Commuters (Paperback)

By Emily Gray Tedrowe

Harper Perennial, 9780061859472, 378pp.

Publication Date: June 29, 2010

August 2010 Indie Next List

“The whirlwind romance and marriage between Winnie, 78, and wealthy businessman Jerry, 85, promises a happy future but immediately upsets family dynamics. Jerry's resentful daughter views Winnie as a gold-digging usurper, while Winnie's daughter, beset by financial problems brought on by her husband's brain injury, is difficult in her own right. Their stories are interwoven with a deft hand and portrayed with both wit and compassion.”
— Ellen Sandmeyer, Sandmeyer's Bookstore, Chicago, IL
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Summer 2012 Reading Group

“The whirlwind romance and marriage between Winnie, 78, and wealthy businessman Jerry, 85, promises a happy future but immediately upsets family dynamics. Jerry's resentful daughter views Winnie as a gold-digging usurper, while Winnie's daughter, beset by financial problems brought on by her husband's brain injury, is difficult in her own right. Their stories are interwoven with a deft hand and portrayed with both wit and compassion.”
— Ellen Sandmeyer, Sandmeyer's Bookstore, Chicago, IL
View the List
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Description

-Tedrowe explores the reconfigurations of a family and the strange alliances that can occur between young and old, love and work. And she writes brilliantly about money.... A deeply satisfying debut.- --Margot Livesey, author of The House on Fortune Street

-A poignant meditation on desire, heartrending loss, and dreams deferred.- --Robin Antalek, author of The Summer We Fell Apart

Emily Tedrowe's exceptional debut novel depicts the shockwaves set in motion by the sudden marriage of one middle-class family's 78-year-old matriarch to a wealthy outsider. Commuters is that rare novel that offers something for almost everyone: -foodies- interested in exploring the rich tapestry of the New York City restaurant scene; the millions who have been profoundly affected by the current financial and mortgage crisis; or anyone simply looking for a beautifully drawn family drama in the vein of the works of Katrina Kittle (The Blessings of the Animals, Two Truths and a Lie) and Jennifer Haigh (The Condition, Baker Towers, Mrs. Kimble).



Praise For Commuters

“In her wonderfully cohesive debut novel, short-story writer Tedrowe graduates to elegant novelist. . . . A lovely and literate family drama that wins bonus points for its sincerity and open-hearted delivery.”
-Kirkus Reviews

“So fantastic. This is the kind of book you would imagine Virginia Woolf might write were she with us is the 21st century: relevant and contemporary, relentlessly funny, deeply insightful, and fearless in its exploration of people’s private lives.”
-Patrick Somerville, author of The Cradle



Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com

  1. How does the title Commuters reflect the novel?  What are the different meanings of this title for each of its main characters—Winnie, Rachel, and Avery? 
  2. When Winnie is cut off by the local reporter during her interview, she is unable to truly describe what marrying Jerry is like for her. What do you imagine she might have said, if allowed to finish?
  3. Rachel and Winnie's mother-daughter relationship is built on the practicalities of living in the same small town; they see each other often, and talk on the phone regularly. How well would you say they know each other? How does their relationship change over the course of the novel?
  4. What role does food play in Commuters? How do different characters approach meals at home, cooking, and eating in restaurants—and how does that tell you more about them as people?
  5. One of the novel's main themes is money. What does having or not having money mean to Winnie, Rachel, and Avery? What about Jerry, Bob, Annette or Nona? What decisions or mistakes are made because of money? Within the novel, is money a blessing or a burden?
  6. At first, Avery is furious about having to go visit his grandfather as a condition for living in New York. What changes his feelings? How are Avery and Jerry alike or different—and what does each man gain from having known the other?
  7. What kind of marriage do Rachel and Bob have? What do you imagine their life was like before Bob's accident, and what do you envision for them after the book ends?
  8. A central place in the book is 50 Greenham Avenue. Discuss what this property means to the different characters. Should Winnie and Jerry have bought this house?
  9. For Winnie, the pool is "a willful touchstone." What does this mean? Why is she so determined to install a pool in front of her new home? As her neighbor, what would you think of her decision to cut down the historic sycamore tree?
  10. Commuters is told from alternating perspectives of three characters, over the course of one year. How did the novel's structure affect your experience of reading it? Were you more attuned to one character's story over the others? Why or why not?
  11. What do you think about Winnie's decision to allow Jerry to go home to Annette? How do the other characters view this?
  12. Since Avery's email to Winnie from Rome mentions nothing about Nona, she wonders what happened after their reunion. What do you think the future holds for Avery and Nona?
  13. In the last scene, Winnie joins her family at the pool in front of her house. What are her emotions? How have her gains and losses over the past year affected her? What will be the consequences of her marriage to Jerry—and her love for him?
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