This Is My Life

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The early novel that established Meg Wolitzer’s career, later made into Nora Ephron’s first film as a director.

The third book by New York Times-bestselling author Meg Wolitzer (originally published as This Is Your Life), a smart, witty and perceptive novel about the daughters of a female stand-up comic who watch as their mother struggles to balance her career with the needs of her children.

Dottie Engels, comedienne extraordinaire, performs her act in Vegas and on late-night TV.  Her two daughters, Opal and Erica, live on the periphery of her glittering life, seeing her on the television screen more often than they do at home.  But when Dottie’s ratings begin to slide, it takes both her daughters to save Dottie from herself.

Displaying Wolitzer’s signature style that combines keen observations, compassion for her characters, sharp humor, and a strong social hook, This Is My Life expertly captures the uncertainties of adolescence and the trials of growing up in the shadow of a mother who is caught between the conflicting pulls of fame and family.

Praise

“There is affection and humor in her voice, and combined with her strong storytelling talents, these qualities lend [This Is My Life] both authority and comic warmth.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Praise for Meg Wolitzer

“Wolitzer is as precise and rigorous an observer of social status as Tom Wolfe; she is as incisive and pitiless and clear-eyed a chronicler of female-male tandems as Philip Roth or John Updike. . . . She writes about life at eye level. . . . Wolitzer is terrific at depicting the ambiguity of modern family life, its murky choices and thorny dilemmas.”—Chicago Tribune

“All of Wolitzer’s characters are so articulate and insightful that it’s a pleasure to listen to them think. . . . [Her] scenes are intensely observed and nuanced.”—The Atlantic

Reader's Guide

INTRODUCTION

The third book by New York Times-bestselling author Meg Wolitzer (originally published as This Is Your Life), a smart, witty and perceptive novel about the daughters of a female stand-up comic who watch as their mother struggles to balance her career with the needs of her children.

Dottie Engels, comedienne extraordinaire, performs her act in Vegas and on late-night TV. Her two daughters, Opal and Erica, live on the periphery of her glittering life, seeing her on the television screen more often than they do at home. But when Dottie's ratings begin to slide, it takes both her daughters to save Dottie from herself.

Displaying Wolitzer's signature style that combines keen observations, compassion for her characters, sharp humor, and a strong social hook, This Is My Life expertly captures the uncertainties of adolescence and the trials of growing up in the shadow of a mother who is caught between the conflicting pulls of fame and family.

ABOUT MEG WOLITZER

Meg Wolitzer's previous novels include The Wife, The Position, The Ten-Year Nap, and The Uncoupling. She lives in New York City.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • In what ways do you think Opal and Erica Engels are changed or defined by having Dottie Engels as their mother? How might they be different people if they'd grown up in a more stereotypical family?
  • This Is My Life was originally published in 1988. Can you see the passage of time in the world that the author, Meg Wolitzer, describes here? Would Dottie's challenges as a working mother in New York City be any different today? Would the girls' experiences of her work and ambition be any different today?
  • If you've read any more recent Meg Wolitzer novels, can you see a continuity of style or theme between that book and this novel from earlier in her career?
  • This Is My Life became the first book that famed filmmaker Nora Ephron made into a movie. Why do you think she was drawn to this book in particular? If you've seen the film, how do the book and film differ? What qualities-beyond the characters and the story-persist?
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