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About The Book

Sliding Doors meets P.S. I Love You in this richly told novel from the author of The Sweetness of Forgetting about the struggle to overcome the past when our memories refuse to be forgotten.

After her husband’s sudden death over ten years ago, Kate Waithman never expected to be lucky enough to find another love of her life. But now she’s planning her second walk down the aisle to a perfectly nice man. So why isn’t she more excited?

At first, Kate blames her lack of sleep on stress. But when she starts seeing Patrick, her late husband, in her dreams, she begins to wonder if she’s really ready to move on. Is Patrick trying to tell her something? Attempting to navigate between dreams and reality, Kate must uncover her husband’s hidden message. Her quest leads her to a sign language class and into the New York City foster system, where she finds rewards greater than she could have imagined.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Life Intended includes an introduction, 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.


Kate Waithman thought she would only have one great love—her perfect husband, Patrick. But when Patrick is tragically killed in a car accident, Kate prepares for a life that is forever incomplete. Twelve years later, Kate has built an impressive career as a music therapist and is finally ready to move on with her fiancée, Dan. Soon after their engagement, however, Kate starts to have startlingly vivid dreams about the life she would have had if Patrick survived. Even more troubling, some of the details in these dreams begin to translate to real life. There is only one piece of the puzzle that doesn’t fit: a daughter, Hannah, a prodigious piano player who is hard of hearing.

As Kate struggles to decipher her dreams, she finds herself wondering if her dream life is better than her reality. When she enrolls in a sign language class, she finds herself drifting farther away from Dan and closer to her charming instructor, Andrew. Finally, Kate realizes that she needs to make an impossible choice: cling to a lost past, or embrace a new future. The Life Intended is a captivating novel about the struggle to let go when our memories refuse to be forgotten.  

Topics & Questions for Discussion 

1. Before his death, Kate and Patrick share a special phrase, “I knew before I met you . . . that I was meant to be yours.” How do you think this theme continues to echo throughout the novel as Kate struggles to understand her destiny?
2. Discuss how karma figures into Kate’s story. Patrick superstitiously collects silver coins and then returns them to the universe when experiencing a stroke of good fortune. How do Kate’s feelings about this habit change? What does it mean when she finally relinquishes Patrick’s last coin?
3. When Dan proposes, Kate is besieged by memories of Patrick that are still fresh even twelve years after his death. Discuss how familiar relationship milestones can trigger the emotion of past loves. Do you sympathize with Kate in this moment? Or should she focus on moving on?
4. As Kate is swept into the past, she must also contend with a certainty about her future—her infertility. Discuss her regret upon realizing that she can’t ever get pregnant. How does she react to Dan’s complete indifference to this news?
5. When Kate wakes up to a dream version of Patrick, she is confronted by a world that is strangely familiar yet full of differences from the life she knew with him. She meets Hannah, a hard of hearing girl who can’t possibly be her biological daughter; finds that her sister, Susan, has a happy life in San Diego; and realizes that she no longer works with children. What kind of trade-offs have occurred in a world where Patrick is still alive?
6. Kate relies heavily on Gina, a friend who also lost her first husband, for emotional support. Are Kate and Gina alike in the way they handle grief? How are they different?
7. As both a music therapist and a volunteer for St. Anne’s, Kate consistently witnesses the healing effects that music can have on struggling children. But not all of her students are easy to reach. Who do you think is the toughest shell to crack, and why? How does Kate earn their trust?
8. As Kate’s dreams become more frequent, her experiences with Andrew are connecting her in new ways to the “real world.” Why do you think she is so drawn to him? What about their pasts bring them together now?
9. On the day she goes wedding dress shopping, Kate is haunted by the lace gown she wore when she first walked down the aisle. She’s also certain that she sees her dream daughter, Hannah, pass by on the street. Discuss the fine line between being stuck in the past and letting that past inform your future. What is Kate’s gut trying to tell her here?
10. When Dan says his friend Stephen has accidentally gotten a girl pregnant, Kate feels very conflicted. Discuss this moment in the novel and how it relates to her confession to Joan about wanting to be a mother. How does this moment influence Kate’s decision to call off her wedding to Dan?
11. Kate tells Dan that “sometimes the greatest things in life come from the greatest challenges.” (pg. 134) What do you think Kate’s greatest challenge was at the beginning of the novel? What do you think it is by the end?
12. During her dreams, Kate realizes that while some parts of her life are drastically different, her essential characteristics and tastes remain the same. How much do you think a person can change over their lifetime? And which aspects of an individual personality are more likely to stay constant?
13. Kate’s mother reminds her that if she is not careful, “regret will grow in spaces you don't even know are there." (pg. 165) What do you think she means by this? Do you think Kate finds a way to take her advice?
14. Although Kate does not end up adopting Allie, she is cleared as a foster parent and finds her way to Patrick’s lost daughter. She also realizes that Andrew might never have made such an impact at St. Anne’s if he hadn’t lost his brother at a young age. While the novel doesn’t necessarily imply that life is fair, it does suggest that there is a balance and order to things. Do you agree with this outlook? Why or why not?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. In her dream world, Kate and Hannah like starting the day by making their favorite blueberry and peanut butter pancakes. Grab some fresh blueberries and start your book club by coming up with your own special recipe for this delicious dish.
2. During her music sessions at St. Anne’s, Kate asks Allie to come up with her own lyrics to a favorite song. Share your favorite song with the book club and discuss how you would adjust the lyrics to describe your life. After she finished writing the novel, Kristin Harmel was inspired to write the lyrics to a song called “The Life Intended.” Listen to it and find out more here: (Also available on iTunes.) How do you think the lyrics of the song relate to the novel?
3. In honor of Allie and Hannah, listen to Beethoven’s The Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op.111, which he wrote while deaf. Discuss what you hear and how it changes your definition of music.
4. Patrick’s family has a tradition of “paying forward” good luck with silver dollars. How do you “pay it forward” in your own life? Discuss a family tradition you have, or start one of your own!

About The Author

Photograph by Phil Art Studio, Reims, France

Kristin Harmel is the New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen novels including The Forest of Vanishing StarsThe Book of Lost NamesThe Room on Rue Amélie, and The Sweetness of Forgetting. She is published in more than thirty languages and is the cofounder and cohost of the popular web series, Friends & Fiction. She lives in Orlando, Florida.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Gallery Books (December 30, 2014)
  • Length: 368 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781476754178

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Raves and Reviews

“ An absorbing read…well-paced and warmhearted.”

– Kirkus Reviews

"The latest from an affecting tale about finding happiness amid grief and guilt. Some twists are telegraphed early in the novel, but that doesn’t diminish the satisfying conclusion."

– Booklist

"Harmel manages to deliver an immersive and evocative tale of generations struggling to survive. Recipes sprinkled throughout the book allow readers to experience firsthand the sweetness of Hope's journey."


"THE SWEETNESS OF FORGETTING is absolutely enthralling and full of twists and turns that add to the drama and keeps the tale moving along. Author Kristin Harmel does a magnificent job of telling this saga of one family's search for understanding. She also handles her approach to Alzheimer's disease with gentleness and understanding. Readers will remember THE SWEETNESS OF FORGETTING long after the final page is turned."

– Fresh Fiction

"Kristin Harmel's novels are written with a lot of heart and soul. She has a way of bringing the reader into her stories in such a powerful way that they can often forget they're reading at all. The Sweetness of Forgetting may just be Harmel's best book yet."

– Lisa Steinke, SheKnows Book Lounge

"The kind of book that stays with you … Incredibly moving moments serve as beautiful relief [to the darker subplot]. The ending will no doubt bring tears to your eyes."


“Kristin Harmel writes with such insight and heart that her characters will stay with you long after you’ve finished her books.”
New York Times bestselling author Emily Giffin

“Kristin Harmel...[is] one of my favorite authors!”
–Melissa Senate, bestselling author of The Love Goddess’ Cooking School

"The Sweetness of Forgetting pulls together in the end like a warm embrace"

– The Modern Manuscript on THE SWEETNESS OF FORGETTING

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