What Doesn't Kill You
“I really thought I had a handle on life—then it broke off.”
Divorced since her daughter, Amber, was young, forty-something Tee has been “handling her business”—supporting herself after her would-be songwriter husband took off for L.A.—and she’s done all right. But then everything changes. First, she’s outplaced from her longtime job and doesn’t tell anyone. Then she throws her daughter a dream wedding and, after overindulging in champagne, Tee wakes up in bed with the younger best man.
For the first time in twenty- five years, she doesn’t know who she is or what she’s going to do every day. Deep in denial, Tee continues to live her life as if nothing has changed. After a series of financial missteps compound her already shaky situation, she teeters on the edge of bankruptcy. That’s when she decides that it’s time to wake up and face reality.
Beyond “making money,” Tee never really decided what she wanted to do with her life. Then she just stopped thinking about it and invested her hopes in someone else’s dream. Now it’s her chance to invest in herself. Can she step out on faith to follow her own dream?
UPTOWN Authors Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant: How We Met
Reading Group Guide
Questions for Discussion
1. The first chapter epigraph quotes, “ . . . all you can do is mop up the aftermath, dump it in a giant personal hazmat container and move on.” The topic of resilience is deeply woven into the fabric of Tee’s story. Do you feel that it was her own strong character, the people around her or both that allowed her to pull through the adversity she faced?
2. How did denial facilitate more problems for Tee? She believes that you should “never let them see you sweat” (page 8), and acts accordingly, but that only deepens her debt and her troubles. Is this a common hurdle for people in distress?
3. What role does Olivia play in Tee’s development? Does her idea of destiny eventually become part of Tee’s religion as well? How does Olivia’s parenting style differ from Tee’s?
4. Both of Tee’s important careers—at Markson & Daughter and To a Tee—help her make use of skills (label design and organizing) see more