The Altruists Cover
The Altruists

1. The generational divide between baby boomers and millennials is at the center of The Altruists. How have generational differences affected your own relationships with family members?

2. Why is Arthur so attached to the Alter family home? What do you think keeps him there?

3. At the novel’s start, Ethan’s and Maggie’s lives have stagnated in New York. Ethan isn’t working and is deeply in debt, and Maggie is fooling herself into thinking she’s fulfilled by her various jobs when really she’s still grieving her mother. Are their depressive states the products of themselves, their upbringing, or American millennial life in the early 21st century?

4. Do you identify with one member of the Alter family in particular?

5. Maggie sees herself as a sacrificing philanthropist, but there are so many points in The Altruists where she reveals herself to be young and somewhat self-involved. Is she able to do good in the novel?

6. Why do you think Francine didn’t reveal her lucrative investments to Arthur? 

7. Neither Arthur nor Francine grew up in particularly happy homes. How do you think this affected their relationship and their parenting choices?

8. How does the moment in Zimbabwe when Arthur realizes his work has not only failed but is repeating history affect all of his future decisions? What would his life be like if he had succeeded in Zimbabwe?

9. When Arthur announces that he’s changed his mind and doesn’t want his children’s inheritances after all, is he sincere, if even momentarily? Or is he attempting a final psychological manipulation?

10. The Altruists ends with a reversal of fortune and dependency when Arthur moves to live with Maggie on her spacious property in Vermont. What is Andrew Ridker saying about what, if anything, we owe our parents?

11. Altruism refers to selfless acts performed in the interest of increasing others’ well-being. Do any of the characters in The Altruists perform a selfless act? Or do you think anything is ever truly selfless? 

12. The Altruists features many tenuous familial relationships—what is Ridker implying about modern American family life?