Is it ever too late for second chances?
Globetrotting Claire has spent her life playing hide and seek from her past. A father who vanished without a word. A sexual assault. A lost love. A child. Through decades of work in international relief, she’s sought to balance her karmic scale. But when her best friend, Libby is diagnosed with cancer, Claire flies home to Nevada for the first time in years to discover Libby’s life entangled in the very ties Claire has intentionally avoided. When letters arrive revealing deeply held secrets, Claire's notion of identity is shaken. Libby too must shake off expectations that have held her back. Both will learn if it’s too late to change the course of their lives.
Questions for Discussion
- Claire’s father leaves early in her life. How much of Claire’s behavior and self-image are a direct result of that loss?
- Think about Sylvia as a single mother in the 50s and 60s. In what ways did the contrast between Sylvia and Fran influence Libby and Claire’s views about marriage and family?
- Sylvia and Fran have very different styles of mothering, shaped by their own early lives. How does Sylvia show her love? How does Fran? Did you see yourself or your own mother in either of them?
- As adults, Claire and Libby’s relationship has a now and then (as in occasional) sort of quality. What keeps Claire and Libby’s friendship so strong across time and distance? Their friendship has had long breaks. Do you have friendships like that? What keeps the bond intact?
- Now and then also refers to the passage of time. Did the dual timeframe work in this book? Why or why not?
- Claire’s sexual assault happened in the late sixties. Think about the culture at the time, decades before the #MeToo movement. Although the term was not in use at the time, Claire likely suffered from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.) Was her not telling the police a reasonable choice? Why or why not? How did the assault and its aftermath influence the choices she made later?
- Think about Claire’s decision not to tell anyone about the baby. Not her mother. Not Sam. Given what you know about Claire’s character, what else could she have done? Did you believe her reasons or were they just rationalizations for her own selfishness?
- How does meeting Grace change Claire?
- Libby and her brother, John argue over the care of their father as his Alzheimer’s progresses. How did that make you feel? As an outsider, what advice would you have given Libby?
- The theme of staying home vs going away comes into play throughout the book. How did Claire and Libby respond early in their lives? How do their views change? Why?
- In building a novel, a writer attempts to develop characters whose wants and needs meet with obstacles that are sometimes self-imposed. What did Libby and Claire want/need and what got in their way? Did you as a reader feel connected to Claire? To Libby? Why or why not? Would present-day young women feel likewise?
- Did you find Sylvia a sympathetic character when you first met her? Why or why not? Did your feelings change? What about Claude? Did your view of Claude change after you met him? Could you have forgiven them both as Claire seems to have?
- Both Claire and Sylvia kept secrets from one another. Which secret was worse? Can you empathize with either one of them? Why or why not?
- Coincidences in a story can either cause problems or solve them. What role did coincidence play in this book?
- What lies ahead for Claire and Sam? For Libby and Jack? For Sylvia and Claude?