#1 national bestselling author ReShonda Tate Billingsley gets to the heart of loss, love, and betrayal in her latest novel that is sure to delight her legions of fans.
Felise is not the kind of woman to cheat on her husband—especially with her best friend’s man. But after one perfect storm of a night, it happened…and she can hardly believe it herself. To top it off, when she woke up in the morning, she found that the man to whom she guiltily made passionate love died of a heart attack overnight. Felise, who is a nurse and a good citizen at that, leaves the hotel room without reporting his death.
When her best friend, Paula, finds out about her husband’s sudden death a day later, Felise is overcome with guilt and grief. She must be there for her friend and her family, but when her husband repeatedly tries to apologize for his absentminded behavior and Paula starts investigating who Stephen was with the night he died, Felise finds it hard to hold herself together. Should she come clean and tell everyone what she did? Or should she just let it go and move past the mistake on her own?
This reading group guide forWhat’s Done in the Darkincludes 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.
When is a mistake meant to be? When Felise introduces her old flame Steven to her childhood best friend, she doesn't expect them to date, let alone get married and have kids. More than ten years later, their two families remain as close as ever, but Felise feels miserable and unappreciated in her marriage. When her obsessive-compulsive workaholic husband finally pushes her too far, she flees to a nearby hotel bar hoping to find some clarity—but instead finds Steven, her best friend’s husband.
One too many drinks later, they discover their mutual attraction to each other never quite faded, and fueled by the discontent in their respective marriages, they share a night of forbidden passion. In a dark, devastating twist of fate, Felise wakes up to a dead Steven and a choice. Does she confess her sins to her friends and family and risk losing everything, or leave the love of her life dead in a hotel room and her dearest friend with a million questions?
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. In What’s Done in the Dark, we’re introduced to Felise and Paula, two best friends unhappy in their respective lives. In what ways are they similar and different? Who do you think has more reason to be unsatisfied?
2. Felise says her husband, Greg, doesn’t “see” her. What does she mean by this? Why do think she’s unable to make him “see” her, even after she tries to plan a romantic evening?
3. Greg only begins to pay attention to Felise and show affection when he’s afraid she wants to leave him. Do you think this would have lasted if the situation with Steven hadn’t interfered?
4. After Felise and Steven’s fateful night in the hotel room, Felise decides to call her sister Fran. Why do you think, of all people, she chose to call Fran?
5. Greg says to Felise, “You water the lawn you have” (p. 192). Do you agree with this sentiment?
6. Do you think Paula’s unhappiness was rooted in her perspective? What aspects of her life did she have control over, and which did she not?
7. Why do you think Felise stopped seeing Steven in college? Why do you think she wasn’t honest with Paula about having feelings for him? If you had been in Paula’s position, would you have trusted Felise when she reassured her she didn’t have feelings for Steven?
8. Fear drives all of the main characters in distinct ways in What’s Done in the Dark. How does fear function as a positive and negative motivation? Do you think fear ultimately drove Felise to settle for someone unfit for her?
9. Is there ever any excuse for a spouse to cheat? In what scenarios would you consider it “acceptable”? What about in Felise’s and Steven’s situations?
10. How would you characterize Greg’s reaction to Felise’s confession? What about his actions at her birthday dinner? Do you think his behavior was understandable given the circumstances? What would you have done in Paula’s position?
11. What kind of role does religion and faith play in What’s Done in the Dark? How does it drive (or not drive) Felise and Paula? What are the major moral takeaways from the book?
12. Felise’s sister Mavis firmly believes God forgives all of our mistakes. Do you think Felise believes this? What do you believe?
13. What choices could Felise and Paula have made early on in their lives that may have led to happier marriages and families? What kind of things do you wish you could redo in your past?
14. How do you feel about Felise’s secret that the author finally reveals on the last page? How do you think Paula will react to the news?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. ReShonda Tate Bilingsley has a knack for exposing her characters’ deepest flaws—but shows that there’s always a path to redemption. Select another title from her collection to read with your book club. Compare and contrast the flaws of the characters with What’s Done in the Dark and analyze through what devices the author communicates these traits.
2. Was there a time in your life when you needed to forgive someone? What about forgiving yourself? During your next book club meeting, ask everyone to share an experience with forgiveness and how it helped bring them peace (or regret).
3. Steven’s heart condition, which ultimately led to tragedy, set off the majority of events in What’s Done in the Dark. Support heart health awareness by scheduling a physical with your doctor or collecting donations from your book club to give to the American Heart Association.
4. It’s book club happy hour! Serve virgin margaritas and piña coladas at your next meet-up for a fun, festive treat—sans booze and bad decision-making.
ReShonda Tate Billingsley’s #1 nationally bestselling novels include Let the Church Say Amen, I Know I’ve Been Changed, and Say Amen, Again, winner of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work. Her collaboration with Victoria Christopher Murray has produced four hit novels, Sinners & Saints, Friends & Foes, A Blessing & a Curse, and Fortune & Fame. BET released a movie in 2013 based on ReShonda’s book Let the Church Say Amen in which she had a minor role. She also had a role in the made-for-TV movie The Secret She Kept based on her book of the same title. Visit ReShondaTateBillingsley.com, meet the author on Facebook at ReShondaTateBillingsley, or follow her on Twitter @ReShondaT.