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About The Book

Picoult brings to life a female prosecutor whose cherished family is shattered when she learns that her five-year-old son has been sexually abused.

What does it mean to be a good mother?
How far would you go in the name of love—and justice?

In the course of her everyday work, career-driven assistant district attorney Nina Frost prosecutes child molesters and works determinedly to ensure that a legal system with too many loopholes keeps these criminals behind bars. But when her own five-year-old son, Nathaniel, is traumatized by a sexual assault, Nina and her husband, Caleb, a quiet and methodical stone mason, are shattered, ripped apart by an enraging sense of helplessness in the face of a futile justice system that Nina knows all too well. In a heartbeat, Nina's absolute truths and convictions are turned upside down, and she hurtles toward a plan to exact her own justice for her son—no matter the consequence, whatever the sacrifice.

Reading Group Guide

1.      Nina Frost considers her role as a mother is a determinative factor in her decision to murder Father Glen. Consider a minor character – the mother of Father Glen and Father Gwenn. Discuss the implications of a cyclical pattern of revenge based on a maternal instinct.

2.      Who did you first suspect of hurting Nathan? Why? What might your initial suspicion say about the criminal justice system and the severity of Nina’s act?

3.      Nina tells herself that she had to act before the system (of which she was a part) failed her son. But when she suspects her husband, she immediately uses the “system” for a restraining order. Does it meet its function to protect her? Why might she have used the “system” in this case but not in Father Glen’s? If you were on the jury, would it have impacted your decision?

4.      How do you feel about Caleb’s crime? Is he any less culpable than Nina because his victim was not innocent? Was he any more sure of Father Gwenn’s guilt than Nina was of Father Glen's?

5.      How does Nina exploit the criminal justice system because of her inside knowledge?

6.      Compare Nina and Quentin Brown as characters who are both officers of the court, but at times each bent (or broke) the rules for their family. From what you know of Quentin, how might he have acted differently in Nina’s shoes?

7.      What is your opinion on Fisher Carrington? Do you find his role in the story admirable or not?

8.      Nina thinks that “what is immoral is not always wrong.” (p. 249) Do you think Nina is still a good person based on her transgressions (murder, adultery)? Do you think sleeping with Patrick was less wrong relative to murder? How does she justify her actions to herself?

9.      Compare and contrast Nina and Fisher Carrington as lawyers. How does Nina think of herself compared to him before the murder? If you were him, would you have accepted her case?

10.  In states with death penalties, execution is reserved for capital crimes. Do you agree with this after reading about Nina’s murder over child molestation? What are your thoughts on the process of execution as a safeguard to the wrongly convicted?

About The Author

Photograph © Adam Bouska

Jodi Picoult received an AB in creative writing from Princeton and a master’s degree in education from Harvard. The recipient of the 2003 New England Book Award for her entire body of work, she is the author of twenty-seven novels, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers House Rules, Handle With Care, Change of Heart, and My Sister’s Keeper, for which she received the American Library Association’s Margaret Alexander Edwards Award. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and three children. Visit her website at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria Books (May 3, 2002)
  • Length: 363 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780743422802

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Raves and Reviews

USA Today Picoult's characters are so compelling that the reader hopes this won't be the last time we meet.

Denver Post A powerful read....Jodi Picoult again tackles difficult moral and ethical questions.

The Toronto Sun A spellbinding story.

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