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What She Wants

About The Book

Ireland’s #1 bestselling author Cathy Kelly weaves a heartwarming tale about a group of friends who discover that when life gets comfortable, unexpected surprises are just around the corner.

Do you know what you’ll be doing next year? Three friends—Hope, Sam, and Virginia—all thought they did. Hope would still be slogging it out as a working mom, snatching quality time with husband Marc and her two small children. Her sister Sam was going to be the acclaimed boss of a record label, turning heads as the toughest, most brilliant music mogul around. Virginia would be planning her dream retirement home with her beloved husband Bill and doting on their little granddaughter. But destiny had other plans for them.

Suddenly everything drastically changes for each of the three women, and they have to look deep within themselves to find out what they really want from life. And in surviving the turmoil ahead, they will discover that a loving family and good friends make all the difference....

Reading Group Guide

What She Wants 
Cathy Kelly


Hope is a doting mother of two toddlers and is married to a handsome man she adores but is afraid of losing.  Her ambitious and prickly sister Sam has just landed her dream job as managing director of a hip London-based record company and her love life is suffering as a result.  Virginia, an elegant widow, doesn’t believe she’ll ever get over the loss of her beloved husband.  Beautiful and talented Nicole dreams of becoming a pop star but must take care of her mother and little sister.

One short year will change the lives of these women forever, as each learns she is stronger than she ever imagined.  Set in both a beautiful Irish village and the glamorous London working world, What She Wants is a story of dynamic women facing life’s biggest challenges, achieving seemingly impossible dreams, and forming lifelong friendships.  

Questions and Topics for Discussion

  1. There are four main protagonists in this novel—Hope, Sam, Nicole, and Virginia.  Did you identify most with any of the four?  Which character did you like best?  Whose story did you find most intriguing?  Most realistic?  Which character did you like least?
  2. Who are the important minor characters in the book?  Which ones were you most interested in?  Who was your least favorite?
  3. “Virginia thought that if Mary-Kate had one thing written all over her it was that she was both shrewd and funny.  Her grey eyes glittered with fun and if her dress, undyed bobbed hair and general demeanour were those of a quiet, maiden aunt…” Mary-Kate is a strong presence in the novel – discuss her relationship with Virginia.  Would you like to have seen more of her story in the book?  Where does she fit in the books theme of finding love? 
  4. How do Delphine, Hope, Nicole, and Virginia all suffer from unwanted interference in their lives?  In what ways does it become important for them to stand up to the judgments of others?  Discuss examples of when each character “stood up” for themselves.

  5. How do the main characters deal with the skeletons in their respective closets? How are Hope and Sam’s choices in life both influenced by their experience of losing their parents in childhood?  How have they coped in similar ways?  How are they different?  In what ways do the characters all carry their pasts with them? 

  6. Did you sympathize with Matt?  The novel offers the point of view of both spouses, but Hope is by and large the more sympathetic of the two.  Which view did you favor? Were you surprised by the outcome of their marriage? 

  7. How is forgiveness an important theme in this novel?  Consider the relationships between Hope and Matt, Matt and Sam, Sam and Morgan, and Nicole and her family.  Which characters do you think seem most in need of the ability to forgive themselves?

  8. Reflecting on grief, Virginia thinks, “Time didn’t heal, it numbed.  Like a good anesthetic, it made the pain more bearable but it never went away.” Virginia’s grief changes shape over time, and she learns to better cope with her husband’s death. Have your experiences with grief paralleled hers in any way? Did you find the way Virginia dealt with her loss realistic?

  9. What does each character’s work mean to her?  How do their views of work change throughout the novel?  Consider Sam’s decision to quit the record business, Hope’s new life in Redlion, Nicole’s musical success, and Virginia’s B&B. Is work therapeutic for any of them?  
  10. Discuss the settings of What She Wants.  What She Wants is full of rich descriptions of busy London and quiet, rural Ireland. Does the author make one setting more appealing than the other? Where would you rather live?

  11. Discuss Morgan.  How is Morgan different from anyone Sam has ever met? How does he help to change her for the better?

  12. What She Wants is a novel about women making life-changing decisions.  Which character do you think changed most by the end of the novel?  Who changed least? Which changes would you most like to make in your own life?

  13. When Matt decides to move to Redlion and work on a novel he is full of confidence.  “He’d write a wonderful book with the drive and determination he was well known for…there was no way he could fail…When had he ever failed at anything?”  His writing career, however, doesn’t go according to plan.  What is ironic about Matt’s book deal at the end of the novel? What can you learn from his success?  How does his success parallel that of the various female characters?

  14. Share some of your favorite scenes and dialogue from the novel. 

About The Author

Sven Arnstein

Cathy Kelly is the #1 bestselling author of fifteen bestselling novels in Ireland, which have all hit the Sunday Times’ top ten in London. She lives in Ireland with her husband and twin sons. In 2005 she was appointed an ambassador for UNICEF Ireland. Contact her on Twitter at @CathyKellyBooks or follow her on Facebook or at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Gallery Books (July 7, 2009)
  • Length: 592 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781416564607

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"Rich with the emerald allure of the lush Irish landscape and tart with Kelly's sexy, bracing humor...." -- Publishers Weekly

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