“Writing with rawness and realism, Pekkanen doesn’t hold back…Fans of Liane Moriarty and Anne Tyler will appreciate the story’s depth." —Booklist
“In her signature conversational style, Pekkanen uncovers the truth behind the lies as Josie comes to grips with reality vs. the mirage of her marriage.” —Library Journal (starred review)
In this intricate and enthralling domestic drama, perfect for fans of Big Little Lies and The Affair, the internationally bestselling author of the “gossipy page-turner” (Glamour) The Perfect Neighbors goes deep into a marriage in crisis, peeling back layers of secrets to discover where the relationship veered off course—and whether it is worth saving.
Josie and Frank Moore are happy…at least Josie thinks they are. As parents of two young girls in the Chicago suburbs, their days can be both busy and monotonous, and sometimes Josie wonders how she became a harried fortysomething mother rather than the driven career woman she once was. But Frank is a phenomenal father, he’s handsome and charismatic, and he still looks at his wife like she’s the beautiful woman he married more than a decade ago. Josie isn’t just happy—she’s lucky.
Until one Saturday morning when Josie borrows her husband’s phone to make a quick call—and sees nine words that shatter her world.
Now Josie feels as if she is standing at the edge of a sharp precipice. As she looks back at pivotal moments in the relationship she believed would last forever, she is also plunging ahead, surprising everyone (especially herself) with how far she will go to uncover the extent of her husband’s devastating secret.
With her “conversational writing style and a knack for making readers care about her characters” (The Washington Post) bestselling author Sarah Pekkanen paints a vivid, kaleidoscopic portrait of a marriage before and during a crisis—and of a woman who fears that the biggest secret of all may be the one she’s hiding from herself.
This reading group guide for The Ever After 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 and Questions for Discussion
1. Josie quickly taps into latent detective abilities in order to discover the full extent of her husband’s deception. If you realized a romantic partner had lied to you, would you also try to find out everything that had happened? How difficult do you think it would be to track down all the information you’d want?
2. When Karin confesses her own infidelity to Josie, she says, “It became an affair the moment I answered his text. The moment we created a secret” (p. 99). Do you agree? If so, would you feel differently if it had never escalated to physical contact? What do you think constitutes an affair?
3. How did your opinion of Frank change over the course of the book? Were you able to sympathize with him?
4. When confronted about his emails with Dana, Frank initially says it was “just flirting,” which he amends to “only kissing” (pp. 8–9) when pressed on the issue. How important do you feel the specific physical acts that transpired are, as opposed to the betrayal of trust and acts of deception? Why does Frank think it will be less upsetting if he minimizes how far he went with Dana? Do you think it would be more or less hurtful to Josie if Frank had slept with Dana, but only seen her on one occasion?
5. In the wake of Frank’s affair, Josie’s instinct is to “make him feel the same sort of agony” (p. 52) that she is experiencing. At times, she expresses the desire to physically hurt him, or to have her own affair simply to even the score. Given the circumstances, was she justified in wanting revenge? In what situations is it okay to wish someone else pain, or to make petty choices?
6. In chapter twenty-one, Josie recalls the memory of when she first realized her parents hid things from her and lied. In the same moment, she experiences a shift in her own relationship to honest communication, recalling how “she’d joined in their game of pretend. She had become a faker, too” (p. 193). What is the significance of this memory for Josie, and how does it relate to her present-day life?
7. Josie asserts that she may be able to reconcile with Frank, on the condition that she could “make sure that this was the only time” (p.217) he had an affair. At the end of the book, do you feel confident that Frank’s affair with Dana was his first and only time cheating on Josie? Why or why not?
8. Amanda theorizes that Frank may have—subconsciously—gotten caught on purpose. Do you believe this was the case? If so, do you think it was because he wanted to confess but didn’t know how, as Amanda reasons, or did he have another motivation for sabotaging himself?
9. Josie insists that she doesn’t want to fall back into her marriage because “she didn’t know how to be without Frank, or out of guilt because of the children” (p. 177). Nevertheless, throughout the novel it is evident that their daughters, Zoe and Izzy, are one of Josie’s primary considerations in choosing whether to give Frank a second chance. Do you think staying in a marriage just to protect the children is ever a good idea? Why or why not?
10. Josie is ultimately convinced that Frank never had feelings for Dana. If he had cared for Dana, would that change how you understand what he did? If so, in what ways?
11. Through therapy, Frank and Josie both uncover the impact their childhoods and relationships with their families had on their own attitudes and communication styles. Do you think their separation will have a lasting impact on Izzy and Zoe, and if so—what will that impact be?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Although Dana is a key character in The Ever After, we see only the briefest glimpse of her and her husband, Ron, and never in person. Yet they are dealing with parallel circumstances to Josie and Frank. Write a scene from the perspective of Dana or Ron. In what ways might their experience be distinct from what we saw Josie go through? Has Dana cheated before? Has Ron? What does their marriage look like? Does Ron truly believe the version of events that Dana tells him? How does Dana feel about her affair with Frank? Consider these or any other questions about their side of the story as you write, and share your piece with your reading group.
2. As a result of the variety of definitions of infidelity, it can be challenging for researchers to study or get a sense of how pervasive it is. Nevertheless, it remains a subject many psychologists and sociologists are compelled to learn more about. Take a look online at some articles on the subject from recent years, such as www.businessinsider.com/science-of-cheating-2017-8. Did any findings surprise you? Discuss with your group.
3. Consider reading one of Sarah Pekkanen’s other novels, such as The Perfect Neighbors, Things You Won’t Say, Skipping a Beat, or her cowritten novel, The Wife Between Us, for your group’s next meeting. You can also connect with Sarah Pekkanen on Facebook and Twitter, and learn more about Sarah’s books or invite her to Skype your book club by visiting www.sarahpekkanen.com.
Sarah Pekkanen is the bestselling author of The Ever After, The Opposite of Me, Skipping a Beat, These Girls, The Best of Us, Catching Air, Things You Won’t Say, and The Perfect Neighbors. Her work has been published in People, The Washington Post, and USA TODAY, among other publications. She lives with her family in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
“In her signature conversational style, Pekkanen uncovers the truth behind the lies as Josie comes to grips with reality vs. the mirage of her marriage. A weighty, emotional read with the author's trademark relatable, realistic characters. Pekkanen fans will clamor for this one.”
– Library Journal (starred review)
"Pekkanen lets readers experience the full emotional scope of Josie’s devastation, from the tumultuous discovery of infidelity, to the rehashing of small memories given new weight, to the shaky attempts to rebuild and repair. Writing with rawness and realism, Pekkanen doesn’t hold back from showing Josie’s answer, confusion, and hurt. Fans of Liane Moriarty, Anne Tyler, and Pekkanen’s previous books will appreciate the story’s depth."
"Pekkanen excels at capturing the intimate details of family life and the insidiousness of domestic ennui."
– Publishers Weekly
“A genuine and raw look into the aftermath of what happens to one family after it’s shaken by an affair… The Ever After pulls at the heart and reveals the characters’ inner layers of emotion in a way that captivates.”
– RT Magazine
"A compelling domestic drama that will take you on a serious ride.”