This reading group guide includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Rowan Coleman. 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.Introduction
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When a spur-of-the-moment romantic weekend has unexpected consequences, successful lingerie designer Natalie Curzon believes she is ready to tackle motherhood singlehandedly. But is any woman ever truly ready to cope with such an enormous life change? While she loves her baby, Freddie, Natalie finds it difficult to be home alone all day with him and her post-pregnancy hormones.
During a rehaul of her house’s electrical system, Natalie meets Tiffany, the teenage girlfriend of one of the electricians, who also has just become a mother. They start a baby group and suddenly parenthood is no longer a solitary experience. When Natalie’s estranged mother comes for a visit and Freddie’s father unexpectedly reappears, Natalie realizes she has to make some major decisions, not just for herself, but for her baby as well. Questions for Discussion
1. Mommy By Mistake
opens with Natalie skipping an important business meeting in order to have lunch with an attractive stranger, which leads to dinner and a weekend with him in Venice. What is your first impression of Natalie Curzon? Discuss whether you would have accepted the same invitations from a man you had just met.
2. What did you initially think of Jack Newhouse when you learned he didn’t call Natalie after their romantic weekend in Venice? Did your estimation of Jack change later in the story when he explained why he didn’t call her? (See pages 214–219.) Did it change again with his reaction to the news that Natalie gave birth to his son? (See page 221.)
3. Why does Natalie lie to the electrician Gary Fisher about having a husband who works in Dubai? Why does she perpetuate this lie with the parents in the baby group? Are her reasons for making up a husband as simple as she rationalizes to herself ? (See pages 38–39.)
4. One of the strongest friendships that develops in the novel is the one between thirty-six-year-old successful businesswoman Natalie and sixteen-year-old high school drop-out Tiffany. Why do you think these two very different females become friends? How do they complement each other?
5. Discuss why Natalie is reluctant to contact Jack, the father of her baby, when she is given his phone number. What would you do if you were in Natalie’s position?
6. What is your impression of Sandy, Natalie’s mother? How do you think Sandy’s style of parenting influences Natalie’s behavior toward her son? How are Natalie and Sandy alike? How are they different? How is Natalie’s experience as a single parent different from that of her mother in the 1970s–1980s?
7. Were you surprised when thirty-six-year-old Natalie told herself “I might not feel like a grown-up but I have to act like one”? (See page 129.) Which of Natalie’s actions indicate that she doesn’t feel like a grown-up? In which situations does her mature behavior belie her estimation of herself?
8. Which female character in the novel do you identify with most strongly? Which female character’s lifestyle appeals to you most?
9. Discuss Meg’s reaction to the text her husband Robert receives in the middle of the night. Did you initially think Meg’s reaction to it was reasonable? Warm-hearted, family-loving Meg faces a major life decision at the end of the novel. How do you think her four children might influence her decision?
10. Do you think that Natalie and Jack are in love with each other? Do you think they will get married? How do you envision their life together? Natalie is attracted to two different men during the course of the novel, Jack and Gary. Which man do you think would make a better husband for Natalie? How about for you? What would Natalie’s life be like if she married Gary? A Conversation with Rowan Coleman 1. Natalie Curzon is a vibrant, unpredictable heroine. Why were you drawn to writing a novel about such an impulsive woman?
I have often written about women who hesitate to grab on to life and make the most of it, like Catherine in Another Mother’s Life
or Sophie in The Accidental Mother.
I thought it would be fun to have a heroine who came from the opposite extreme—and it was. I had a great time creating Natalie. 2. Have you ever belonged to a baby group?
Not a formal one. Like Natalie I wasn’t keen on the idea of a structured group of women thrown together with nothing in common but a baby—but I did develop a group of friends through my little girl who became a crucial support network. 3. Did becoming a mother change the way you write?
It’s hard to say really. I’ve only written one book before my daughter was born and I was pregnant throughout writing it. It is true that motherhood and how it defines and influences both your own life and those of your children is a constant source of inspiration and interest to me, and that is evident in my books. 4. You write from a number of different perspectives in Mommy By Mistake. Was there a character you particularly identified with or enjoyed voicing?
I thought that I would love Natalie the most and the other supporting characters would be great to write but not be so exciting. I was wrong. All of the characters became my friends and I enjoyed them all—my very own imaginary baby group! 5. You depict a complex and difficult mother/daughter relationship in Mommy By Mistake. How do you manage to inject such emotional realism and poignancy into your writing?
I think that mother/daughter relationships are so fascinating—so fiercely loyal and loving and yet so potentially destructive and painful. I put a little of my own experience into this book, but I also talked to a lot of other mothers and daughters to create that story line. 6. How do the themes in Mommy By Mistake relate to those you addressed in your earlier novels Another Mother’s Life and The Accidental Mother?
Modern motherhood is a difficult path to follow. The role is much less clearly defined than it used to be half a century ago. In all three of these books I’m exploring what it’s like to be a mother in the twenty-first century and how to reconcile the demands of being a single, teen, or adoptive mother with the common goal—which is to do the best for your children. 7. Have you finished writing the sequel to The Accidental Mother, which became a bestseller in the United States and the United Kingdom? When can readers expect a new Sophie Mills novel?
Just this afternoon I have dotted the last “i” and crossed the final “t” on the new Sophie Mills book The Accidental Family.
It was wonderful to be back with Sophie and Louis and the girls again and to find out what happens next in their lives—you’ll have to read it if you want to find out what happens!