Skip to Main Content

About The Book

A wise and triumphant novel about four women who've come of age together only to discover that -- when it comes to the essentials -- life's little instruction book will always need revising.

Penelope Cameron, loving mother, devoted wife and generous philanthropist, has convinced her husband and four closest friends to sign an outlandish pact. If Penelope should die before her two daughters are eighteen, her husband will not remarry without the permission of Penelope's sister and three college roommates. For years, this contract gathers dust until the unthinkable happens. Suddenly, everyone she loved must find their way in a world without Penelope.

For Lucy Vargas, Penelope's best friend, and a second mother to her daughters, nothing seems more natural than to welcome them into a home that had once belonged to their family, a lovely, sprawling bed-and-breakfast on the beach. This bequest was only one of the many ways in which Penelope had supported Lucy's career as a painter, declaring her talent too important to squander. But now, in the wake of a disaster that only lovable, worrisome Penelope could have predicted, Lucy has put her work on hold as she and Penelope's husband, Joey, blindly grasp at anything that will keep the girls from sinking under the weight of their grief.

With the help of family and friends, the children slowly build new lives. But just when things start to come together, the fragile serenity they have gained is suddenly threatened from within, and the unbreakable bonds they share seem likely to dissolve after all.

In this entertaining and uplifting novel, Sheila Curran explores the faith one woman placed in her dearest friends, the care she took to protect her family and the many ways in which romantic entanglements will confound and confuse even the most determined of planners. A story about growing up and moving on, about the sacrifices people make for one another and the timeless legacy of love, Everyone She Loved is, above all, about the abiding strength of friendship.

Reading Group Guide

Everyone She Loved 
Sheila Curran


Penelope Cameron has convinced her husband and four friends to sign an unusual pact. If Penelope should die before her daughters turn eighteen, her husband, Joey, cannot remarry without the consent of her sister and three best friends. Then, the unthinkable happens, and Penelope’s family and friends must struggle to live life without her.

Penelope’s young daughters, her husband, and friends are slowly rebuilding new lives when the fragile serenity they have gained is suddenly threatened. Penelope’s distant cousins are eager to gain control of the family money, and ruthlessly plant seeds of doubt and distrust among the friends. They must pull together and trust each other, as more than their friendships is now at stake.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Even though she is young and healthy, Penelope has a premonition that her life will be cut short. With this in mind, she makes her family and friends sign a document that prevents her husband Joey from marrying “the wrong woman”; her sister and friends must approve of his marriage. Do you agree with Penelope’s actions? Do you think it is fair to Joey to have his future determined by his wife’s sister and her friends?

2. What did Lucy sacrifice in her friendship with Penelope? Did Penelope give Lucy anything in return, either tangible or emotional? Do you agree with Lucy’s decision to repress her feelings for Joey?

3. As the story opens, everyone is worried about Tessa’s weight and her refusal to eat. What are Tessa’s reasons for not eating? What role does food play in Tessa’s feelings about her mother’s death?

4. Siobhan is a woman who has structured her life around discipline and order after growing up in a household where she had none. Is her plan to treat Tessa for anorexia through rules and regulations a result of her sincere desire to help Joey and the girls, or is she hiding an ulterior motive?

5. The four friends in the novel have very different relationships with the men in their lives. Penelope considered Joey “quite the catch,” and seemed to have a flawless marriage. Susannah had nothing in common with her ex-husband except sexual chemistry, which is why they are still sleeping together. Martha believes her husband Sateesh’s many attractive qualities are wasted on her, while Lucy has spent years ignoring her attraction to Joey. How do the way these women relate to their husbands and lovers differ? Do their separate philosophies reflect a deeper understanding of love and marriage?

6. The women in the book all come from families with turbulent relationships. Penelope’s father remarried a much younger woman; Martha’s mother suffers from serious depression; Lucy’s mother always encouraged her daughter’s artistic talent, while Siobhan grappled with her parents’ neglect. How do their childhood experiences manifest themselves in their adult lives?

7. Siobhan reads Penelope’s private files on her computer, unbeknownst to Joey. She immediately comes to the conclusion that Penelope was cheating on Joey. On page 211, she suspects Lucy of possibly harming Joey’s daughters. Do you believe her “soul was brimming with moral courage and not a whiff of spite”—or do you think Siobhan’s actions are motivated by her own desires?

8. Joey confronts Lucy about the note he believes his wife wrote to her many years ago (p. 237). Lucy thinks he’s talking about keeping Tessa’s lunchtime activities a secret from him. How does their relationship cause their misunderstanding in this scene? Are Joey’s conclusions rational, or are they a result of other, unexplored feelings?

9. As Tessa continues to struggle to eat enough food, her sister, June, is falling prey to similar destructive habits. Discuss June’s evolution through the book, as she goes from enjoying her food to locking herself in the bathroom and forcing herself to vomit. What finally pushes June over the edge?

10. The Cameron brothers, Nigel and Peter, are desperate to gain sole control of the Cameron Foundation’s finances. They install Siobhan in Joey’s house to gather information, and then are gleeful when they learn Joey is bringing Penelope’s friends to arbitration regarding Penelope’s will. Why do they think they are assured victory no matter what is decided?

11. Lucy goes into a self-admitted “blind panic” when it comes to money matters. She avoids answering the phone for fear it is bill collectors, and she jeopardizes her house by entering into a shady financial deal. Why is Lucy so bad with money? Do you know people in your own life who act in a similar manner?

12. Discuss Martha’s reasons behind keeping the events in Phoenix a secret from Lucy and Sateesh. Are her actions understandable? How do you think they influenced her relationship with Sateesh and her perceived role in the marriage?

13. After Martha finally confesses to Joey, he runs over to apologize and explain everything to Lucy. However, it doesn’t go as planned and Lucy doesn’t jump into his open arms. Why not? What are Lucy’s reasons for remaining aloof from Joey?

14. Penelope’s love and friendship for Lucy, Martha, and Susannah continues to affect the women even after her death. What sacrifices were made by these four women for each other and how did it affect their friendship? Did those sacrifices necessarily make the friendship stronger?

 Tips to Enhance Your Book Club

1. Martha’s husband, Sateesh, runs a restaurant where he is always experimenting with new recipes to debut. Suggest an Indian potluck for your next meeting so that you can taste the flavors of India while discussing the book. Have everyone research an Indian recipe to create and share. You can find many recipes online at or

2. Lucy’s world revolves around her art, and she uses her paintings as a way to work through her problems. Compare Lucy’s feelings with your own and schedule an art day. Have everyone bring in pictures or books of their favorite artists and paintings and talk about why they like or dislike them. Explore new, modern artists on or

3. Tessa’s struggle with anorexia is one of the emotional centerpieces of the book. Discuss the issues of anorexia and bulimia with your group, and what, if any, experiences you may have had. There are many websites that offer tips for spotting the problems and how to overcome them. Share your thoughts on the issue and on the “pro-anorexia” sites.

About The Author

Photo Credit:

Sheila Curran lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with her husband and children.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria Books (June 16, 2009)
  • Length: 432 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781439100714

Browse Related Books

Raves and Reviews

“Curran is a beautiful writer, both witty and evocative, and she knows how to keep a reader riveted.”
—Joshilyn Jackson, national bestselling author of Gods in Alabama

“The unbreakable bonds between women have found their greatest writer in Sheila Curran.”

“A great novel, with friendship and forgiveness at its heart.”

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images