A Novel


The acclaimed author of Into the Forest mines our fears and explores our capacity to love in this epic tale of modern motherhood.
Young and pregnant, Cerise and Anna make very different decisions about how to direct their lives. While teenaged Cerise struggles to support herself and her young daughter, Anna finishes college, marries, and later gives birth to two daughters of her own. After the birth of her second child, a tragic accident tears Cerise's life apart, and she loses her already tenuous position in society. As the story progresses--and Cerise's and Anna's lives interweave and inexorably approach each other--both women are dramatically, forever changed. Unforgettable, awe-inspiring, and grippingly honest, Windfalls is a daring and mesmerizing tale.
  • Washington Square Press | 
  • 368 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743470087 | 
  • June 2005
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Reading Group Guide

Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Why do you think Jean Hegland chose to call her novel Windfalls? Do you think it is a good title for the book? Why or why not?
2. The novel opens with a lyrical description of one of Anna's photographs -- of a lone tree on a barren windswept hillside beneath a stormy sky, its trunk split almost in two. What purpose do the tree and its photograph serve in the novel and in the lives of the two main characters?
3. Both Anna and Cerise find themselves facing unplanned pregnancies, but they make very different decisions about their lives. Were the choices they made the right ones for them at the time? Do they turn out to be wise decisions as their lives unfold?
4. Windfalls has been described as a deeply stirring novel about the choices that every woman faces. Discuss the ways that life circumstances either force choices on us or take them away from us.
5. Joelle Fraser, author of The Territory of Men, describes Windfalls as "an elegy to motherhood in all its painful, beautiful complexity." Talk about the rapturous joys and heartbreaking sorrows and terrors of motherhood depicted in Windfalls. What other novels have you read or movies have you seen that deal with the theme of motherhood and its rewards and costs? How do they compare with Windfalls?
6. What do you think of the way the author deals with the sensitive subject of abortion and a woman's right to choose? see more

About the Author

Jean Hegland
Photo Credit:

Jean Hegland

Jean Hegland lives in northern California with her husband and three children. Windfalls is her second novel.