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About The Book

A Goodreads Most Anticipated Romance

A heartwarming novel about hope after loss as a young widow receives mysterious messages of love from the “must-buy author” (Jodi Picoult) of Eight Perfect Hours.

Sparkly and charming Natalie Fincher has it all—a handsome new husband, a fixer-upper cottage of her dreams, and the opportunity to tour with the musical she’s spent years writing. But when her husband suddenly dies, all her hopes and dreams instantly disappear.

Two and a half years later, Natalie is still lost. She works, sleeps (well, as much as the sexually frustrated village foxes will allow), and sees friends just often enough to allay their worries, but her life is empty. And she can only bring herself to play music at a London train station’s public piano where she can be anonymous. She’s lost motivation, faith in love, in happiness…in everything.

But when someone begins to mysteriously leave the sheet music for her husband’s favorite songs at the station’s piano, Natalie begins to feel a sense of hope and excitement for the first time. As she investigates just who could be doing this, Natalie finds herself on an unexpected journey toward newfound love for herself, for life, and maybe, for a special someone.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Key to My Heart includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Lia Louis. 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

A heartwarming novel about hope after loss as a young widow receives mysterious messages of love from the “must-buy author” (Jodi Picoult) of Eight Perfect Hours.

Sparkly and charming Natalie Fincher has it all—a handsome new husband, a fixer-upper cottage of her dreams, and the opportunity to tour with the musical she’s spent years writing. But when her husband suddenly dies, all her hopes and dreams instantly disappear.

Two and a half years later, Natalie is still lost. She works, sleeps (well, as much as the sexually frustrated village foxes will allow), and sees friends just often enough to allay their worries, but her life is empty. And she can only bring herself to play music at a London train station’s public piano where she can be anonymous. She’s lost motivation, faith in love, in happiness . . . in everything.

But when someone begins to mysteriously leave the sheet music for her husband’s favorite songs at the station’s piano, Natalie begins to feel a sense of hope and excitement for the first time. As she investigates just who could be doing this, Natalie finds herself on an unexpected journey toward newfound love for herself, for life, and maybe, for a special someone.

Topics & Questions for Discussion (12-15 Discussion Questions)

1. Describe the characters of Natalie and Tom. Which of their qualities make them a good match for each other? Were you rooting for them as a couple, or for Natalie and Joe? Why?

2. In chapter five, Natalie explains that she enjoys spending time at Russ’ gravesite, saying, “I don’t think people understand me when I say I like to go there” (p. 44). As you get to know Natalie better over the course of the novel, do you come to understand why she likes to spend time there? What insight does that give you into her character?

3. When Natalie tells Joe her fears, she mentions how so many quotes about grief are about moving on and starting a new life, but “I just want to say: I liked my old one actually. Because I was really happy there, so what do you say to that?” (p. 196). How do you think you would respond to Natalie?

4. When Tom and Natalie go tile shopping, Natalie is stopped short by the feeling of “possibility” happening in her life again. Why is possibility important to Natalie at this point in the story?

5. Tom asks Natalie to explain to him what she’s scared of, and Natalie replies, “Everything. Of never feeling like myself again. Or feeling too much like myself again. Scared of moving. Of not. Of talking about him. Of not talking about him” (p. 162). Have you ever felt like Natalie? Do you relate to her feeling scared of both changing and not changing?

6. If someone were to leave you pieces of music, what songs would they be and why?

7. Shauna advises Natalie to be up front with what she wants from other people, as nobody can read minds. What do you think of Shauna’s advice? Where in Natalie’s life does she need to be more direct with what she wants from her relationships, and where does she need to listen more to what other people are telling her?

8. Do you think Natalie’s reaction to Joe’s revelation was fair? Would you have reacted similarly? Why or why not?

9. Do you think Roxane’s assessment of Natalie thinking of her friends as her enemies has any truth to it? How might Natalie start repairing some of her friendships?

10. What qualities of Natalie’s will make her a good teacher and music therapist?

11. If you were Natalie, do you think you would sell the cottage? Do you think Natalie could have moved forward in her life without selling the home she shared with Russ?

Enhance Your Book Club (3-5 Enhance Your Book Club Suggestions)

1. Pay homage to Russ and go to a garage or yard sale as a group, and pick out some pieces that you think have some history. Share your finds with your book club and why you found them special.

2. As a group, share the songs you chose for question 6, then put them on a playlist and have a listening party. Consider paying homage to Tom and Natalie’s first encounter by serving chips and guacamole.

3. Read one of Lia Louis’s other novels, including DEAR EMMIE BLUE and EIGHT PERFECT HOURS. Compare the themes and characters in the two novels. What does Lia seem to be interested in exploring in her stories?

A Conversation with Lia Louis (10 – 12 Questions)

Q: Why did you decide you wanted your main character to be a widow? What did you want to explore by having Natalie be grieving for Russ?

A: I wanted to explore what happens when the everyday, comfortable routine of your life is taken away and how you move forward when it’s something you would have never chosen for yourself. What do you do with all the plans you had? What do you do with the anger, the feeling of injustice, the fear? This was something I was really thinking in 2020 and 2021, when a lot of us were put into “lockdown” because of the pandemic and lost so many of the things (and some of us, sadly, people) that made up our everyday world. There was a lot of loss during that time, and there was nothing we could do about it. It’s easy to forget who you are when faced with loss, I think, and it’s the little things that prevail during those times. And in Natalie’s case, it was music.

Q: How did you choose what songs would be meaningful to Natalie? Are any of them songs that have meaning for you?

A: Mostly, especially toward the end, they were songs that matched up to things that occurred in the book. It was more about the titles and how they could be little hints (without I hope, being obvious) when it came to music left by Tom. I think music can say so much, even better than words can, whether it’s a melody, a minor chord, a mood . . . all of those things can paint an emotion so perfectly. Also, nothing can solidify a memory in time more than a song. They might not always be perfectly, movie-style appropriate (this is why I used “Nervous Alibi” as an example!) but if a song plays at an important moment in your life, for instance, it sort of attaches itself to that moment. I think we can all recall a song that conjures a memory, and the nostalgia is so strong, it can blindside you. In a good way (and also bad!) I had a great time choosing them.

Q: There are so many fantastic secondary characters in THE KEY TO MY HEART—who was your favorite to write and why?

A: Ooh, I can’t choose! I loved writing Shauna, and if I was totally pressed and forced to choose one (ha-ha) I’d go with lovely, lovely Shauna. Equally, though, I loved writing Priya and Jodie! They came to life so easily as I wrote them, and as a writer, those characters are always the joy to write.

Q: What was it like writing a love triangle of sorts? Did you always know Natalie would end up with Tom?

A: Not always! When I first wrote the synopsis, Tom was going to be nothing more than a friend, and them not being attracted to each other, a (true) joke between them. But when I got to the end, it felt weird having her end up with someone else. It jarred. My agent then read it and without me saying a word, she also said “Ah, I was thinking she’d end up with Tom!” and I thought, “that settles it then. Tom it is.” Sometimes, no matter how much you plan, a book just pushes to go a certain way, and you have to obey it. Natalie and Tom belonged together and those characters sort of forced me to make it so! They knew what they wanted . . .

Q: Have you followed your character’s advice to be brave by thinking about how the ninety-eight-year-old version of you would forge ahead? What about this piece of wisdom did you like as a means of conquering fears?

A: Yes! My brother and I often say, “will this matter to us on our death beds?” which I think is sort of similar, because no, that small work complaint won’t matter so don’t sweat it, and yes, missing this important date for my best friend or my kids will matter to me, so I’m going to make sure I do it. I often check in with Old Lady Lia, too, when I’m anxious or worried about not making the right decision. She’s like my inner wise self, and she always seems to know the answer. (And mostly that answer is, fuck it and go for it, so she’s a bit of a badass and perhaps a little reckless too, ha-ha.)

Q: THE KEY TO MY HEART feels like a classic rom-com; are there any rom-coms—books, film, or TV—that inspired you when you wrote it?

A: What a compliment! I am obsessed with classic rom-coms. When Harry Met Sally, Notting Hill, Jerry McGuire, ugh, I could (and do!) watch them over and over, so I think I’m always inspired by these kinds of movies. I was definitely thinking of the cottage in The Holiday when I wrote Natalie’s house though!

Q: On a related note, if you were to cast a film adaptation of THE KEY TO MY HEART, who would star in it?

A: I feel like Andrew Scott or Tom Riley would make AMAZING Tom Maddens. Even someone like Matthew Goode would be great! In general though, I feel like I won’t rest until Nicola Coughlan and Sebastian Stan are given rom-com leads. They are just perfect rom-com actors in my opinion.

Q: Natalie’s friendships are very important to her, but she also struggles to be open and honest with her friends. When did you decide you wanted to have Roxanne call her out on her lack of trust in these friendships? What interested you in exploring the complicated bonds between Natalie and her friends?

A: It was weirdly one of those scenes that just happened, but it made perfect sense. Friendships morph and evolve all the time as we morph and evolve, and that can be really scary, because as humans, we’re afraid of change. But it’s natural. Normal. Although sometimes we feel we have to force it to stay the same. I think this scene is that. Natalie has to accept she isn’t who she used to be before she lost her husband, and therefore, neither are her friendships, and her friends have to accept that too. It doesn’t mean they can’t be friends anymore or have to shut each other out (or force themselves back “in”). But it means perhaps they need to move with the natural evolution. I think this scene is also a big shout-out from them both to be vulnerable. Talk. Listen. Be honest. Support. And ask for help too.

Q: Are you musical? Did you do any research to bring the musical elements to life?

A: I love music. My dad was in bands growing up, and it was a big part of my childhood. I also had the pleasure of talking to some musicians, which was fascinating and so inspiring. I owe them a lot. A musical brain is a fascinating and beautiful thing to get a window into.

Q: There are both big and small romantic gestures throughout Natalie and Tom’s relationship. Which did you find the swooniest and sweetest to write?

A: I love the tube station scene, where Tom chases Natalie (to call her a dickhead, ha-ha, but it’s still romantic to me!) And oh my god, the ending! The ending when Natalie finds out all the photos of people watching her play. I loved every moment of writing that part.

Q: Can you share anything about your next novel?

A: I can! And if I can say this, my next book is my favorite thing I have ever written. It’s about a woman who wakes up one day to find all her email drafts sent (including one to the only man she’s ever loved) and I am having the most fun time writing it!

About The Author

Photograph by Patrick Harboun

Lia Louis lives in the United Kingdom with her partner and three young children. Before raising a family, she worked as a freelance copywriter and proofreader. She was the 2015 winner of Elle magazine’s annual writing competition and has been a contributor for Bloomsbury’s Writers and Artists blog for aspiring writers. She is the author of Somewhere Close to HappyDear Emmie Blue, Eight Perfect HoursThe Key to My Heart, and Better Left Unsent.

About The Reader

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (December 6, 2022)
  • Runtime: 10 hours and 16 minutes
  • ISBN13: 9781797148670

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Raves and Reviews

"Narrator Victoria Fox’s heartfelt delivery and beautiful voice complement this story about finding hope and an identity after tragedy. Natalie's husband died more than two years ago, and she wanders around her creaky cottage struggling through each day. She used to perform for large audiences and have a full life. Now, she only plays for strangers on a public piano at a London train station. When someone starts to leave sheet music for songs with a deep connection to Natalie, she feels excited once more. In her quest to solve the mystery, she develops new friendships and reconnects with loved ones. Fox’s Irish and British accents are fantastic, and she employs fake crying hilariously. Forced, bright tones are used to perfection."

– AudioFile Magazine

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