1. The novel opens with Claire recalling her first date with Paul and their agreement that for a modern couple child rearing would have to be "fifty-fifty." Why doesn't this work out for them?
2. Are you a parent yourself? How do you relate to Claire's complicated feelings about motherhood?
3. Why does Claire bring Lola along to care for Will in New York, even though it means she'll lose money on the trip?
4. Which has more of an effect on the parent-nanny relationships in the novel—race or class? Why? How does it work both ways?
5. Would this novel be different if Lola were a white American nanny?
6. Discuss the way Simpson plays with time. Why is the novel set in the 1990s? How does Simpson use foreshadowing and flash-forwards?
7. When it comes to the children, who has the most power in this novel, the parent or the nanny?
8. What is the role of fatherhood in this novel?
9. What is the significance of The Book of Ruth
? Why do the nannies write in it?
10. Is Simpson's novel at all similar to The Book of Ruth
11. How does Claire's relationship with her own mother influence her parenting? Does her childhood make her a better parent?
12. Lola left her own children to earn money by raising other people's kids. Does this make her a bad mother?
13. How do you think Lola's children will turn out? Do you think they'll have emotional scars from her years away from them?
14. Why does Lola turn down Helen and Jeff's job offer? Why doesn't she mention it to Claire and Paul?
15. Discuss gender roles as presented in the novel. How does being male or female affect the characters' lives?
16. Which man is a better husband and father—Paul or Jeff? Why?
17. In what ways are Claire's and Lola's marriages similar?
18. Examine the relationship between Lola and Lucy. Why does Lola do so much for this young woman?
19. Reread and discuss the scene in which China drowns (page 246). Who is responsible? What do we learn about the nannies from this episode?
20. Does Claire feel there is a distinction between her career and her music? Which is central to her?
21. Which character has the most regrets? Are there any central characters who have none?
22. What is the significance of the Neruda poem on page 349? What is Judith's intention in giving Lola this poem?
23. Why does Lola return to the Philippines? What does she imagine her life will be like there?
24. What was your first thought about Claire's surprise visit to Tagaytay? Why do you think she decided to go?
25. Discuss Lola's final chapter. Do you think she's happy in the end?
26. This novel examines the famous Beatles line "Money can't buy me love." In a sense, Paul and Claire try to buy love for their son. Do you think love can be bought and sold? Read O's reviewGet more reading guides