Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Early in the novel, Ryan muses "what really counted was the life you made for yourself, and the person you decided to be." (p. 11) Does this prove to be true? How does this play out in his life and in the lives of his family members? How does this concept change for him?
2. "Something in him always stood apart, and he was not who people assumed he was." (p. 27) How is this true for Ryan throughout the novel? How do the characters define themselves and one another?
3. Which narrator did you like best: Anita, Ryan, Chip, Torrie, Audrey, Matthew or Blake? Why do you think Thompson chose to have Ryan narrate the majority of the sections? Was there someone you wanted to hear more from?
4. Anita feels that she and her mother are always on the verge of a conversation: "Is this what it means to be a wife, a mother, a woman? Is it what you expected? Should I have gone about it differently?" (p. 105) Why don't they ever actually have that conversation? How might things be different for them, and other women in the novel, if they discussed such things with each other?
5. Why do you think Megan ruins Ryan's career with her essay? Is she crazy, or clever? Hurt, or just trying to stand out?
6. Why does Anita go to the Goodells' auction and give her relatives $5,000? Does she feel responsible because her husband is a banker? Talk about Anita's concept of family and loyalty.
7. Martha's words at Anita's wedding startle Ryan: "You never can tell, looking at it from the outside. How miserable people can be in a marriage." (p. 14) How are her words prophetic? Do you think she is referring to her own marriage, which seems so happy?
8. Discuss the many different ideas of marriage in the novel. Why does Anita marry Jeff (p. 183), and why does she stay with him? Why does Ryan get married (p. 221) and then have affairs that lead to divorce? What about Blake, whose wife everyone seems to look down on?