Somewhere Out There

A Novel

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About The Book

What happens when two sisters who were torn apart when their young mother abandoned them—and grew up in tragically different circumstances—reunite thirty-five years later to find her? For readers who love Jodi Picoult, acclaimed author Amy Hatvany fearlessly explores complex family issues in her gripping, provocative new novel.

Natalie Clark knew never to ask her sensitive adoptive mother questions about her past. She doesn’t even know her birth mother’s name—only that the young woman signed parental rights over to the state when Natalie was a baby. Now Natalie’s own daughter must complete a family tree project for school, and Natalie is determined to unearth the truth about her roots.

Brooke Walker doesn’t have a family. At least, that’s what she tells herself after being separated from her mother and her little sister at age four. Having grown up in a state facility and countless foster homes, Brooke survives the only way she knows how, by relying on herself. So when she discovers she’s pregnant, Brooke faces a heart-wrenching decision: give up her baby or raise the child completely on her own. Scared and confused, she feels lost until a surprise encounter gives her hope for the future.

How do our early experiences—the subtle and the traumatic—define us as adults? How do we build relationships when we’ve been deprived of real connection? Critically acclaimed author Amy Hatvany considers controversial and complicated questions about childhood through the lens of her finely crafted characters in this astute novel about mending wounds by diving into the truth of what first tore us apart.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Somewhere Out There includes 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.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. When Jennifer gives up custody of her children, she is told she is giving them their best chance, and she later comforts herself that she did the right thing for both her girls and herself. In what ways does the book support or refute this idea? Does it ultimately seem that this decision was the best choice for all three women? Why or why not?

2. The novel is told through the alternating perspectives of three characters: Jennifer, Brooke, and Natalie. Jennifer’s is the only one told in the first person. What is the effect of this style of narration? Whose voice did you most identify with? Are there other characters whose points of view you would have liked to see? How might the story look differently through their eyes?

3. Natalie’s parents keep Brooke a secret from Natalie well into her adult life. What were their motivations in withholding this information? Did you feel this decision was justified?

4. Maternal figures play significant roles throughout the novel, including Brooke as an expecting mom. Brooke is terrified she might be a “bad” mother. In your opinion, what makes a good or bad mother, and in which category would you place the various mothers in the novel? Consider Jennifer, Jennifer’s mom, Natalie, Natalie’s adoptive mother, and Brooke’s former roommate Zora. Did reading Somewhere Out There change any of your perceptions of what makes a good mother?

5. If Jennifer had not been chosen for the veterinary antirecidivism program when she was released a second time, she might have been in the same difficult position looking for employment as she was after her first incarceration. If she had taken the job offered by her fellow inmate O’Brien—working for a drug dealer—would you see her character differently? How do you think Brooke or Natalie would have responded when they found her?

6. Natalie observes: “[K]ids seem to be who they’ll grow up to be pretty early in life. . . . Kyle and I have helped teach them how to make good choices between what’s right and what’s wrong, but their personalities have been with them from the get-go.” When Jennifer meets Natalie and Brooke, she is shocked at how easily she recognizes them. To what extent do Brooke’s and Natalie’s personalities seem intrinsic, and how much seems to be a result of their upbringing? To what degree has Jennifer’s personality changed at the end of the novel, when she’s fifty- five, compared to the beginning, when she’s a teenager?

7. Discuss the way Brooke approached decisions related to her pregnancy. Did you agree with her initial instinct to keep Ryan, the father, out of the child’s life? Or her choice to keep the baby? What would you have done in her shoes? What are the considerations—logistical and philosophical—that affect these kinds of decisions, and how do these considerations play out when Brooke and Jennifer face tough choices?

8. Brooke and Natalie have drastically different childhoods, but once reunited, they find common ground in the shared experience of separation from their birth mother. What other similarities between them mark them as sisters? Ultimately, do you think nature trumps nurture, or vice versa?

9. Throughout the novel, various characters note how technology and popular opinions about adoption influence their actions, from their decisions about whether to tell children that they are adopted to the use of the internet to track down family members. How would this story have been different in an earlier time period?

10. The importance of familial support is emphasized throughout the book, whether it comes from a sibling, parent, or spouse. How are the consequences of a lack of familial support depicted within the book? Discuss which relationships in Some- where Out There seem more or less nurturing, and their direct and indirect effects on the characters involved.

Enhance Your Book Club

1.When Jennifer is in prison, she is able to reach a real turning point in her life as a result of an antirecidivism program. Prison book programs are also shown to reduce recidivism. Consider volunteering or donating books as a group to one that serves prisoners in your area, or learn more at prisonbookprogram .org.

2. Consider reading another novel that tackles the issue of adoption, such as Little Beauties by Kim Addonizio, The Mothers by Jennifer Gilmore, or The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers. How is this issue treated differently in those novels com- pared with Somewhere Out There, and how does perspective affect the story being told?

3. For Jennifer, the dogs she works with become not only a way of helping others, but also a source of personal comfort and pride in her ability to take care of something other than her- self. How have animals in your life influenced you? Has a pet ever protected you or helped you get past a difficulty? Discuss as a group. To learn more about service animals, read more at pawswithacause.org.

About The Author

Photograph by Allison Zenner

Amy Hatvany is the author of nine novels, including It Happens All the Time, Somewhere Out There, and A Casual Encounter. She lives in Seattle, Washington with her family.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Washington Square Press (March 1, 2016)
  • Length: 368 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781476704449

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Raves and Reviews

Praise for Somewhere Out There:
"It's no secret that Amy Hatvany is a master of creating compelling, beautiful, flawed characters. This time around, Hatvany has reached new levels of aching honesty and brilliant empathy. A daring, compassionate, and deeply human story, Somewhere Out There is Hatvany at her very best. The women of this book will open your mind, break your heart, and stay with you long after you've turned the last page."

– Taylor Jenkins Reid, Author of Maybe in Another Life

"Gripping and emotionally honest."

– Stephanie Evanovich, New York Times bestselling author

“Hatvany brings readers a riveting, controversial story of how impactful our childhood experiences are in defining us as adults.”

– YourTango

“Hatvany deals with topics a lot of us are too afraid to discuss. This will definitely get conversations going.”

– Redbook

“Adoption and its aftermath can be messy; Hatvany gets that right in this novel, which will delight readers who enjoy stories of love and family complications.”

– Library Journal

Praise for Safe With Me:
“SAFE WITH ME is a stirring portrait of two moms, linked by tragedy, who rescue each other in more ways than one."

– Good Housekeeping

“Hatvany does a marvelous job of not letting the plot get too maudlin or ‘ripped from the headlines,’ and her characters have warmth and depth. Readers will find themselves cheering for these women. A good pick for women’s-fiction fans, particularly those who enjoy the realistic stories of Emily Giffin and Kristina Riggle.”

– Booklist on SAFE WITH ME

"In Amy Hatvany's capable hands, richly drawn characters explore everything that is complex, difficult, powerful and poignant about being a mother, a daughter, a friend. SAFE WITH ME is an extraordinary look behind the curtain into the very private pains of women, and the hope that endures when you survive the unthinkable. It will remind you that the human spirit can triumph over all, and you will wish you could reach directly into these pages and hug the heroines."

– Stacey Ballis, author of Off the Menu

"Amy Hatvany is a strong new voice in contemporary women's fiction. SAFE WITH ME is a compelling, thought-provoking novel about three women learning from each other as they navigate through a terrain filled with both tragedy and opportunity."

– Kristin Hannah, #1 New York Times bestselling author

"Equally heartbreaking and heart-pounding, Amy Hatvany's SAFE WITH ME puts her in the very fine company of Jodi Picoult as an author who takes tender real-life moments and compels the reader to care until the very last page. A book that will stick with you for days."

– Allison Winn Scotch, New York Times bestselling author of The Time of My Life

Praise for Heart Like Mine:
“The novel explores myriad themes sure to appeal to fans of women’s fiction: love and loss, parenthood, grief, friendship, and complex family dynamics. Hatvany’s compassion for each female character is evident throughout, and readers will find their hearts, at times, breaking in three.”

– Booklist

“The voices are so down-to-earth and familiar and the events so much like real life that readers will feel like they know the characters…An uplifting and heartwarming experience.”

– Kirkus Reviews

"By turns gripping and revelatory, Heart Like Mine is a sympathetic exploration of blended family dynamics. In her affecting new novel, Amy Hatvany pulls no punches; her characters grapple with life's big moments—marriage, parenthood, death—but she renders each of them with compassion and understanding. Heart Like Mine tells an honest, hopeful story that resonates in all the best ways."

– Jillian Medoff, bestselling author of I Couldn't Love You More

"Heart Like Mine fearlessly explores men and women desperate to measure up to the rigors of parenthood, but still failing their children. Hatvany bring sympathy and compassion to the page, while never losing sight of the damage children suffer when their parents make bad decisions."

– Randy Susan Meyers, bestselling author of The Murderer's Daughters

"A heartfelt, moving story about the lasting effects of grief amidst family bonds and breakups, and the healing powers of love, honesty, and acceptance. Hatvany writes with such wise compassion for every one of her characters."

– Seré Prince Halverson, author of The Underside of Joy

“A palpable love story, emotional search for and acceptance of a lost parent, and a bittersweet ending make for an enveloping, heartfelt read.”

– Publishers Weekly

"Beautiful and deeply moving, Amy Hatvany writes about the tangled web of family in a way that makes you laugh, cry, cheer and ache. This book has so much heart."

– Sarah Jio, New York Times bestselling author of Blackberry Winter

“There are no storybook perfect endings here, but this compelling novel raises the possibility of a hopeful way forward.”

– The Seattle Times

“Will delight readers…vivid and written with a depth of feeling.”

– Library Journal

“Compelling…a fascinating look at mental illness—the exuberance and self-loathing, creativity and destruction that then reverberate against the lives of family and loved ones.”

– Juliette Fay, Shelter Me

“Like a gorgeous dark jewel, Hatvany’s novel explores the tragedy of a mind gone awry, a tangled bond of father and daughter, and the way hope and love sustain us. It does what the best fiction does: it makes us see and experience the world differently.”

– Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You

“I’m telling everyone about Best Kept Secret. It’s the realistic and ultimately hopeful story of Cadence, whose glass of wine at the end of the day becomes two…then…three…then a bottle. I love that Cadence feels so familiar, she could be my neighbor, my friend, or even my sister.”

– Jennifer Weiner, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“I was transfixed by Cadence and her heart-wrenching dilemma. The writing is visceral, the problems are real, and there are no clear solutions. You won’t want to put it down.”

– Emily Giffin, New York Times bestselling author of Where We Belong

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