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Tell Me Lies

Reading Group Guide

    This reading group guide for Tell Me Lies includes 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.

    Topics and Questions for Discussion

    1. Early on, Lucy repeatedly states that she is not immediately attracted to Stephen. Do you believe her? Why or why not?

    2. Considering things only from Lucy’s perspective, do you see any red flags that should have tipped her off to Stephen’s true nature? What are some warning signs you have noticed in your own, or your friends’, relationships?

    3. At the beginning of the book, there are two epigraphs: one from The Unbearable Lightness of Being and the other from Before I Fall. What effect did reading these quotes initially have on you? Did they affect your mind-set entering the first chapter or color how you interpreted the characters? While these quotes clearly hold true for Lucy, how might they be applicable for Stephen?

    4. Stephen takes manipulating people around him to an extreme, but many of his methods are very common. Have you ever made something up to get someone to like you? Do you have (or have you ever had) “tactics” for dating in order to win your romantic interest over?

    5. How are Lucy and her mother, CJ, alike? To what degree is Lucy aware of these similarities, and how does her awareness change over the course of the novel?

    6. Stephen feels certain he is destined for “bigger things” than most people around him. What does having a “bigger life” mean to him? At the end of the epilogue, Lucy’s mother tells her that she has to dream “really, really big.” Do Lucy and Stephen have similar ideas of what that broad ambition means? How so or how do they differ?

    7. During her college years, Lucy struggles with unhealthy eating habits and an obsession with thinness before ultimately being diagnosed with depression. In what ways did a fixation on food and exercise serve as an outlet for Lucy? Did this element of her character strike a chord with you in any way?

    8. Stephen makes a number of assertions about the way the world works. Choose three of his pronouncements that you agree with along with ones you firmly disagree with and share them with your group.

    9. Both Lucy and Stephen have traumatic events from their past that continue to haunt them. What effect do you think their respective experiences have on their behavior?

    10. In the present-day storyline, in which Lucy is attending Bree’s wedding, Lucy is twenty-five years old. In what ways has she grown since her relationship with Stephen, and in what ways do you think she still needs to grow? How do you imagine these experiences will shape who she is ten years from now?

    11. While Stephen and Lucy’s connection is the narrative’s primary romance, Lucy’s relationship with her friends is arguably a love story of a different kind. What were some of your favorite examples of how Lucy’s friends supported or expressed their love for her?

    12. What would this book be like if it were only told from Lucy’s perspective or only from Stephen’s?

    Enhance Your Book Club

    1. Consider having all members of your book group bring a photo and/or share a story of a “Stephen” from their life. As you share your stories, some questions you could potentially address are: How did you meet? How did you discover the person you met wasn’t the person you hoped? If you could go back in time, would you do things differently?

    2. While Tell Me Lies centers on Stephen and Lucy’s toxic relationship, Stephen also has a prolonged, perhaps equally unhealthy relationship with Diana. However, we see her only through Stephen’s and Lucy’s eyes. Try writing a scene from Diana’s perspective. Consider jumping off of a scene in the book in which Stephen interacts with her or creating a scene from their earlier relationship, before Stephen met Lucy. In what ways does their relationship parallel Stephen’s relationship with Lucy and in what ways does it differ? Are his interpretations of how she reacts to and feels about him accurate? If you are creating a scene from earlier in their relationship, has their dynamic shifted over time? Share your writing pieces with your group.

    3. In the epilogue, Lucy decides to quit her job and leave New York City. Have you ever, or would you ever, leave behind the life you’ve built without a new job or destination lined up? If you had a new chance at pursuing your dreams, where would you go? What would you want to do? Share a story of a time when you made a fresh start to move on from something in your past, or share a time when you have been glad you stayed in a situation that didn’t initially feel as if it was working.

About the Author

Carola Lovering
Photograph by Kacey Klonsky

Carola Lovering

Carola Lovering attended Colorado College, and her work has appeared in W Magazine, National Geographic, Outside, and Yoga Journal, among other publications. Tell Me Lies is her first novel. She currently lives in Brooklyn. 

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