1. Durable Goods is a first-person narrative. What
effect does this technique have on the telling of the story for
you? Who is the novel's narrator, and what are some characteristics
of her narrative voice? How does Berg's writing capture or evoke
the character of adolescence?
2. Throughout the story, Katie sometimes calls her father "Dad,"
but most often refers to him as "he" or "him." It is clear that
Katie and her sister are talking about their father, even though
they never mention his name. Likewise, their mother also remains
nameless throughout the novel. What does this tell you about
Katie's relationship with her father and the evolution of her
relationship with her mother?
3. Katie's father is a conflicted character. Though he is
abusive and neglectful, he is not completely villainized. Discuss
Berg's characterizations of Mr. Nash, as a man and as a father. How
did you feel about him at the end of the book? Were you ever
sympathetic toward him, as Katie becomes at the end of the novel,
when she recalls him standing out in the rain without an
4. Katie is an astute and insightful observer of people and
situations. At one point she comments, "Sometimes, it seems to me
that the only thing in the world is people just trying." How did
you interpret this statement? How is this sentiment reflected in
and woven throughout the novel?
5. There are several themes laced through the novel, such as the
ways people cope with loss and grief and the different kinds of
relationships between women. What are some of the underlying themes
in this book, and how does Berg capture or express them? What
literary techniques does she employ to convey the themes of the
6. Discuss the title Durable Goods. Where is this
phrase mentioned in the story, and what meaning does it hold for
Katie? For her father? What meaning does it have for you?
7. The novel is shaded by a deep sense of spirituality. Katie
speaks often of her relationship with God, andwe see how that
relationship is affected by the loss of her mother. How does Katie
reflect on religion? How does this help her cope with a sense of
8. Grief and loss are ongoing themes in the book, on several
levels. What sort of losses do the Nash girls suffer throughout the
book? How do they cope with them? How does their father cope with
his grief? Give a few examples by which it becomes clear that
communicating pain is considered taboo in the Nash household. What
impact does this limitation
have on the relationships within the Nash family?
9. Describe Katie's friend Cherylanne and her family (Belle and
Bubba). How does the apparent disparity between the two girls and
their families help to shed light on Katie's character and
10. Berg's writing has been described as both "quiet" and
"delicate." With respect to Durable Goods, how would you
interpret these descriptions? Do you think they are accurate? How
would you describe Berg's style in this novel?
11. Durable Goods is imbued with a sense of immediacy.
How does Berg make the reader feel present in that particular time
and place with Katie Nash? Select some passages that were
particularly telling or successful in creating a sense of setting.
Did Berg's technique in creating a literary atmosphere enable you
to feel more connected to her characters?
12. While Katie's situation is unique, she is truly a universal
character. Did you find yourself able to identify with her? If so,
how, and at what points in the story did you feel most connected?
Did you identify with any of the other characters? How?
13. The end of the novel is infused with both hope and sadness.
Did the end of the book leave you wanting more or wondering what
would happen to Katie, Diane, and their father? How did you feel
about Katie's decision to return home? What do you predict will
happen to the family at this point in their story?