1. One of the last paragraphs at the end of the book says, “I emerged from the the tree and turned into the light, not slow. I ran toward them, toward the light.”
What do you think about the ending? Did the ending surprise you? Did you like it, and was it what you expected?
2. Romy talks about paths that everyone is on. Jackson, Romy’s son is on his path, and she on hers. In the last page of the book it says “I gave him life. It is quite a lot to give. It is the opposite of nothing. And the opposite of nothing is not something. It is everything.
What do you take away from that? Is she talking about her life, or life in general?
3. Romy worked in The Mars Room, a strip club, before she was incarcerated. What do The Mars room and the women’s prison had in common?
4. Romy is serving two consecutive life sentences plus six years. She has regrets. She regrets working at The Mars Room and meeting Creep Kennedy. Do you think that the turning point of her life was set well before then?
5. Gordon Hauser was the prison’s GED teacher. He gave Candy Pena yarn. He gave Romy books to read. These were acts of kindness. Do you see Hauser as a nice person? What is his agenda?
6. Doc was an interesting character. He was also a dirty cop. He was convicted of killing Betty’s original contract killer and another contract killing. Doc also killed a guy who raped his own five year old son when he was the first one to respond to a 911 call. Why do you think Doc’s story played such a prominent part in the book? How did you feel about him, did you like him?
7. Kurt Kennedy the stalker had his story told from his view too. Why do you think Kushner included his point of view?
8. Serenity Smith was a transgender in the book. Why do you think Kushner included a transgender in the book? What purpose did it serve?
9. Sammy talked about her childhood and how she ended up in and out of group homes and Youth Authority. Many of the people she was in Youth Authority with were in Standville prison with her. Does that surprise you? Do you think that prison was inevitable for them? Is the path to prison a result of their upbringing?
10. Romy went to meet with her friend Eva to go to a midnight show at punk rock club when they were 11 but she got lost and asked an old man for directions. The old man said he’d help her with giving her money for a taxi but they should go to his hotel room first and have a drink.
“But if you were me, you would have done what I did. You would have gone, hopeful and stupid, to get the money for the taxi.”
This occurrence shows Romy’s lack of parental guidance as she was growing up. Do you think that she was unlucky in meeting predators and made bad decisions that resulted in her imprisonment? Did she have any chance of a different kind of life?
11. Sammy suggested to Romy that having a job would keep her from falling apart. Do you think that having a job in prison help inmates? Have you ever visited a prison?
12. The women inmates were inventive in how they smuggled contraband to each other. Did you find it surprising that they used the toilets as a means of transporting their goods?
13. The book highlighted some of Romy’s childhood in San Francisco. Have you been to San Francisco? Does it entice you?
14. What theme in the book impacted you the most?
15. Romy didn’t think her fate was determined the night Kurt Kennedy was waiting for her but blamed it to the trial, judge, the prosecutor and her public defender. Where do you think her fate was determined?
16. Having read The Mars Room, who would you recommend it to?
Check out The Mars Room book review!
Enhance Your Book Club:
- Collect books to donate to prisons through various organizations.
- Check out the Federal Bureau of Prisons for information on inmate custody and care.