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i>This reading group guide for Finding Colin Firthincludes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
One summer. Three women. A quaint seaside town. And Colin Firth—maybe.
Bea Crane is spending a monotonous post-college summer building Mt. Vesuvius burgers at Boston’s Crazy Burger when she gets a life-changing letter—from her late mother. The letter tells Bea that the parents who left her orphaned weren’t actually her birth parents. After contacting her adoption agency, Bea gets a name and a number for her birth mother. With nothing to lose but her job as a burger maven, Bea packs her bags and heads to Boothbay Harbor to find her birth mother: Veronica Russo.
Rumor has it that Veronica Russo’s pies can solve any problem. During the day, Veronica works as a waitress at The Best Little Diner in Boothbay Harbor, but when the waitressing day is over, Veronica moonlights as a maker of magical pies. But in spite of being able to make her customers’ wishes come true, Veronica can’t stop dreaming about the baby girl that she gave up for adoption as a teenager. But when she receives an unexpected voicemail from her daughter, it seems that Veronica’s life might be on the brink of changing.
After Gemma Hendricks loses her high-powered job as a New York City journalist, it seems that she doesn’t have any ground to stand on against her adoring husband, who wants nothing more than to settle into life as a happy, suburban couple—preferably in the house next to Gemma’s mother-in-law. When Gemma discovers that she’s expecting a baby, she does the only rational thing that she can think of to escape her seemingly inevitable future as a soccer mom—she runs away to her best friend’s Boothbay Harbor inn for plates of pie, long nights of girl talk, and maybe a couple Colin Firth movie marathons.
None of the women realize how much one summer will change their lives. But as Gemma scoops an unexpected newspaper story, Veronica gets cast in a Colin Firth movie shooting in Boothbay, and Bea meets a hot young assistant director, it seems that the summer in Boothbay just might be full of surprises that none of them could have anticipated. And through the wild ride of the summer, each woman learns some valuable lessons—about her dreams, relationships, and the hope that we all hold of someday meeting a Colin Firth.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. In the opening chapter, Bea learns that she’s adopted via a heartfelt letter from her deceased adoptive mother, Cora. What was your response to this revelation—or, as Bea later refers to it, this “lie of omission”—especially considering the fact that it comes in the form of a letter? How did you feel about Bea’s levelheaded reaction—did you expect her to be angrier or feel a greater sense of betrayal? Have you ever had to deliver news or make a confession so groundbreaking or potentially upsetting that you did so in writing rather than face-to-face?
2. Veronica says that her special “elixir pies” are simply regular pies with “some prayers and wishes and hopes baked in” (p. 158), but some locals seem to think that they wield more power than just “the spark of hope in their names” (p. 158). In your opinion, are the pies truly elixirs—adding a magical realism twist to the otherwise realistic novel—or do they simply give customers just enough added hope or confidence to take control of their own destinies in some way?
3. The themes of identity and a sense of belonging are inherent in each of the three heroines’ stories. When Bea finds out that she’s adopted, Tommy insists: “Your entire life has been a lie” (p. 7), but Bea disagrees. What are the building blocks of each woman’s identity, if not her biological makeup, her familial lineage? From where do you derive your own sense of self?
4. Veronica still seems to be battling her reputation as the “high school slut” who got knocked up at sixteen, thanks to snide remarks from the seemingly snobby Penelope Von Blun and from her own sense of shame at how her family and friends reacted to the news back when she was a teenager. Can you relate to Veronica’s inability to shake her old reputation, to move on from a formative event that—while far in the past— still affects her in the present?
5. When Gemma first arrives at the Three Captains’ Inn, she finds herself relating to Bridget Jones more than she’d like to admit while viewing the inaugural film of the inn’s Colin Firth movie month. Is there a particular film or cinematic heroine whom you related to, or have related to in the past? If so, did seeing a version of your own struggles play out on screen help you deal with them in any way?
6. Mona, Alex’s mother, could easily be a fundamentally unsympathetic character given the extent to which she intervenes in Gemma and Alex’s lives—think of the scene in which she calls Gemma, saying accusatorily, “Think of the baby if your own husband doesn’t matter to you!” (p. 254). Can you understand where she’s coming from, or do you see her as a villain of sorts?
7. Were you surprised to discover who Beth, the woman who’d ordered the Cast-Out Pie for “someone else who has to get someone out of his goddamned head” (p. 273), really was? What does this tell you about the real impact that Veronica’s pregnancy had—and continues to have—on Bea’s birth father’s life?
8. The importance of female relationships—whether they’re friendships or mother-daughter bonds—is a theme that resonates strongly throughout this novel. In light of this, what do you think of Veronica’s grandmother’s words of wisdom, which stress putting oneself first, always: “People will come and go from your life for all kinds of acceptable and crappy reasons, so you’ve got to be your own best friend, know who you are, and never let anyone tell you you’re something you know you’re not” (p. 62). Which of the three heroines in this novel, if any, best follows this advice?
9. As Gemma tries to make peace with her impending motherhood, she reflects: “Motherhood wasn’t about who gave birth to you, who adopted you, who raised you. It was about love, commitment, responsibility. It was about being there. About wanting to be there” (p. 127). What do you think about this definition of motherhood? How does it apply to both Bea’s story and Gemma’s?
10. What do you think of Alex’s ultimate offer at the end? What do you see as his turning point, if he has one?
11. At the novel’s end, all three heroines decide to begin the next chapter in their lives in Boothbay Harbor, the charming coastal Maine town that feels like a central character in and of itself. Gemma says of the town: “Boothbay Harbor had always been a saving grace, a harbor in itself . . . She’d always been happy in Boothbay, the vibrant coastal town a constant ray of sunshine. She had old friends here, wonderful memories. And she loved the old wooden piers and boats in the bay, the cobblestone and brick streets lined with one-of-akind shops and every imaginable cuisine” (p. 291). Is there a town, city, region, or any other landmark (perhaps a favorite hiking trail or café) that you consider a “harbor”—a place to which you attribute feelings of security and happiness, a place that holds treasured memories?
12. When Veronica tells Nick DeMarco that the delicious pie he’s tasted is just a “plain old Happiness Pie,” Nick responds: “Nothing old or plain about happiness” (p. 207). What do you think about this statement? Do we undervalue the beauty of general contentedness? What defines happiness in the lives of Gemma, Bea, and Veronica?
13. Each heroine ultimately finds her happy ending in Boothbay Harbor, but unlike in a Colin Firth romantic comedy, these women’s happy endings don’t necessarily involve men—they find fulfillment in other ways: familial bonds, career moves, a sense of belonging. Which woman’s trajectory did you find the most relatable and why? The most enjoyable?
Enhance Your Book Club
Take a cooking or baking class together! Veronica teaches a piemaking class to locals in Boothbay Harbor. Look up local cooking classes in your region and sign up with your book club members!
Cast the film! If this novel were adapted into a movie (a Colin Firth movie, perhaps?), who would play which character?
Host a Colin Firth movie night! Following book club, screen your favorite Colin Firth film!
Bake your own elixir pie to serve to your book club members! What kind of hopes, wishes, or sentiments would you bake into your own version of Veronica’s special elixir pies?
Make it a double feature! Read Finding Colin Firth in tandem with Mia March’s hit debut novel, The Meryl Streep Movie Club! This novel, set in the same charming seaside town, features several characters you’ll recognize from Finding Colin Firth.