1. Discuss what makes a good memoir. How does Too Close to the Falls incorporate these qualities?
2. How did you feel about Catherine’s childhood “career”? Did it place her in situations that were inappropriate for a child of her age? Elaborate. How do you think being exposed to these realities affected her?
3. If Roy were to describe young Catherine McClure, what do you think he would say? What about Mother Agnes? Father Rodwick?
4. Early on in the book, the reader understands that Catherine feels she is a misfit. How much of that can be attributed to her natural character? Should her parents have made more of an attempt to force Catherine to conform? More importantly, is it wrong for a child to feel “different” from everyone else? Can it build character?
5. Catherine struggles throughout Too Close to the Falls with double standards and issues of moral hypocrisy. In which scenarios did you find these themes especially pronounced?
6. Did Catherine experience a loss of innocence? If so, when? Do you remember a particular moment in your life that contributed to a “loss of innocence”? Is that moment an unavoidable part of growing older?
7. Is the spirit of rebellion evident in Catherine’s character simply innate in certain individuals, or does growing up among particularly restrictive institutions (a strict Catholic school, a small conservative town, for instance) incite rebellion where there may otherwise have been none? Are there any people or institutions that you rebelled against as a teenager, but later embraced?
8. Consider the women Catherine comes into contact with: her mother, Miranda, Marie Sweeny, Marilyn Monroe, Warty, and Mother Agnes. What did she learn from each of them?
9. How did you react to the last scene in the book, the evening that Catherine spent with Father Rodwick? Was is surprising that Catherine—the adult looking back—seemed not to be judging the priest’s actions? Do you think that the time they spent together was inappropriate? Might she have drawn something positive from that night?
10. “There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.”—Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory. If you could choose that significant moment in Too Close to the Falls, what would it be? What about in your own life?