This reading group guide for Damage Control includes 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.
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Maggie Silver has a lot on her plate. She is struggling to pay her mortgage, support her ill mother, and climb the career ladder at an exclusive, high-powered PR firm whose clients are tabloid-worthy movie stars and famous athletes. She’s been trained to clean up other people’s messes, but now Maggie is asked to take on her toughest client yet: Senator Henry Paxton. The distinguished statesman from Southern California also happens to be the father of Anabelle, Maggie’s estranged best friend from high school.
When Senator Paxton’s young female aid is murdered, Maggie must run damage control and prevent the scandal from growing—a challenge at any time, but even more so when she realizes the Senator isn’t telling the whole story. Finding herself once again wrapped up in the Paxtons’ glamorous world after all these years, Maggie is unexpectedly flooded with memories—some of them wonderful, others difficult to revisit. She can’t help but dwell on those stormy years in high school when her friendship with Anabelle was dramatically severed after a tragedy that neither of them has been able to forget. As Maggie gets further embroiled in the lives of the Paxtons, she realizes that the ties of her old friendship are stronger and more complicated than she realized. Torn between loyalties to her mother, her love interests, other clients, and the individual members of the Paxton family, Maggie has to decide how much of her own life she’s willing to sacrifice in order to save those she loves.Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Damage Control
opens with a statement from the main character in which she explains how things are in her dreams, in contrast to how things happen in reality. Why do you think the author decided to open the book this way? What effect did it have on your reading experience?
2. Discuss the significance of the 1993 beach party in the prologue. How does that night develop deeper meaning as new aspects are revealed throughout the narrative? How might the novel have been different if the entire story of the 1993 event had been detailed in the beginning?
3. Maggie describes second chances as “the American way” (p. 13). Do you agree with this idea? Why or why not? In what ways does Maggie’s professional life mirror her personal life?
4. What was your reaction when Senator Henry Paxton recognized Maggie Silver at the end of Chapter 4? Do you think most people would have recognized a former child’s teenage friend in a professional role? Did this raise any suspicions?
5. Maggie is infatuated with perfumes and scents. Why do you think the author choose to give Maggie this heightened sense of smell? Identify some of the scents she picks up on and discuss how her observations contribute to those moments in the narrative.
6. Compare and contrast Maggie’s use of pills with her mother’s smoking and her deceased father’s drinking. How is Maggie’s dependence different? Does this difference make it more acceptable? Why or why not?
7. What do you think makes Maggie more uncomfortable: when Faraday knows things about friends like Anabelle, or when he knows things about her that she thought were secret? Why do you think her employer’s vast intelligence bothers her at times? Use examples from the novel to support your answer.
8. In an already complex damage control case, how does Oliver Goldman of the U.S. Attorney General’s office complicate the situation further? Would you have cooperated with him had you been in Maggie’s place? Why or why not?
9. In addition to the main Paxton case, Maggie must juggle other cases, such as the Holloway au pair case and Salazar rape case. Compare and contrast the different cases and discuss. Did Maggie’s dealings with these additional cases help her in any way with the Paxtons? If so, how?
10. Discuss the complications that resulted from the murder of Anabelle’s husband, Randall. Before the reveal at the novel’s end, who did you think pulled the trigger? Explain how you came to this conclusion and whether or not you were surprised by the revelation.
11. Maggie is often forced to manage conflicting allegiances: Faraday and Blair; the Paxton family and the Blair agency; the law and the case; truth and image. How well do you think she balances these relationships?
12. In addition to all the complexities of her cases, Maggie also balances dating and shopping, conflicts with her mom who has cancer, ghosts from the past, and drug dependency. How did so many simultaneous conflicts affect her as a character? Did you relate to her situation in any way?
13. Anabelle surprises Maggie by saying: “You were always a liar…That’s one thing I admired about you” (p. 311). Were you as surprised at this perspective as Maggie? Discuss whether you agree or disagree with Anabelle’s assessment of Maggie.
14. On page 342, Luke reveals to Maggie what was supposed to happen that summer night in 1993. How does Maggie find a glimmer of comfort in this ultimate betrayal? How did you feel about Luke’s explanation? Enhance Your Book Club
1. Maggie has a strong sense of smell and focuses on scents and the emotions they evoked. How keen is your own sense of smell? Have each member of the group bring in a favorite perfume, candle, or scent. With a blindfold, conduct a smell test to see who can identify which smells. For extra fun, write down how each one makes you feel, and then compare results when everyone has had a chance to sniff.
2. Maggie was faced with a number of difficult decisions in this story that had no real right or wrong answers. Sometimes it was the lesser of two evils or the greater of two goods. Pinpoint one decision Maggie made in the book that you would have made differently and explain your choice. How might the book have been different had that one decision been altered?
3. In the end, Maggie is offered a position as co-vice president at her firm. Imagine you are Maggie’s best friend. What would your advice be?
Should she take the exalted position, or escape her exhausting lifestyle? Make the case and convince Maggie to do what you think would be best.