1. On the morning that Sam acknowledges that she will be get-ting
a divorce, she begins to act like "the new me" (5). Of
course, the divorce will change Sam, but how does this "new
me" of the first morning differ from the woman she will eventually
2. On this first morning, Sam acts as she imagines Martha Stewart
would. Later, she wants to talk with Martha Stewart although
even Travis assures her that "everybody" hates Martha Stewart
(167). Why? What is Martha Stewart a symbol of? Why is Sam
suddenly so interested in her? Is it actually Martha Stewart who
3. Sam has rather definite ideas about what Travis's mother ought
to be like. "His mother," she insists, "should know what she's
doing" (58). Does Sam know what she's doing? Is she a good
mother to Travis?
4. Sam's relationship with her own mother is a difficult one. Her
frustration with Veronica's "constant, crazy cheerfulness" (88)
is matched only by Veronica's frustration with Sam's need to
"revel" in "misery" (49). Still, Sam acknowledges that "at the
heart of things, I am my mother's daughter" (133). How alike
are Sam and Veronica? In what ways are they different?
5. Open House is marked with moments in which Sam's family and
friends offer their memories of Sam's past with David. Rita admits
that she "never" liked David (35). David insists that he
and Sam "just never really connected" (132). Even Sam acknowledges
that she doesn't think David "ever loved me" (39),
although she stops herself from saying that she "never loved
him" (93). How accurate are these memories-Rita's, David's,
Sam's-of the past? Is hindsight 20/20?
6. In a difficult conversation about their separate lives, Sam wants
to warn David. "Doesn't he understand," she wonders, "that if
he doesn't stop this, it will be too late?" (130). In this very moment,
however, Sam mourns that it "is too late" (130). When
does Sam realize that it is "too late" for her to save her marriage?
When did you realize this?
7. During a particularly lonely evening, Sam enters Lydia's room
in an attempt to "wrap" herself "in the comfort of someone
else's life" (82). Is this possible? How does it happen?
8. Although Sam longs for a "real open house" (196), her mother,
her son, and her best friend are wary of her decision to "open
[her] house to strangers" (49). Why is the novel titled Open
House? Who are the "strangers" in Sam's home?
9. Although Sam reads through the personal ads with both Lydia
and Rita, she seems rather skeptical of their promises. Are personal
ads inevitably dishonest? What would an honest personal
ad sound like?
10. As Sam listens to her mother describe the moment in which,
ironing a shirt, she realized just how much she loved Sam's father,
Sam acknowledges that she appreciates such "evidence
of love." What is this "evidence of love"? Is it absent between
Sam and David? What "evidence of love" exists between Sam
11. Sam insists that her decision to get divorced is marked both by
moments that are "awful" and moments that are "ecstatic" (53).
Which moments predominate? Do you feel that Sam made the
12. After taking Sam to the employment agency, King thanks Sam.
It is a gesture Sam doesn't understand. What is King thanking
her for? Why doesn't Sam understand?
13. King explains to Sam that, following a disastrous relationship
in college, he turned away from individuals to science. "Every-thing
is there, in science" (201). However, Sam insists on the
strength and superiority of "human connection" (197). In what
ways does King find "science" all-fulfilling? What does Sam
seek through "human connection"?
14. At one moment in the novel, Sam contemplates the reality
that "you live your life, and you get to ask for things, and some-times
they are given to you" (167). What does Sam ask for?
What is she given?
15. Throughout Open House, Sam experiences moments of wishing
she "believed" and that she "could pray" (198). Sam whispers
"Help me" into "folded hands" (42) and offers a "type of prayer"
over her solitary Thanksgiving dinner (140). In the last sentences
of the novel, she feels "full of faith, blessed by it" (241).
What does Sam have faith in?