This reading group guide for The Perfect Stranger 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. Introduction
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After a controversial journalistic decision compromises her reputation, relationship, and career, Leah Stevens leaves her life in Boston behind and moves to Pennsylvania with an old roommate, Emmy Grey. Eager to start fresh, she abandons her reporting work and gets a job teaching at a local school, but trouble soon follows when mysterious emails begin to arrive; a young woman who resembles her is found mortally injured nearby; and Emmy disappears without a trace. As the investigation picks up—along with a fiery relationship with the case’s lead investigator—Leah falls under suspicion when it becomes doubtful that Emmy Grey ever existed at all. To prove her innocence and reveal the truth that will set her free, Leah must revisit her past and all she had hoped to escape in order to determine how well she really knows herself and those around her. Fast-paced and haunting, The Perfect Stranger
barrels forward with explosive momentum, keeping readers on the edge of their seats until the story reaches its shocking conclusion. Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Evaluate the opening of the book. How does the author use the Prologue to set up the story, foreshadow, and create an immediate sense of suspense? How do elements of the setting contribute to an air of uncertainty and unease? What themes or motifs are introduced in this section?
2. Who narrates the story and why do you think the author chose this narrator particularly? How did the choice of narrator influence or shape your reaction to the story? Would you say that the narrator is a reliable narrator? Why or why not? How did your assessment of the narrator change as the story progressed, and what caused these changes?
3. Why did Leah decide to leave Boston? What was her controversial article about, and why was it considered problematic? What rule or rules of journalism was Leah accused of breaking?
4. In Chapter 7, Leah says: “I had long believed that life was not linear but cyclical. It was the way news stories worked, and history” (page 57). What does she mean by this? Do you agree with her? Why or why not?
5. Consider the theme of trust—or mistrust. Would you say that the characters in the novel are very trusting of one another or very mistrustful? What does trust seem to be built upon? Alternatively, what erodes the characters’ trust in one another? What does the novel ultimately seem to suggest about trust?
6. Mitch believes that the local crime is due to the population doubling in size and the presence of outsiders, but what does the book suggest is more threatening—the unfamiliar or the familiar? Discuss.
7. What does Leah say is “the desire of all mankind” when it comes to stories? What, in her opinion, do people demand, and how does this influence the judgments and assessments people make when faced with a mystery or the unknown? Where do we find examples of this in the text?
8. Explore the theme of truth. Does the book ultimately indicate how one can discern what is true and what is not? Leah believes that truth always rises to the surface like bubbles in a pot of boiling water. Do you agree with her? Explain.
9. Leah believes that she has relocated to a place filled with people who share at least one thing in common with her. What does she believe is the commonality? What same commonality do Leah and Kyle share?
10. Do readers ever learn who the unnamed source was in Leah’s article? Why did Leah protect their identity? In the final confrontation of the novel, why does Leah go on her own even though it endangers her? Who does Leah believe she owed it to?
11. Leah’s mother believes that her daughter uses her talents to give a voice to the voiceless. Discuss the concept of the anonymous or voiceless victim that recurs throughout the novel. Who are these victims, and what do they share in common? Why, for instance, does Leah believe that no one will pay attention to the ultimate fate of Bethany? How did Leah believe people would react if something happened to her or any other person staying at a motel?
12. At the start of the story Leah believed that fate had brought her and Emmy back together after several years apart, but as the story progresses Leah’s point of view shifts and she says: “Things come back around because we go looking for them. That’s why they seem to pop back up over and over, like fate” (page 302). Does the novel ultimately support or refute the idea of fate? Discuss. Enhance Your Book Club
1. Consider how the book treats the subject of the relationship between suspicion and false assumptions. What is a false assumption or assessment that you have made about someone else in your own life and what led you to make it? How did you come to realize that your assumption was wrong, and what did this teach you about judgment?
2. Compare The Perfect Stranger
to another psychological thriller such as Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl
or Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train
. How do the authors build suspense throughout the story? How do the stories meet or defy your expectations as a reader? Discuss what the books have in common including any shared themes.
3. Visit Megan Miranda’s website at www.meganmiranda.com
to learn more about her and her other works, including All the Missing Girls
, The Safest Lies
, and Soulprint.