Book Club Questions For Flying Jenny

1.     In Theasa Tuohy’s, novel, Jenny Flynn, the main characters exhibit contradictory personality traits, each suffering insecurity in some ways but also achieving groundbreaking status in others.  How is this true for Laura?   For Jenny?


2.     Jenny Flynn’s family life and background is in direct contrast with that of Laura's.  What has been her experience growing up?  How has she compensated?  She has insecurities that she refuses to face.  Explain.


3.     Lots of clues surface relating to Laura’s mysterious past early in the novel. What questions arise as the reader becomes acquainted with Laura.  Consider her strange bohemian upbringing, the contradiction between her sophisticated literary experiences and her insecurity in social circumstances. How would you describe her personality as she strives to make a name for herself in journalism.  How is she a trailblazer?  How has her mother failed her?


4.     Jenny’s barnstorming stunts become a catalyst for Laura’s career in journalism.  Do you agree?  Explain.


5.      As the novel evolves and Laura and Jenny’s relationship matures, each woman becomes a beneficiary.  What begins as confrontation evolves as circumstances throw them together.  Describe their initial conflict.  How does each view the other?  A barnstorming event, “stunting with a greenhorn,” draws them closer together.  Explain.


6.       How do Laura and Jenny grow and mature?   What are Laura’s limitations as Jenny sees them?  How does her friendship with Jenny encourage her to grow and gain confidence? How is Laura’s future brighter because of her association with Jenny? What are Jenny’s limitations as Laura sees them?  How does her growing friendship with Laura help her to mature beyond these limitations?  What does she eventually achieve because of Laura’s encouragement?  


7.     Roy has some character flaws that Jenny realizes from the start—even

 though she values his friendship.  Consider his role in her flying experiences—and her recognition of his ulterior motives as he tries to push her into professional flying. 


8.      How does Roy help Laura resolve some of her insecurities? Consider his encouraging her to fly with Jenny, to perform a parachute jump.  Are these positive experiences? How does his seduction of Laura affect her?  Is this a completely negative experience?  Why or why not?


9.     Barnstorming events become a prelude to a Wild West show at the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch, a National Historic Landmark near Ponca City, Oklahoma (Indian Territory). Jenny and Laura are featured as “two little ladies” in a plane, Roy performs his celebrated and difficult outside loops.  This location in Oklahoma Indian Territory is where the unraveling of Laura’s mysterious heritage begins.  What does Laura learn about Osage culture, headrights, and murder?


10.  The historic Indian Reservation murder case in Oklahoma becomes an important complication for Laura.   How did greed and racism trigger the Oklahoma tragedy?


11.  As Laura follows Jenny, she begins to discover clues to her heritage.  How?  Consider the information from the photo Aunt Edna had given her: St. Louis.  Father Bernard.  Bar talk between Roy and John, Jenny’s husband: Stories about a defrocked Jesuit priest.  What other coincidences begin to appear as she travels in Oklahoma?


12.  The discovery of Laura’s heritage appears to offer her benefits beyond just the knowledge of her father’s identity?  Explain. How might this impact her relationship with her mother?  Her relationship with Clem? 


13.    At the end of chapter 44 after Jenny has confronted Laura’s mother, Laura exclaims to Jenny, “You’re finally in the air and I’ve finally got my feet planted.”  Using this statement as a springboard, can you project a future life for both Jenny and Laura?  How does Jenny’s earning her transport license and Laura’s knowing her father’s identity influence your projections.


14.  Historical allusions to the “Roaring 20’s” all of which conjure up a rich tapestry of life in America:  The Great War, Flagpole sitters, Flappers, Marathon dancers, Barnstormers, Speakeasies, Bathtub gin, sob sisters, The Charleston.


15.  Allusions to artistic/literary personalities of the times add depth:

Isadora Duncan, William Carlos Williams, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Marcel Proust, Friedrich Nietzsche, e e Cummings, Marlene Dietrich.


16.  Allusions to famous aviators who were making names for themselves before regulations and laws curtailed activity:  Wilbur Wright, Charles Lindbergh, Frank Hawks, Roscoe Turner, Amelia Earhart, Louise Thaden, Ruth Nichols, Pancho Barnes, Wiley Post,Marvel Crosson, Gladys O’Donnell, Lafayette Escadrille.  Airplanes of the past:  The Robin, Travel Air, Lockheed Vega, Bellanca, Ford Tri-Motor, Bi-plane.


17.  Reference to journalists of  historic note: Waldo Frank, John Reed, Will Rogers.


18.  1920’s Styles and Mores:  Dress for women: skirts, hats, gloves were required dress when appearing in public; Prohibition a law of the times led to bootleg liquor; Women were granted voting rights (19th amendment) only 9 years before novel takes place; Reporter’s salary at a newspaper was $12.00 a week, a meal on the train cost $1.50; trains were powered by steam engines; wealthy drove Pierce Arrow cars.