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The Confessions of Max Tivoli

Awards: New York Public Library Young Lions Award Finalist; New York Public Library Young Lions Award Winner

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About The Author

Andrew Sean GreerAndrew Sean Greer

Andrew Sean Greer is the bestselling author of five works of fiction, including The Story of a Marriage, which The New York Times has called an "inspired, lyrical novel," and The Confessions of Max Tivoli, which was named a best book of 2004 by the San Francisco Chronicle... More

photo: Copyright Henry Dombey


New York Public Library Young Lions Award Finalist
New York Public Library Young Lions Award Winner

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Reading Group Gold

1. What did the novel’s epigraph and opening

sentence mean to you when you began the

book, and what do they mean to you now? Are

they romantic notions, statements on the

hopelessness of love, or perhaps something in


2. When you began this book, did you consider

growing younger to be only positive? Do you

believe that now? Looking at Max’s life, what

are some of the advantages of old age?

3. In his focus on Alice, has Max missed the one

person who truly loved him his whole life—

Hughie? Is it ever easy to recognize such

devoted people in our lives?

4. What is society’s basis for determining

whether a lover is an appropriate age? In what

ways does Max’s condition actually help

illuminate his true character?

5. Max loves Alice as a daughter, as a wife, and

as a mother. How does this echo the various

roles a lover plays in our lives? Which of Max’s

roles is he best suited to? Do we always take

on recurring roles when it comes to love?

6. Are Max’s fears of infancy—the inability to

walk independently, care for himself, and articulate

his needs—very different from the traditional

fears of growing old?

7. Max’s first role in Alice’s life is as her

“Shabbos goy.” Does Max later continue to be

the “houseboy of her heart” in some way—an

aid in her life?

8. Is Max’s reverse aging the only thing standing

in the way of his happiness? How much of his

outcome is affected by his personality, fate,

and other factors?

9. Max’s condition gives him unusual opportunities—

for instance, having access to his son’s

life that few fathers have ever had. Does it

deepen or erase his role as a parent? Though

they both appear to be boys, is there still a

generation gap between Max and his son?

10. The word confession carries connotations of

wrongdoing or scandal on the part of the

speaker. To what is Max Tivoli confessing in

his “memoir”? Is first-person narration crucial

to this plot?

11. Alice is not a typical Victorian woman. She is

hotheaded and freethinking; what do you think

of her as a match for Max? Is she merely selfcentered

and flaky, or do you agree with Victor

Ramsey’s theory that she changed her life

through the only means available to women

during that time period: marriage? What is

Alice’s ultimate reason for leaving Max?

12. Max struggles to make his outward appearance

both socially acceptable and less at odds

with his psyche. Describe what your external

appearance would look like if it were a pictureperfect

representation of your psyche.

13. How did you feel when you read of Hughie’s

death? Why do you think he killed himself?

Did the modern idea of a “gay man” exist back

then? Given that at the time even openly gay

Oscar Wilde had a wife and children (as

Hughie did), what options did gay men and

women have for happiness or love?

14. What would you have done with a life like

Max’s? Is he an idealist, an artist in a world not

made for him, or a brute who squandered a

potentially happy life? What are the sources of

a truly happy life? In what ways have you

“grown younger” in your own life?

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