The Latecomer – Discussion Questions

Written June 6, 2022, without exposure to any other discussion questions. These questions are not designed to critique the author’s work, but rather to inspire reflection and engagement. They are free for your personal and book club use, but please do not distribute the text of the questions; instead, provide a link to this page; and if you share, please credit the author. Copyright June 6, 2022 Catherine Beeman/Your Book Group.

  1. Why do you suppose each Oppenheimer triplet did everything they could to avoid any interaction or affiliation with the other triplets, virtually from birth? Consider genetics, parental attitudes, personalities. How does this compare with your experience as a sibling or a parent of siblings?
  2. Johanna Oppenheimer, having fought long and hard to conceive and bear the Oppenheimer children, holds a steadfast point of view that they are a very close family. Is this completely delusional, or is there evidence that the children may be complicit in furthering this impression?
  3. There’s hardly any dialogue among the triplets until young adulthood – yet clearly there was some unprompted conversation between them, as evidenced by memory of Harrison’s telling the other two Oppenheimers about having sex for the first time. Did this casual revelation surprise you, and what questions does it raise about the accuracy of the narrator’s depiction of the triplets as uninterested strangers?
  4. How did Salo Oppenheimer’s role in a fatal car accident impact his life moving forward? Do you think he would have behaved differently – been a different man, even – if the accident hadn’t occured?
  5. The author described Salo as tumbling through life, weightless. What does this concept mean to you, and can you relate this experience to yourself or anyone else you are close to? Compare this weightless tumbling concept with the manner of his death.
  6. Phoebe Oppenheimer, of an age with the triplets but born seventeen years later, has been narrating this story from page one, but only makes her voice known quite late in the story. When it was revealed that what appeared to be a first-person plural point of view was first-person singular all along, what was your reaction?
  7. According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of hoarding is “the practice of collecting or accumulating something (such as money or food).” We know that Rochelle Steiner’s mother was a hoarder of items to an extreme extent, and Sally Oppenheimer is in the business of cleaning out the homes of other extreme hoarders. Who else in the Oppenheimer family hoarded anything from which they refused to let go for an extended period of time? Think about: memories, secrets, beliefs, grievances – and literal physical items.
  8. Are there any Oppenheimers who don’t take their extensive wealth and privilege for granted?