Discussion Guide for Pride’s Children: PURGATORY

A Reader’s Guide for Pride’s Children: PURGATORY (feel free to copy)

Here are some of the themes built into Pride’s Children by design – can you remember a part of the story where one was expressed?

  1. Kary and Bianca are both mothers: how does that affect their choices? Self-acceptance, age, and standards of beauty.
  2. Andrew is a musician, as many actors are. How was that used in the story? Personal vs. career priorities.
  3. Movies and books are used as background for the action. What do you know about:
    Incident at Bunker Hill
    Prairie Fires
    Hostage to Fortuna
  4. Children, marriage, divorce, and how these affect careers and personal happiness. Promises and broken commitments.
  5. How do the religious or moral beliefs of the characters drive the plot?
  6. Pride is one of the seven deadly sins. But each of the main characters is a perfectionist and has pride in what they create.
  7. The subtext – Kary’s chronic illness – affects many plot points. What is driven by the illness, and what have the characters added as an interpretation of their own or society’s?


  1. Do you have an understanding of who each of the main characters – Kary, Andrew, or Bianca – was before the story began?
  2. There are many secondary characters – how did each contribute to the story?
    George Cosgrove – Andrew’s childhood friend and current manager
    Peter Hyland – beloved character actor
    Grant Sykes – Director of Incident at Bunker Hill, filming in Hanover, NH
    Tonya Illstrom – Bianca’s best friend and rival since high school in Beverly Hills
    Michael Hendricks – Bianca’s long-time live-in partner
    Dana Lewiston – Talk show host of NYC’s Night Talk
    Ethan, Susan, and Veronica Renton – Kary’s children
    Dr. Charles Renton – Kary’s ex
    Aunt Ruth Ashe – Kary’s favorite aunt
  3. Do you remember any particularly vivid bit players and spear carriers?
  4. The characters all work. How does their profession contribute to the story? Does Kary’s previous career – physician – contribute something memorable to the present?
  5. What are the expectations of society for the future lives of the main characters vs. their expectations for themselves?

At the intersections between the world of Hollywood and the world of writers.

The main locations are set in New Hampshire, New York City, and Princeton, NJ. These affect the story in specific ways:
A New York late-night talk show, Night Talk
A bar in Manhattan and one in Hanover, NH
Two churches, an inn, and a restaurant in Princeton, NJ
Kary’s home, Sanctuary, near Enfield, NH
Los Angeles and Hollywood Hills


  1. A trilogy must have two features: a satisfying conclusion to the individual volumes, and the desire of the reader to find out what happens next.
  2. Plot stepping stones should be complete in themselves and follow from previous points and lead into subsequent ones.
    Chapter 1:
    Kary sacrifices her anonymity to publicity for her disease.
    Kary has her first impact from Andrew – “I know where I am in the pecking order”
    Wheeling and dealing in Hollywood tit for tat
    Night Talk is live, Andrew is on, and, in his world, things are going great-he is BIG
    Chapter 2:
    This is the moment Kary starts falling for Andrew, as he reminds her of what it is to be a mother of a small child
    Kary takes Andrew’s hands as he offers them, memorizes them
    Chapter 4:
    Kary’s reaction to Roland is shock-because he’s so beautiful, rather than lust-because he is so sexy
    Chapter 5:
    Kary sees very clearly where this obsession will take her: to ridicule
    Chapter 7:
    Kary can’t help it: his needs make her offer him sanctuary, take responsibility for him
    Chapter 11:
    Grant tells Bianca Andrew is staying with Kary; Bianca decides he can’t possibly be sleeping with her, fails to see they are building a relationship. Doesn’t see forest for the trees.
    Andrew asks Kary for help with Dodgson; she has offered friendship: this it what it means
    Chapter 12:
    Kary confesses obsession, claims it is over
    Chapter 14:
    Bianca decides she needs to break them up NOW
    Chapter 16:
    Andrew catches Kary dancing, finds it erotic
    Chapter 18:
    Charles dies, clearing Kary’s excuse for not dating, marrying again
    Kary finds it impossible to refuse Andrew’s friendly offer of Grant’s plane and Andrew’s company to funeral
    Chapter 19:
    Kary shows Andrew Ethan’s grave, talks about Charles, the good they had
    Chapter 20:
    Bianca leaves thinking Andrew is interested, they’ve just had bad luck
    Kary tries to blot Andrew out, now that he’s gone, by habits of work
  3. Individual scenes or sequences of a small number of scenes tell a story
    The intruder in Kary’s house
    The drunk Andrew deals with in Denny’s Disco in Hanover
    The filming of the battle scene for Incident at Bunker Hill
    The Memorial Day party at Kary’s house
    Bianca’s lunch with Tonya
    Climbing Kary’s ‘mountain’

A reclusive ex-physician has created a tiny new life for herself, and she is her own worst enemy in keeping it that way, before and after a chance meeting shows her she is not dead quite yet.


  1. Who you are as a writer – plotter or pantser
  2. Structure (what happens to whom where) vs. Content (why and how and language)
  3. Software tools – keeping track of it all


  1. Multiple close third-person point of view
  2. Internal monologue: direct and indirect thoughts
  3. Use of group characters, ‘Good fans’ vs. ‘Bad fans’ as representative of society at large
  4. Epigraphs – as part of the story
  5. Linear chronology; Prologue/epilogue as frame

Copyright Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt 9 February 2020, all rights reserved