Reading Guides

Farewell, Dorothy Parker
Ellen Meister
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What if inspiration came to visit...and wouldn't leave?

When it comes to movie reviews, critic Violet Epps is a powerhouse voice. But that's only because she's learned to channel her literary hero, Dorothy Parker, the most celebrated and scathing wit of the 20th century.

If only Violet could summon that kind of courage in her personal life.

Determined to defeat her social anxiety, Violet visits the Algonquin Hotel to pull strength from the hallowed dining room, where Dorothy Parker and so many other famous writers of the 1920s traded barbs. But she gets more than she bargained for when Dorothy Parker's feisty spirit rematerializes from an ancient guestbook and hitches a ride onto her life.

Violet is shocked and thrilled to be face-to-face with her idol, but when the gin-swilling writer takes up residence in her home and grows pricklier and more outspoken by the day, the timid movie critic is pushed to her limit. With her job threatened, her new relationship in tatters, and the custody fight for her orphaned niece in jeopardy, Violet is forced to face her fears...and she makes sure Mrs. Parker does the same.

Wickedly funny and surprisingly poignant, Farewell, Dorothy Parker perfectly re-imagines one of America's most iconic voices in a captivating and unforgettable tale.


Ellen Meister is the author of three previous novels: The Other Life, The Smart One, and Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA. She has held editorial positions at SmokeLong Quarterly and DimeStories. Meister teaches creative writing at Hofstra University School of Continuing Education and runs an online group where she mentors aspiring women authors.


  1. Violet relies on Mrs. Parker to help her find her voice outside of her writing. Discuss the concept of "finding your voice." Is this solely the idea of speaking up, or is there more to it than that?

  2. At the opening of the story when Violet is trying to end her relationship with Carl, it is clear that she needs to be able to stand up to him but is unable to do so. Is her ability to speak up more, less, or as important once she starts dating the far less pushy Michael?

  3. Outside of the custody battle, in what ways is it important for Violet to find her voice for her niece, Delaney? How about for herself?

  4. Dorothy Parker's style of snappy comeback is a hallmark of American culture. She was the embodiment of "having a voice," the very thing Violet struggles with most. In what ways is this type of voice an American ideal? In what ways is it transcendent of American culture?

  5. Beyond "finding her voice," in what ways is Mrs. Parker the perfect mentor for Violet? In what ways is Violet the perfect protégé for Mrs. Parker? Discuss some of the other female-mentorship relationships present in Farewell, Dorothy Parker.

  6. Some of the minor characters—such as Andi, Sandra, Malcolm, and even Ivy—have antagonistic roles in this novel. Do you find them wholly unsympathetic, or is there reason to consider these characters both good and bad? Does your opinion about them change throughout the book?

  7. Mrs. Parker makes the controversial decision to take over Violet and sleep with Michael Do you think she was acting altruistically for Violet's benefit, or selfishly for her own gratification? Does it matter?

  8. What would you identify as the turning point for Mrs. Parker that allowed her to finally move on?

  9. Violet has both an inner journey (overcoming her timidity) and outer journey (gaining custody of her niece). Does the intersection of these threads in the courtroom scene provide any additional insight into Violet?