Browse Reading Guides

Reading Group Guide

  1. Book ImageHeating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs

    Beth Ann Fennelly

    "Morning: bought a bag of frozen peas to numb my husband’s sore testicles after his vasectomy. Evening: added thawed peas to our carbonara." —from Heating & Cooling, "Married Love, IV"

Beth Ann Fennelly Introduces Heating & Cooling

Discussion Questions

  1. What types of love does Beth Ann Fennelly describe in Heating and Cooling? How does she depict them?
  2. In “Married Love,” what do we learn about the three people involved, and which of them do we learn about the most?
  3. How does Fennelly recount her mother’s battle with cancer and her sister’s unexpected death throughout the collection? In “The Grief Vacation,” Fennelly chooses to write about her own experiences in third person. Why would she make this unusual choice? What is her experience of grief like, and does it resonate with you?
  4. In “Goner,” the author invites us to look up the story about Father Mayer and dares us to call it fiction. Why do you think she issues this dare? Who is it addressed to?
  5. Fennelly is a poet. What evidence of this do you find in her micro-memoirs? Could some or all of them be considered poems?
  6. In “Heating and Cooling,” Fennelly notes that she is bad at remembering. Do you think this is true? How does memory feature in her vignettes? Is she a reliable narrator?
  7. What roles do sex, motherhood, female identity, and feminism seem to play in Fennelly’s life? How do they coincide or clash?
  8. One of the micro memoirs is titled “‘If You’re Born Catholic, You’ll Always Be Catholic.’” What does Fennelly mean by this? Do you think this is true? Is it only true for Catholicism?
  9. Why do you think Fennelly chose to interweave the three separate stories in “Nine Months in Madison”? What effect does this have?
  10. What happens in “Our Friend the Memoirist”? Why does the memoirist decide against making his toast? Why do you think he is identified as “the memoirist”?
  11. How does Fennelly portray her younger self and her older self? How are they similar and different, and how do they relate to one another?
  12. Did the format of micro-memoirs appeal to you? Did you read them one at a time or all at once? Which was your favorite vignette and why? Do you feel they all came together to form a whole?

About Beth Ann Fennelly

Beth Ann Fennelly is the author of three poetry collections, Unmentionables, Tender Hooks, and Open House; two memoirs, Heating & Cooling and Great with Child; and a novel, The Tilted World, coauthored with her husband, Tom Franklin. She teaches at the University of Mississippi, and is also the state’s Poet Laureate. She lives in Oxford, Mississippi.

Books by Beth Ann Fennelly

  1. Book CoverGreat with Child: Letters to a Young Mother

    "May be the best book ever to give for a baby shower."—Tampa TribuneMore

  2. Book CoverHeating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs

    “Consistently entertaining… always poised, eloquent, and full of moments of tenderness.” —Electric LiteratureMore

  3. Book CoverOpen House: Poems

    “With its high spirits, its love of textures of different kinds of writing . . . [this] is an immensely lively performance.” —Robert HassMore