From the national Essence bestselling author comes an engaging tale about a family secret that sends one young woman scrambling to uncover the truth about her past.
Award-winning author ReShonda Tate Billingsley, whose bestselling fiction “tackles some of life’s toughest situations” (The Florida Times-Union), unravels the secrets in a mother’s past that turn her daughter’s life upside down—by revealing the family she never knew existed.
Her dream of studying dance at Juilliard is within reach, but Olivia Dawson turns down the opportunity, choosing instead to stay with her ailing mother in the Houston projects where they barely make ends meet. Lorraine Dawson is Olivia’s whole world, and now Olivia insists on being there for her. But when Lorraine learns Olivia is sacrificing college for her sake, her heartache triggers a series of shattering events that results in Olivia discovering her father, a man she was told had died years ago. But he is alive and well—and he’s the powerful CEO of one of the country’s richest corporations.
With her best friend urging her to claim a much-deserved chunk of Bernard Wells’s fortune, Olivia seeks out his Los Angeles mansion. But it’s not money she wants—it’s answers: Why did he abandon Lorraine when Olivia was three years old? Why did they suffer in poverty while he gave his “real” wife and son a life of luxury? Opening up the past, however, is more complicated than Olivia—or Bernard—expected, and the pain of yesterday’s sins must be confronted before true healing and a bright tomorrow can begin.
This reading group guide forA Family Affairincludes 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.
When Olivia Dawson’s mother confesses on her deathbed that Olivia’s father is the rich business owner Bernard Wells, Olivia and her best friend Mona head to Los Angeles to get some questions answered. When Olivia arrives, she finds a father who wants to keep her quiet, a brother she has vague and loving memories of, and the woman who banished her and her mother from Bernard’s house years ago and who has spent her life denying Olivia’s existence. Secrets can bind families together, or they can rip families apart. As startling revelations come to light, the patchwork family must learn to redefine love and to understand how lucky they can be.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Olivia’s mother kept the existence of her father a secret. Do you agree with what she did? By the end of the story, do you think the secret Olivia’s mother kept was for Olivia, her father, or herself?
2. Is it ever okay to keep a secret from a family member or a friend in order to protect them? Has a family member or friend ever kept a big secret from you? Did you understand why they kept the secret and how did you feel?
3. What would you do in Olivia’s shoes when she walks into the England Enterprises building and meets Bernard for the first time?
4. Do you agree with Mona that “everything happens for a reason”?
5. Do you sympathize with Bernard’s mistress Alyssa?
6. What do you think Walter’s role in the story is?
7. Do you agree with Walter’s belief that when he is going through trials in life “that’s God working it out”?
8. Initially, what are your thoughts about Adele? Do they change by the end of the story, and if so, how?
9. What do you think of the revelation that Olivia learns from the letter her mother wrote to Bernard?
10.What do you think of Bernard turning to Walter for advice at the end of the novel? Has he changed? Is he redeemed?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Sketch some designs for England Enterprises. Share your fashion visions with the book club.
2. Bring some music to your book club meeting and create a sound track for A Family Affair.
3. See what Olivia is headed for in the Juilliard dance program: http://catalog.juilliard.edu/preview_program.php ?catoid=13&poid=1266&returnto=1389. Select your ideal courses for her.
ReShonda Tate Billingsley’s #1 nationally bestselling novels include Let the Church Say Amen, I Know I’ve Been Changed, and Say Amen, Again, winner of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work. Her collaboration with Victoria Christopher Murray has produced four hit novels, Sinners & Saints, Friends & Foes, A Blessing & a Curse, and Fortune & Fame. BET released a movie in 2013 based on ReShonda’s book Let the Church Say Amen in which she had a minor role. She also had a role in the made-for-TV movie The Secret She Kept based on her book of the same title. Visit ReShondaTateBillingsley.com, meet the author on Facebook at ReShondaTateBillingsley, or follow her on Twitter @ReShondaT.