add to cart
In a quiet neighborhood a short train’s ride away from New York City, the residents of Sylvan Street celebrate the beginning of summer with an annual pool party at Billy and Maggie Cane’s, the wealthy and childless couple who live in the big house at the end of the street. The children of the other families get a chance to swim, and their parents can take advantage of their neighbors’ kindness and affluence. This summer, however, the pool party takes quite a turn – Billy discovers a case full of money in his pool shed, and suddenly all of the adults are faced with the idea that they, too, might have a chance at a life made easier by fast, cold cash.
The money is split among the households, and a pact is formed among recipients – not to spend the money conspicuously and arouse the suspicion of outsiders. This proves more difficult for some than others, but what proves true for every family is the power the money has over their relationships, careers, and even identities. The packs of hundred dollar bills, secreted away in each household, act as a catalyst to problems, issues, and resentments that had lain dormant up until now.
Part mystery novel, part morality play, Sylvan Street is a captivating novel written in eloquent prose. Through a large cast of characters and a page-turning plotline, Schupack explores what happens when our internal, private lives collide with our public, material ones, and when our wildest fantasies become very real, and inescapable.
- How does the prologue set the stage for what happens in the book? Why do you think Schupack chose an eclipse to open the novel?
- What did you make of Billy and Janic’s friendship at the beginning of the book? Do you think the money Billy found changed that friendship? Or was it the art commission from the German collector and Billy’s newfound dedication to his sculpture?
- What other friendships changed as a result of the found money? What did finding the money, sharing the money, and trying to hide and spend the money reveal about the quality of the friendships between these neighbors?
- Similarly, what did it reveal about the married couples? None of the couples were unaffected by the money that came into their lives, but which relationship suffered the greatest? Did the money actually change their relationships, or did it allow problems that had always existed to surface?
- Out of all of these characters, who did you like the most, and why? Who was the most complex? The most surprising? Who did you like the least?
- Similarly, as the neighbors of Sylvan Street mulled over their separate money problems, whose predicament could you relate to the most? Which couple or character did you find most sympathetic in their “need” for the money?
- Discuss the character Tasmin Toomer de Silva and his cousin, Nishal. Compare and contrast them with the residents of Sylvan Street – how were they intrinsically different, and how were they essentially the same in the ways they viewed the money? What was the effect of having their storyline parallel the storyline of the Sylvan Street residents as the novel progressed? Did you guess early on how Toomer and Nishal fit into the novel’s plot?
- How surprised were you at what transpired between Maggie and April in Paris? Why do you think Maggie kissed April? Was it really Maggie’s attempt to jeopardize herself? What did it reveal about Maggie and her quest to become a mother? What did you think of Maggie’s own take on the incident with April?
- When you learned that Billy and Maggie’s share of the money had been stolen, who did you suspect, and why? Was Nishal justified in taking the money? What did you think about what he did with the money, and the end of the book?
- Compare and contrast the following characters: Billy and Ash, particularly in respect to their careers as artists; Shoshanna and Jen, as mothers of young children; and Keith and Daniel, as family men and husbands, and also as persons involved in the 9-11 tragedy at the World Trade Center. What is revealed through these parallel characters and their very different perspectives and actions?
- What statements about money, morality, and even mortality do you think Schupack is making with this novel? What are the central themes of the book?
- Based on the characters in the book and what happened to them as a result of finding this money, what would you do in a similar situation?