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Discussion Guide

Carry the Dog

By Stephanie Gangi

Bea Seger has spent a lifetime running from her childhood. The daughter of a famous photographer, she and her brothers were the subjects of an explosive series of images in the 1960s known as the Marx Nudes. Disturbing and provocative, the photographs shadowed the family long past the public outcry and media attention. Now, decades later, both the Museum of Modern Art and Hollywood have come calling, eager to cash in on Bea’s mother’s notoriety. Twice divorced from but still entangled with aging rock star Gary Going, Bea lives in Manhattan with her borrowed dog, Dory, and sort-of sister, Echo. After years of avoiding her past, Bea must make a choice: let the world in—and be compensated for the trauma of her childhood—or leave it all locked away in a storage unit forever.

Carry the Dog sweeps readers into Bea’s world as the little girl in the photographs and the woman in the mirror meet at the blurry intersection of memory and truth, vulnerability and resilience.

 

This discussion guide and recommended reading was shared and sponsored in partnership with Algonquin.

Discussion Questions

Use these discussion questions to guide your next book club meeting.

The first line of Carry the Dog is “I’m in the dark, I can’t see.” What do these words reveal about Bea? How does this reverberate through the rest of the book?

The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said, “Life must be understood backwards but lived forwards.” Bea is fifty-nine years old and has done the latter without dealing with the former. Why has it taken her so long to look at the past? Why now?

In what ways does Bea resist the cliché of “older woman”?

“I can’t remember the last time I was as completely bewitched by a fictional character as I was by Bea Seger in Stephanie Gangi’s Carry The Dog. What a treat to view life through the eyes of this funny, smart, gutsy woman, who has suffered its outrageous slings and arrows, and just keeps coming back for more.”
Richard Russo, author of Empire Falls and Chances Are . . .

“Stephanie Gangi’s Carry the Dog is powered by insight and true wit as it explores families and their aftershocks, as well as art, regret, and the state of being an older, desiring female in a world that too often looks away. I enjoyed it immensely.”
Meg Wolitzer, New York Times bestselling author of The Female Persuasion
 
"Prickly but vulnerable, Bea is an irresistible character, and Gangi’s novel is less a chronicle of growing up in the shadow of an artist parent as it is a late-in-life coming-of-age story. Fans of Gail Honeyman's Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine (2017) will find as much to love in this novel as those of Myla Goldberg’s Feast Your Eyes (2019) and Dawnie Walton’s The Final Revival of Opal Nev (2021).
Booklist, starred review

"There was something so authentic about this novel, and the awkward, earnest grace of the bright light at its center, Bea. It's a book about resilience, and the imperative of defining yourself to yourself, and a riveting reminder that nothing in this life is ever too late. I loved it."
Mary Beth Keane, New York Times bestselling author of Ask Again, Yes

“Magnificent . . . A dark, utterly convincing exploration of family trauma and individual survival . . . It’s easy to forget that Carry the Dog is fiction; it feels deeply real, like a true memoir from a slightly alternate world just beyond our reach.”
—New York Journal of Books