Twelve Days of Christmas for Authors
I am a huge advocate of writers. They are my heroes and rescuers, crafting worlds I can get lost in and telling stories which sooth the soul.
This Christmas consider the Twelve Days of Christmas for Authors. There are 12 simple ways you can help a published writer keep writing new worlds and keep the job they love, crafting stories you will love.
This tale is written from the viewpoint of any author who has invested hundreds of hours into a book which can get lost in a sea of a million other books. Find an author you love and adore and apply these gifts to them. You will make an impact and make their year.
On the first day of Christmas, my reader gave to me is one purchase of my book.
Libraries and half price books stores are wonderful. They allow books to be devoured and authors to be discovered. But if you love an author and want them to keep writing, buy their book. Buy it for yourself. Buy it as a gift. You would spend as much on a movie ticket or two, yet a book offers many more hours of entertainment.
On the second day of Christmas, my reader gave to me two hand sellers.
There is a special brand of angels called Hand sellers. These lovely rare creatures have their fingers on the pulse of the literary world and have read countless books. When readers enter their book store, library, or place of business, they are able to perform magical matchmaking, suggesting that specific reader would love this specific book. Make sure the hand sellers in your sphere of influence are aware of your favorite author(s). Tell them WHY you enjoy that writer so much. It will help her hand sell books to the perfect audience.
On the third day of Christmas, my reader gave to me three social media connections.
Consider following your favorite author on the trifecta of social media outlets: Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads. You will be able to connect with them on a personal level, learn about new projects they are working on, and encourage them with Likes and Retweets. Writing is lonely work. For some writers, checking in with their social media links is the carrot at the end of the stick after a long writing day.
On the fourth day of Christmas, my reader gave to me four gift purchases.
A book is always an excellent gift because it offers four advantages. The writer is read and heard, her goal when she started writing, never sure the book would sell or be read. The author and the publishing industry as a whole are bolstered by your purchase. The reader and gift recipient is transported to another world and gifted an additional life to live through the book’s pages. And the gift-giver (you) has another fan to discuss the book with and a potential fellow fan.
On the fifth day of Christmas, my reader gave to me five golden stars.
Reviews on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, GoodReads and other places can help inform decisions. A five star rating is the best and depending on the system, a three star rating is actually a negative review. Not everyone is going to enjoy every book, so write your reviews and select your ratings carefully. Explain why readers like you would enjoy this book and what you enjoyed about it. Rank your very favorite books with five stars and a spoiler-free assessment of where the book succeeded. Your words are amplified and will carry to hundreds or thousands of potential readers. Your words have impact.
On the sixth day of Christmas, my reader gave to me six cover image shares.
There is a science to book cover artwork. And there is a cumulative effect of seeing a book’s cover multiple times across multiple forums. Add your favorite book to Pinterest, on multiple boards. Add the cover to your favorite reads on Facebook. Share a photo of the book as seen “in the wild.” Add the cover to your “Want to Read” list in GoodReads, and then mark it as “Read” when you’ve finished. Blog about the book along with the photo of the book cover.
On the seventh day of Christmas, my reader gave to me seven library requests.
Libraries are intensely helpful to authors. Many writers use the quiet space to write their tomes, others are on first-name basis with the librarians for research. There are so few avid readers left in the world, libraries are uniquely connected to readers and the reading lifestyle. Much like hand sellers, librarians are matchmakers and can use your input to help searching readers find their perfect book. If you request a book, librarians are made aware and will take notice.
On the eighth day of Christmas, my reader gave to me eight matches made.
Just like librarians and hand sellers, YOU, as a reader, can be a matchmaker too. When you see a movie, you instinctively know your best friend would love its off-beat humor but your mother would cringe at the sex scenes. You recommend the movie to your friend, but don’t mention it to your mother. There is no difference between you and Siskel and Ebert. Be a viral sensation. Tell readers about your favorite book. Be purposeful about it.
On the ninth day of Christmas, my reader gave to me nine public exposures.
If you have purchased the book, display its pretty cover when you read it in public. Take it on the bus or train; bring it to your dentist appointment or the BMV. A book sighting in the wild can drive sales as well as open conversation with others. If you read on a device such as Kindle or your iPad, consider sharing your reading choice digitally, such as on Twitter or Facebook.
On the tenth day of Christmas, my reader gave to me ten shelf leapings.
Do you know big box bookstores are specifically assigned to face certain books face forward to increase sales? You can be a super fan by facing your favorite author’s current book face forward in book stores everywhere you go. Word of warning: don’t move the book to a different section (such as the front of the store) because then the staff won’t be able to help customers find the book, hurting sales.
On the eleventh day of Christmas, my reader gave to me eleven book club readers.
Are you part of a book club? Your reading life will be transformed when you practice reading with conversation and dissection in mind. Books are meant to be devoured in community, like a good meal. If you don’t belong to a book club, consider finding or starting one. If you do belong to a book club, consider suggestion your favorite book. Many authors will happily attend your book club conversation via Skype.
On the twelfth day of Christmas, my reader gave to me twelve months of mentions.
Books today have a shortened life cycle. Much like movies, their “opening weekend” (or the first few weeks of sales) is crucial for setting the book up for long range success. Lackluster initial sales result in less publicity and hand selling. Early buzz and continued momentum can push a book from midlist level to best seller. Mention your favorite book more than once. Stay faithful for its first year, suggesting it to other avid readers, to book clubs, and to your library. When a book comes out in paperback (the equivalent of the DVD release), recharge your efforts.
For your favorite books and authors, these twelve gifts are a tremendous help. Writers struggle everyday to keep ahead of the ever changing landscape. Even performing one of these acts for your favorite author will put you on the permanent “Nice” list.
Flight Behavior – Discussion Questions
Barbara Kingsolver’s book, The Poisonwood Bible, is one of my top five favorite books ever. The complexity in her writing is astounding, touching on religious beliefs, socioeconomic class structure, environmental concerns, and human nature. Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver is no different. It is a rich, picturesque novel about poverty, everyday miracles, and lost causes.
Set in the present day in the rural community of Feathertown, Tennessee, Flight Behavior tells the story of Dellarobia Turnbow, a petite, razor-sharp 29-year-old who nurtured worldly ambitions before becoming pregnant and marrying at seventeen. Now, after more than a decade of tending to small children on a failing farm, oppressed by poverty, isolation and her husband’s antagonistic family, she has mitigated her boredom by surrendering to an obsessive flirtation with a handsome younger man.
In the opening scene, Dellarobia is headed for a secluded mountain cabin to meet this man and initiate what she expects will be a self-destructive affair. But the tryst never happens. Instead, she walks into something on the mountainside she cannot explain or understand: a forested valley filled with silent red fire that appears to her a miracle.
After years lived entirely in the confines of one small house, Dellarobia finds her path suddenly opening out, chapter by chapter, into blunt and confrontational engagement with her family, her church, her town, her continent, and finally the world at large.
-From Harper Collins
Harper Collins has a wonderful selection of brilliant questions for discussion. Consider the following additional discussion questions for your book club:
- “Southern Appalachian culture, [Kingsolver] says, is “mostly derided in the world—hillbillies are one of the last ethnic groups who are routinely mocked without consequence.” (Telegraph interview) Consider the focus on anti-bully messages, why do you think we still deride and ridicule cultures as adults? Is it human nature?
- Did you learn anything about the Southern Appalachian culture? Did their lifestyle give you insight into challenges faced by today’s American impoverished?
- Dellarobia explains the culture in Feathertown to Ovid. “Sports. That’s huge, a kid can shine if he’s good at football or baseball. Probably get a job later on in the bank or something like that.” ( page 223) Have you ever encountered thinking similar to this?
- “Religion is like underwear – it’s very important and you keep it next to you all the time and you don’t talk about it,” Kingsolver has said in interviews, yet many of her books delve deeply into religion. How do the two different factions (religion and science) view the phenomenon of the butterflies?
- Why do you think Dellarobia stopped smoking?
- Kingsolver writes, “Being a stay at home mom is the loneliest kind of lonely.” (page 59) Have you ever been a stay at home mom? What was your biggest challenge? What is it about motherhood which can seem isolating and polarizing?
- “She knew there was something wrong with her. Some insidious weakness in her heart or resolve that would let her fly off and commit to some big nothing, all of her own making.” (page 80) Would Dellarobia have left if the butterflies never appeared? What kind of life would she have had?
- Why did the photo of Dellarobia become a meme? Why do memes and other short attention span entertainment options keep our attention while larger, important issues (such as climate change) don’t?
- Eventually the butterflies become common place, or less-miraculous to the townspeople. Why do we discount miracles when we’ve had too much exposure to them?
- Can you draw any parallels between Dellarobia’s exposure to the thrift store and the butterflies?
- When an activist shows Dellarobia the pamphlet on how to lower your carbon footprint, he is stunned when he finds almost nothing is applicable to her and her neighbors. It is marked contrast between the haves and the have-nots. What can each learn from each other?
- Concerning global warming, Ovid has a very fatalistic view. Without encouraging contentious discussion, what are your views on climate change and global warming? What can be done? What are you doing?
Kingsolver writes “Animals behave with purpose, unlike people.” (Page 42) One of the wonderful things about novels is the studied complexity of people and their interactions. In literary novels like Flight Behavior, truth and revelation can often be seen more clearly in fiction.
I will be posting the recipe for Nectarine cupcakes later this week. May words nourish your soul.
The Round House – Discussion Questions
The Round House is Louise Erdrich’s 26th book and practice has made perfect. Riveting, paradigm-shifting, and expansive, The Round House has won the National Book Award as well as many others. It delves into race, religion, socioeconomics, truth, revenge, and justice. And it makes for a compelling discussion among your next book club meeting.
One Sunday in the spring of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. The details of the crime are slow to surface as Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal what happened, either to the police or to her husband, Bazil, and thirteen-year-old son, Joe. In one day, Joe’s life is irrevocably transformed. He tries to heal his mother, but she will not leave her bed and slips into an abyss of solitude. Increasingly alone, Joe finds himself thrust prematurely into an adult world for which he is ill prepared.
While his father, who is a tribal judge, endeavors to wrest justice from a situation that defies his efforts, Joe becomes frustrated with the official investigation and sets out with his trusted friends, Cappy, Zack, and Angus, to get some answers of his own. Their quest takes them first to the Round House, a sacred space and place of worship for the Ojibwe. And this is only the beginning.
-From the publisher, Harper Collins
Discussion Questions for The Round House
Louise Erdrich’s publisher, Harper Collins, offers a lengthy list of discussion questions. As always, consider these additional questions as well:
- Why do you think the author chose to have Joe narrate the story? How did his perspective color/influence the story?
- How do we struggle with reaching/helping people who are caught in the cycle of grief? Joe can’t reach his mother and force her to resume living. How do we force/or drop the ball on others who need help?
- Can you name an instance when you reached out to help someone struggling? Did it end well or was there an adverse reaction?
- Why do you think Joe’s mother wouldn’t name the place where the rape occurred? Do you think she truly didn’t know or is she keeping quiet? Considering the crime of rape is true, do you think it would be ethical of her to bend the facts on the location?
- Joe is 13 when his mother is raped, which is a pivotal coming of age time for boys. Do you think his actions and reactions would have been different if he had been 8 or 9? What about if he was 18?
- What is your definition of justice? Does perspective, relationship, time, space, etc. affect justice?
- Have you ever sat on a jury? Do you think you are a good judge of character?
- If Joe were to stand trial for the murder of his mother’s rapist, how do you think he would be found? Guilty? Not guilty? How would you vote?
- What’s your opinion on the balance in the universe? His friend had to die at the end, because a death equaled a death. Do you think the universe finds equilibrium?
A few related foods will be will be featured this week, including Cranberry Bread, Faux Steak Res Sandwiches, and Triple Berry Cobbler.
May words nourish your soul.
The Language of Flowers – Discussion Questions
Word of mouth around the brilliance and beauty of The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh spread like pollen among avid readers. People were captivated by the gritty, raw look at ageing out of the foster system, yet the language and story held delicate beauty as well.
A mesmerizing, moving, and elegantly written debut novel, The Language of Flowers beautifully weaves past and present, creating a vivid portrait of an unforgettable woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own troubled past.
The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating grief, mistrust, and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.
Now eighteen and emancipated from the system, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market has her questioning what’s been missing in her life, and when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.
Discussion Questions for The Language of Flowers
Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s publisher has a nice list of discussion questions at their website. For a deeper, more personal discussion, consider adding the following:
- Flowers are often considered luxuries and frivolous. For this lost girl, why do flowers speak to her? Why does she put stock in something so temporary and fragile?
- Were you able to connect with Victoria on the page, even with her intimacy issues? Would you like her if you met her in real life? Why or why not?
- What gifts do we receive when we are flooded with early unconditional love? Can we rectify a deficit of early connections and love?
- Change is necessary in life. What is the tipping point for too much change? How important is security for growth?
- How does motherhood distill our thoughts on family? How do you think differently about motherhood before you had children and after?
- At what age is it appropriate to be considered independent and an adult? Does this age vary for people and circumstances? At what age were you entirely independent of your parents? Are parents always considered a safety net?
- What practical skills would you teach to those ageing out? (For example, cooking, taxes, self care, banking, etc.) Have you made a specific effort to teach your children these skills or do you think they pick them up through example?
- Victoria learned a lost language. Much like Latin, very few people understood the language of flowers. Why then was the inaccuracy of her language so world-changing to her?
- Have you ever had experiences with the foster care system? How can ageing out of the system be improved?
The Language of Flowers was optioned for film in 2011 but there is no current word on production (February 2013).
The author, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, is also the founder of the Camellia Network, which supports youth transitioning from foster care into independent lives.
On Wednesday, I will share the recipe for Flowered and Sugared Shortbread Rounds for your next book club.
Until then, may words nourish your soul.
Night Circus – Discussion Questions
As a fellow participant of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I heard Erin Morgenstern’s name before she was actually published. Her debut book, The Night Circus, created a metric ton of ballyhoo prior to publication. She was touted as the next Harry Potter, even snagging the phenomenal Jim Dale to narrate the audio version of her magical book.
And like other NaNoWriMo success stories, the overnight success was preluded by years of hard work. “A very sprawling, very rough draft of The Night Circus was first written in a few different Novembers of NaNoWriMo. Almost the entire book was rewritten and revised before it got from there to the finished version. To give you an idea of how much: Celia isn’t in that first sprawling draft. It is a lot of stuff about the circus but not a lot of plot, but it gave me something to work from,” Erin has written on her blog.
But the professional polish and imaginative story stands alone, creating a wondrous world which will lasts long past the last page.
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.
From Random House
Erin Morgenstern’s publisher, Random House, has a wonderful selection of book club discussion questions here. But as always, here at the Reader’s Feast, we have a few more questions to round out your discussion.
- The circus vignettes are disconnected from the narrative and written in second person, making them intimate, vivid, and memorable. Readers seldom encounter second person point of view. (Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney is one of the few notable novels written in second person.) Was it jarring to you or did it draw you in? Could you imagine yourself at the circus?
- What tent or exhibition would you most want to visit? What foods would you want to taste? What feature would you avoid?
- Like magic, the story is revealed through sleights of hand—juggling the past with the present, hiding pertinent information until the last moment, and providing misdirection. How was the story enhanced (or lessened) by the tricks?
- Was it fair for the circus members to be pulled into a contract without their approval? Were the benefits (agelessness, travel, etc.) enough to outweigh the risks?
- Prospero has a mental and magical hold on Celia, including after his “death.” How can a ghost of a person be stronger than a real person?
- Marco and Celia struggle with balancing the ever-expanding circus. How is this a reflection of how we overextend ourselves?
- There are several pairings in The Night Circus. Marco and Celia, Poppet and Widget, Celia and Herr Thiessen, Marco and Isobel, and Tara and Lanie Burgess. Bailey is one of the few unpaired individuals. How does this make him different? Would he make a different decision about joining the circus if he was paired? Is Poppet enough for him or is she too closely paired to Widget to fully give herself to Bailey?
- Have you ever been behind the scenes of a circus, a play, a restaurant, a special production, etc? What was disconcerting about the behind the scene look? What took you by surprise?
- The reveurs were like followers of a cult. Today’s culture offers several cult options, such as certain events, movie franchises, some stories, etc. What elements are often found in a cult? (Some ideas: a universal truth, compelling characters, likeminded individuals, common ground, etc.)
- Who would you cast in the movie of The Night Circus, which is in the works?
- The circus would be nothing without its audience. Why do stories need to be told and heard to release their power?
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is as magical as its many, varied tents. It is a book that invites us to visit repeatedly—studying for the sleights of hand, reimagining the character’s motivations and desires, and relishing its promised delicacies.
On Wednesday, I will share the recipe for Black and White Red Velvet cookies, with a nod towards the reveurs of the Le Cirque des Rêves.
Gone Girl- Discussion Questions
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is one of the top reads in 2012 and absolutely viral in nature. Anyone who read it was anxious to pull others into its vortex, to share in the delicious, twisted secrets. It’s distinctive cover was seen in airports, on newsstands, in doctor’s offices, and on every subway. It was inescapable—and for good reason.
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick Dunne’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick Dunne isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but hearing from Amy through flashbacks in her diary reveal the perky perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge.
Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister Margo at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was left in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?
Employing her trademark razor-sharp writing and assured psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.
LitLover’s has an excellent reading guide here.
For a deeper conversation, consider these additional questions:
- Flynn reveals everyone’s character flaws piece by piece. How were you drawn in, not knowing all the facts right away? Were you anxious to learn more or irritated?
- Amy is essentially a child celebrity. In today’s fame-fueled society, do you think children are protected from or exploited for fame? Would Amy be the same person today if she wasn’t featured in her parent’s books?
- How does marriage define a spouse’s character? If you are married (or have been married), how have you been bettered by your spouse? What bad habits or character traits have you inherited?
- Can you ever truly know the other person? Have you ever been blindsided by someone? What blinds us to seeing a betrayal coming?
- Do you need a protagonist to root for? Most the characters are unlikeable. Did this diminish your enjoyment of the book or were you still fascinated?
- Was there a moment when you stopped feeling sorry for Amy? When did you start feeling sorry for Nick?
- Who would you cast in the movie roles of Nick and Amy?
- Treasure hunts are typically considered romantic, yet Amy manages to make it predatory and calculating. How does Amy’s preplanning make her crimes even more disturbing?
- Flynn has said about the ending, I wrote the ending that was the most unsettling to me. I am a big fan of the ending of unease. To me it feels real and it feels unnerving. Because you may not know exactly what is going to happen next in Gone Girl World, but you know it’s not good. What kind of endings do you like best?
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn earned its place on The New York Times best sellers list. Because of its twisted and surprising revelations, it is this decade’s Sixth Sense, in literary form. On Wednesday, the Readable Feast will feature Wedding Cake Petit Fours.
Still Alice – Discussion Questions
Still Alice is one of my favorite book club reads ever. I have a personal tie to Alzheimer’s, which slowly dissolved away my paternal grandmother, Isabelle. In an atypical disease such as this, many moments are true—even if the experience wasn’t exactly the same as rendered in the book. Telling the truth in a novel is exceeding difficult.
I was deeply touched by the care and research put into this book by Genova. As a neuroscientist, novelist, and activists, the book is equal parts fiction and education.
Still Alice is a compelling debut novel about a 50-year-old woman’s sudden descent into early onset Alzheimer’s disease, written by first-time author Lisa Genova, who holds a Ph.D in neuroscience from Harvard University.
Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children and a house on the Cape, is a celebrated Harvard professor at the height of her career when she notices a forgetfulness creeping into her life. As confusion starts to cloud her thinking and her memory begins to fail her, she receives a devastating diagnosis: early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Fiercely independent, Alice struggles to maintain her lifestyle and live in the moment, even as her sense of self is being stripped away. In turns heartbreaking, inspiring and terrifying, Still Alice captures in remarkable detail what’s it’s like to literally lose your mind…
From Simon Schuster
Lisa Genova’s publishing company, Simon Schuster, has a full Reading Group’s Guide here.
To add more personal questions to the conversation, consider the following discussion questions related to Still Alice.
- Do you know anyone who has suffered from Alzheimer’s? How did it affect their loved ones and you? How did it affect them?
- What are the stages of grief family members and the patient must travel through when facing Alzheimer’s? (Five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.) What stage did each family member reach? What about Alice? Can you get stuck in a phase, or repeat a phase?
- To what extent are we made of our memories?
- What are some of your fondest memories? Do you have a memory you would like to completely erase from your memory? Do you think your personality/self would change if a bad memory was removed?
- It is rare that an Alzheimer’s patient doesn’t consider suicide. Were you relieved she was thwarted or gladdened that Alice survived?
- Do you empathize with the idea of controlling your own death, when faced with a debilitating disease such as Alzheimer’s? What about other diseases? What makes the difference for you? Where do you draw the line?
- If you have children, your children often feel they have a different parent from their siblings. If you have children, due to different circumstances, how are you a different mother to each of your children?
- Oldest memories are the last to go for those with dementia, along with scent. What scents bring back memories for you? What is your earliest memory?
- John carries on without Alice, making decisions without her. Does this bother you or do you empathize?
- How would this story have changed if told from another perspective beside Alice’s?
On Wednesday, I’ll share the recipe for Boston Cream Cupcakes for your book club, based on Alice’s hometown. On Thursday, I’ll share the recipe for a Blueberry Buckle Bundt cake, an antioxidant food.
Happy reading and discussing.
The Blessings of the Animals – Discussion Questions
We are starting off the Readable Feast with a favorite author of mine. Katrina Kittle is a local Dayton, Ohio author and even though I don’t live there anymore, she has earned her place on my book shelf. I was lucky to take several writing classes with her, which did more for my writing journey than my college degree.
The Blessings of the Animals is her current women’s fiction book and is a perfect book club choice. Her other books, in particular The Kindness of Strangers, are also excellent group reads. If you haven’t yet discovered Katrina Kittle, please check her out.
From Katrina Kittle, critically acclaimed author of The Kindness of Strangers, comes a wry and moving story of forgiveness, flexibility, happiness, and the art of moving on.
Veterinarian Cami Anderson has hit a rough patch. Stymied by her recent divorce, she wonders if there are secret ingredients to a happy, long-lasting marriage or if the entire institution is outdated and obsolete. Couples all around her are approaching important milestones. Her parents are preparing to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary. Her brother and his partner find their marriage dreams legally blocked. Her former sister-in-law—still her best friend—is newly engaged. The youthfully exuberant romance of her teenage daughter is developing complications. And three separate men—including her ex-husband—are becoming entangled in Cami’s messy post-marital love life.
But as she struggles to come to terms with her own doubts amid this chaotic circus of relationships, Cami finds strange comfort in an unexpected confidant: an angry, unpredictable horse in her care. With the help of her equine soul mate, she begins to make sense of marriage’s great mysteries—and its disconnects.
-From Harper Collins
Katrina’s publishing company, Harper Collins, offers a comprehensive Reading Guide.
To add to the discussion, consider the following discussion questions as well:
- Animals love us in a completely different way than humans. We often adopt a pet before considering children or when we face divorce or widowhood. Why did the animals in the book offering healing that Cami’s loved ones could not?
- Which animal did you love or relate to? How have animals played a role in your life?
- Animal rescue is never ending, as is being a medical doctor. How might have Vijay’s and Cami’s relationship played out if they had pursued their relationship.
- What are the blessings of the animals? What gift does each of the three main animals (Moonshot, Gerald, and Muriel) give to Cami? How do these rescue animals end up rescuing her? What final gift or lesson does Luna bring at the end?
- How does the Bobby chapter affect your reading of the story? Without his point of view, what would be different for you? What does he think that you wish he’d tell Cami? What things do both Bobby and Cami misinterpret in each others’ actions?
- Would you have felt differently about Bobby if he hadn’t found someone else?
- How do we react as we watch people making bad decisions? ie. Bobby breaking up with Zayna and then getting married in Vegas.
- Bobby doesn’t tell his family and leave a message for his daughter. How is Cami the parent in their relationship? How is the balance of power in a relationship a tricky prospect?
- What does a successful marriage look like? Is marriage as an institution out of date?
- Why do we risk so much on something that has no guarantee? How are the rewards worth the risk?
- Adoption plays a part in this book as well. How is adoption a parallel to marriage?
- In what ways do the Davids epitomize the marriage vows they are not allowed to make?
- Divorce almost always has collateral damage, in this case, Gabi. She said “No man is going to wreck me.” Why does a personal relationship (marriage) have such outreaching tentacles—causing people to take sides, etc.
- Davy refers to a cheat sheet that he could pass along to his students, to save them from their mistakes. What advice would be on your cheat sheet?
- Cami regrets, but still performs euthanasia on ailing animals when necessary. How does she face hard decisions in her career but struggle with hard personal decisions?
- Cami’s church is the stable, in the presence of animals. Where do you feel closest to God?
- Short cuts are frowned up on this book—in such things as properly cleaning the wounds and making the gajar halva (Gaa-jer Hull-wa). Why are short cuts so tempting?
On Wednesday, I’ll be sharing the recipe for gajar halva for your book club.
Happy reading and discussing.
Why I Write
I write because words are immortal.
Everything is falling into decay. A new house is built and immediately it begins its slow suicide. Nails pop, corners curl, and bricks crumble. Of course, it will stand for another 100 years, or perhaps more…but it is on a death march. Every physical thing works this way, following its prescribed path: birth, decline, decay, death. Trinkets rot, souvenirs perish, mementos wither, and memories rust.
But words…with their structural sturdiness and otherworldly magic endure. Words exist within me, outside of me, and without me. Once I have inscribed them to paper, they flit away, out of my reach and independent. When I die, a few sparse words will mark a tombstone but millions of my words will live in the wild, immortal and incorruptible.
This is why I write.
I write almost every day of the year–either for clients or on my fiction projects. But I have been a miserable blogger. Since NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is so effective for me to complete my first drafts, I decided to give the A to Z Blogging Challenge a try.
As an aspiring fiction writer, I often write about complicated relationships, faith issues, Midwestern families and hard concepts like purpose, forgiveness, identity, etc. I can’t make any promises about what topics will actually show up on this blog. I might wax eloquent about goat cheese and wine or I might share my deep seated fears of stair steps and snow. I can only promise dysfunction.