Readers Club Guide Synopsis
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For Alison James, moving with her family from London to her hometown of Farmington presents more than just a simple case of relocation jitters. The last time she saw Farmington, fifteen years ago, she was fleeing it -- eloping with her best friend's boyfriend. Now, blessed with three children, but uneasy in her marriage, she wonders whether the decisions of her past have led her away from the life she was meant to lead.
Catherine Ashley, nearly divorced and a mother of two, can't help but wonder herself. Although she's contented with her children, and friendly with her almost-ex, she finds herself returning again and again to those few weeks fifteen years ago, in which she fell deeply in love, only to be betrayed and abandoned by her most trusted friend.
When the two women find themselves once more living in the same town, they must come to terms with the choices made and damage done in the past -- in the process, healing the present and clearing the way for the right futures for both of them. Discussion Questions
1. Marc is first seen in the car, impatiently waiting for Alison. What is your first impression of him as a husband? What do you think are his real motivations for returning to Farmington?
2. When Alison returns to Farmington, she observes the changes the town has undergone, noting that it has evolved from "maiden aunt" to "trophy wife." How does the change in the town mirror the changes in Marc and Alison's lifestyle? Do you think any of Alison's observations are distorted, filtered through her own perspective? Do you think Catherine would describe the town the same way?
3. Both Marc and Alison acknowledge that she had a large hand in making him into the man he is today. Do you think she deserves credit for his outward success? Why? Is she then also to blame for the darker side of his personality?
4. Alison worries that Amy's anxiety comes from her own unhappiness at the time of Amy's conception. Do you think that children's personalities develop from the energy they pick up from their parents? Why do you think Gemma and Ellie gravitate to each other so quickly?
5. How much of Alison's decision to make a play for Marc was due to her attraction to him? How much of her motivation came from jealousy toward Cathy? Why do you think Alison was so threatened by the change in the social order of her friendship with Cathy? Does hearing Alison's side of the story make you more sympathetic to her, or less?
6. Why do you think it makes such a difference to Alison to know that Marc had slept with Cathy? Why did she tolerate so much in her marriage to Marc prior to learning this? What did Alison gain from protecting her marriage?
7. Alison says that all along she's felt like a pretend adult, while Catherine feels the opposite, mature and grounded. Why do you think Alison feels stunted? What does it take for her to grow up? Does Catherine ultimately benefit from being a little less responsible and mature?
8. Describe Kirsty -- how is her outlook on life different from those of the other characters? Why do you think she becomes such an effective bridge between Catherine and Alison?
9. Both Marc and Jimmy cheated on their wives. How are the situations different? Is Jimmy's cheating less of a betrayal? Why is he redeemed in the end, and not Marc?
10. Alison is continually drawn to the idea that she opted for the wrong life, stealing Catherine's instead of following her own path. What do you think constitutes the "right" life? What do you think the lives of the characters would be like today if Alison had never slept with Marc? What if Marc and Catherine had never met? Enhance Your Book Club
- Feeling nostalgic? Bring in photos and share stories of your hometown with the group. How different is the town today?
- Are you still in touch with your childhood best friend? What would you want to ask her if you saw her today? Write a letter -- share it with the group or send it off!
- For more about the author, check out her blog at rowancoleman.blogspot.com or on MySpace at www.myspace.com/rowancoleman.