Recently separated (while still technically a newlywed) and heartbroken, Charlotte Goodman must choose between a severely conflicted marriage and the terrifying prospect of single life. While searching for the “right” thing to do, she struggles to drown out the voices of her overbearing mother, self-righteous boss and cynical co-worker. In such an uncertain phase, Charlotte is desperate enough to try anything that will bring her strength, confidence and answers. Under the guidance of an eccentric new friend, she finds that salvation in the unlikeliest of places – Roller Derby.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Discuss Charlotte’s tendency to imagine John Goodman narrating her life as a way of coping. Is this method effective? What does it mean that she is ultimately able to shed his voice and live in the ‘first person’?
2. In her first meeting with the psychiatrist, Charlotte insists, “Of course there’s one right way. One way is wrong, and then there’s one way that’s right” (67). Does this prove to be true in the end? Which other characters might or might not agree with this statement? Do you agree with it?
3. Observing Petra’s plastic surgery at one point, Charlotte notes that, “Petra is trying to freeze herself as an image that exists only in her head, and unfortunately she is losing this battle” (74). Do you think that Charlotte might be guilty of the same crime? What are the consequences of attempting to live in limbo?
4. Discuss Charlotte’s assertion that the idea of ‘soul mates’ is depressing because it means that, “We’re all just human puppets dancing on the invisible strings of an unknowable creator” (77). Do you agree or disagree?
5.When faced with the task of creating a pseudonym for herself, Charlotte claims that there is, “something intriguing about the concept of losing my real identity” (120). Discuss the ways in which this alter-ego in fact helped Charlotte regain her ‘real’ identity. What was particularly empowering about her experience as Hard Broken? What name would you choose for yourself?