness so no one seemed to know what to do with them.” What does the narrator mean by this, and what does this observation reveal about her?
- Perceptions of beauty and ugliness crop up throughout this collection. Who determines what and who is beautiful in these stories? What does this tell us about these young women’s self-perception, self-worth, and sense of their place in the world?
- In “Uphill,” were you surprised by the narrator’s close relationship with her mother? Why or why not?
- Many of the women in these stories stay with men that don’t love them or that they don’t love. Do they all have the same reasons or do their motivations vary? What are they?
- The narrator of “Dirty” says she “can’t stand to be called a woman. I’m a girl. I’ll always be a girl.” Why does she feel this way? What does each term imply? How are they different?
- What role does money play in the narrator’s relationship with her boyfriend in “He Says I Am a Little Oven”? What role does it play in these stories more generally? How do the narrators relate to money?
- Why does the narrator of “Where All of the Beautiful People Go” avoid calling her depression what it is, calling it insomnia or stomach issues instead?
- Why do you think Mary Miller chose to tell “Love Apples” in the second person? What effect does this have?
- In “Hamilton Pool,” the narrator notes that a woman who was probably formerly beautiful “had to find a different way of being in the world.” What ways of being a woman in the world are explored in these stories? Are they choices?
- Why is Alice in “Always Happy Hour” afraid that Richie will leave her? Do her worries seem justified? What role does his son play in their interactions?
- The narrator of “Charts” has a complicated relationship with food. She confesses, for instance, that her “anxiety can usually be tamed with a cheeseburger and fries.” How do the narrators in this collection discuss their consumption or rejection of food, alcohol, and drugs? Do they have full control over their use of substances?
- How are men portrayed in these stories? What roles do they play in the lives of the female narrators, and are they aware of these roles? How reliable are the narrators’ descriptions of the men and relationships in their lives?