MAJOR, MAJOR SPOILERS ahead. This is to settle book club disputes, not to read in advance of the novel.
Is that really what it’s like at an artists’ colony?
Yeah, pretty much. Minus the bootleggers today. John Cheever apparently once said of Yaddo that it’s like a monastery by day and a cruise ship by night, and I’d say that’s fairly accurate, at least some of the time. Mostly people sit around talking about art in the evenings and drinking wine, but there are always crazy stories about the last group.
Is Laurelfield based on any real artists’ colony?
Not really. Ragdale is in Chicago’s northern suburbs, but has a completely different history. (It wasn’t a colony until the late 1970s.) I was inspired by the history of Yaddo, but Laurelfield doesn’t quite have its prestige and has a totally different physical layout.
Are any of the characters based on real people?
Only one: the artist Zilla Silverman has a lot of Georgia O’Keeffe folded into her. (If you want the story behind that, I wrote an essay on it.) And Hidalgo is based on a real dog (no joke) but I changed his name.
Did Grace and George really die in the crash?
I’ve heard really compelling arguments that they didn’t, or that only George died, but to me – yes, they did. That said, I don’t control the book anymore. If you really want Grace to survive, you can read it that way.
Who are Zee’s parents?
Amy Hall and Edwin Parfitt.
It’s not George? We thought it was George.
Yeah, no. If you look back at what Gracie says on New Year’s Eve (or if you do the math), Zee was born ten years after the car crash. George was an asshole, but he wasn’t Zee’s father.
I thought Eddie Parfitt was gay.
That is correct.
How can he be Zee’s father if he’s gay?
That part about “when a man and woman love each other very, very much” turns out not to be quite as essential as your mom led you to believe.
Why is Zee named after Zilla?
Eddie was close to her and wanted to name his daughter in her memory.
So where did Amy come from?
A terrible home in Florida, just like Max (Eddie) says. She’s not left over from 1929 or anything.
So Sid Cole was gay the whole time?
That closeted bastard.
I know, right?
Does Sid know that Zee is Max/Eddie’s daughter?
I don’t think so. (He says she reminds him of a man he used to know, but I don’t think he realizes he’s right.) But he definitely knows by the end, when she leaves him the photograph of her with her father. This is why he puts it on his wall.
Tell me more stuff.