The Last HousewifeWhen I read Ashley Winstead’s The Last Housewife for review, I was struck by its unyielding, bold approach to exploring issues around complicity, a cult of misogyny, and how difficult it is to escape past trauma. And all this delivered in a punch-packing style that possesses all the pull of an on-screen thriller in a way that might just shake up your book club gatherings.

At the centre of the story is Shay, a woman who thought she’d buried brutal horrors from her college days when she married a wealthy man and moved to Texas. But eight years on, after learning about the death of a college friend from a true crime podcast, Shay is compelled to investigate what happened, and forced to confront said horrors.

Shay’s traumatic, fiercely-driven journey takes readers into a cult of predatory, powerful wealthy misogynists. Shocking and gripping as it tackles tough topics with mettle, The Last Housewife is likely to spark a whole lot of conversation. With that in mind, read on for meaty discussion topics to get your teeth into.

1. Discuss the novel’s title. Did the story deliver what you expected from the title?

2. How does the following excerpt taken from the beginning of the novel set the tone, and establish its themes? Does the novel deliver on what this set-up seems to promise?

“From a young age I could feel them watching. Could feel the weight of their eyes and their hunger pressing over my skin like the skimming fingers of a lover, or an appraiser, dragging a hand down the bones of a rare find. Like most women, I grew up with the looking, grew into it.”

3. Consider the Scheherazade references. What do they reveal about Shay’s character, and the author’s intentions?

4. What were your first impressions of Shay and Jamie the podcaster? Did you like them? Did your opinion of them change through the course of the novel?

5. Discuss the power that might come from being the main (or sole) earner in a couple. Consider Shay’s feelings that after marriage, and after giving up her job, “the balance of power had shifted” in her husband’s favour. Consider her remark: “I wasn’t a writer. I’d turned into a housewife.”

6. What did you think of the way the young women were drawn to Don and felt compelled to please him? Were you surprised by the direction the novel took in terms of revelations around Shay’s past and Don’s manipulative behaviour?

7. “Call us traditionalists…Men and women who believe in the old ways.” Do you think the Lieutenant’s summary of the secret club resonates with our present-day world? 

8. “You asked why I’m putting myself in danger. It’s because I owe them.” Do you think Shay owes the other women?  What ethical issues does The Last Housewife raise? How well do you think the author handles them? 

9. To what extent could The Last Housewife be considered a feminist novel? 

10. What did you think of the writing style? Will you read the author’s other novels?

Want more ideas for your reading group? Browse more ideas, and discover dozens of discussion-worthy books that have ready-made topics to talk about.