Larry's Party Study Guide

Larry's Party

Larry's Party by Carol Shields

In 1976, Larry Weller is twenty-six years old and employed as a florist in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He accidentally steals a stranger's identical Harris tweed jacket from a coffee shop. The rest of the chapter consists of his thoughts, about his girlfriend Dorrie Shaw and his parents Stu and Dot.

In 1978, Larry marries Dorrie and they honeymoon in England. While there he discovers his love for garden mazes when he becomes lost in one.

In 1980, Larry turns thirty and invites his family over for a picnic. He and Dorrie have bought a house and they now have a son, Ryan.

By 1983 Larry is spending all of his spare time working on a maze around his house, and it now takes up both the front and back yards. A frustrated Dorrie calls in a bulldozer and has it tear down the entire front section of the maze. This event leads to the couple’s divorce.

In 1986 Larry has remarried, to a Christian scholar named Beth Prior. Their marriage is, for the most part, happy, though Larry realizes how much he loved Dorrie when they were married. It is also learned that Larry’s father has developed colon cancer.

In 1988 Larry has moved to Chicago and has become one of only a handful of professional maze designers in the world. Though he is very successful, he thinks back to the maze at his old house in Manitoba and how Dorrie is keeping what is left of it alive. Larry's father dies of colon cancer in this year.

In 1991 Larry’s son, Ryan, is now twelve and is visiting him in Chicago. Ryan is a bright boy; he is a good artist and can speak French fluently.

In 1992 Beth has published her first book, and the couple is beginning to fight. In 1994 Larry wins the State of Illinois award for creative excellence for his mazes, but a few months later he and Beth are divorced, due to her receiving a job opportunity in the United Kingdom.

In 1996 Larry collapses and falls into a coma for twenty-two days. While Beth did not visit him at all, Dorrie and Ryan came as quickly as they could. Larry is now dating another woman, named Charlotte Angus.

In 1997 Larry decides to throw a dinner party. He invites all his friends and both of his former wives. As the party is winding down, he experiences a vision of another reality in which he and Dorrie settled their quarrels and never divorced. Exactly how the story ends is not directly stated. We know that Dorrie stayed behind to help Larry clean up, that Charlotte has taken a liking to one of Larry's guests, and that Beth was always aware that Larry still loved Dorrie. There is also a dialogue between two unknown speakers who say they always loved each other.

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