Cross post from Lark in Yahoo Cafe Libri (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cafelibri):
1. Do you think the author's technique of using documents, diary entries and so
on is effective? Did you find this approach easy to follow? Did you enjoy it?
Could you tell your own life story in a similar way? If not, why?
Easy to follow, but not very interesting with the lack of dialogue.
2. Do you recognize any (or all!) of Debbie Macomber's pop culture references in
the early part of the novel (ie. The Twilight Zone, Bobby Darin, Marilyn Monroe,
The Supremes, The Feminine Mystique)? Do you feel this helps create a context
for Lesley and Jillian's lives? How?
I am from the same era as the characters, so all of those references were
familiar to me. But I think musical references would have been more engaging and
provided a much more rich emotional context for the story, since we all have
such sharp memories of the tunes of our adolescence.
3. Debbie writes about the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Civil Rights
Movement, J.F.K.'s assassination, the Berlin Wall and the Vietnam War fairly
early in the book. Do you personally remember these events? Or have you
encountered them through a parent's memories, movies and documentaries, etc.?
How does the treatment here compare to your memories and/or impressions? What
impact did these events have on your life (especially if you were Lesley and
Jillian's age at the time)?
I remember all these events. My experience with the Viet Nam war and the civil
rights movement was very different than the characters in this book. The war so
divided young people, that I did not know a single young person who was sort of
on the fence like Jillian. I am not saying that was a good thing, but it really
was a time of "if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the
problem." Jillian's stance of hating the war while supporting the troops was not
part of my experience at all. Similarly, my experience with the civil rights
movement was that it divided the country. I remember screaming arguments among
the adults in my life, not just news footage on TV.
4. Do you think that when Lesley becomes pregnant as a teenager, her life is set
up to mirror her mother's? How do you feel about Lesley's predicament? What
would it have been like to be pregnant and unwed in the 1960s? Is it fair to say
Lesley's choices were limited by her family's socio-economic status?
I was disappointed that the writer avoided the issue of illegal abortion, which
was a massive issue in my teen years, even at my convent high school. You could
not even get contraception then, and the fear of unwanted pregnancy was just an
overwhelming thing for teen girls. I also felt that the author really went flat
on how Lesley's pregnancy came about. Not only was the date rape description
weak, in that Lesley was unharmed and continued to have a sexual relationship
with the offender, which made no sense at all, but the also author missed the
opportunity to shine light on some of the real reasons girls engage in sexual
relationships before they are ready.
However, Buck telling Lesley that she had to have sex with him or he would be
harmed made me laugh - I remember boys who said that same thing: "blue balls."
Like I was supposed to be responsible - what am I, your nurse? But, again the
author was not realistic ... I did not know any girls who actually fell for that
IMO, Lesley's choices about sex and child-bearing were limited by her religion
and the law, not her family income.
5. After high school, how do Lesley and Jillian deal with the social pressures
they each face? Their experiences were obviously different, but were they the
same in any way?
One of the weak points in this book, imo, was that the women were both saints.
Pretty flat characters really, who never made a poor decision or a mistake.
6. On page 66, Lesley says, "I wish I was stronger. Not physically but
emotionally." How does Lesley change as she grows older? What stays the same
7. What do you think of Jillian's continuing to write letters to Nick after his
death? Does it seem healthy to you, a way of coping and dealing with her grief?
Or do you think it's obsessive and something that prevents her from "moving on"?
I felt the letters to Nick were the author's device to communicate Jillian's
feelings in lieu of dialogue, and not something a person would really do.
8. Lesley finally accepts that Buck is cheating on her and files for divorce. Do
you sympathize with her decision to get back together with him? Do you
Most victims of domestic violence go through a lengthy process of separation
from the offender. This did not surprise me.
9. Lesley is frightened when Lindy starts having sex as a teenager. Do you agree
with the way she handles the situation? Would you have done the same thing if
you were in her shoes?
I do not and I did not with my own teens. I think the era of pretending that
teens will not have sex is way, way behind us. I mean, not all of them will, but
some will and they should be kept safe, imo, just like when the engage in other
behavior they are not ready for, like bad driving and experimentation with
alcohol and pot. Demanding behavior you know will not get is just bad parenting.
But I did not have a teen like Lindy with whom I could not engage in dialogue.
10. How do you feel about Buck's dying in a homeless shelter? Do you think he
deserved it for all the abuse and neglect he inflicted on Lesley and her
children, or do you feel sorry for him regardless?
I did not feel he deserved it, but that it was the inevitable end to his life of
irresponsibility and his addiction.
11. Do you have a friendship like that between Jillian and Lesley? Do you think
their friendship is a realistic portrayal? How does a friend like this help you
get through life's problems?
I met my oldest friend in 6th grade and we went through all of the real events
mentioned in this book, and like the lead characters, we led very different
adult lives. I still rely on her opinions, and love her deeply.
12. Plato believed that "friends have all things in common." Cicero wrote that
"the shifts of Fortune test the reliability of friends." Do you agree with
either of these quotations? How do they reflect on this book?
It is true that life throws you lots of challenges and your real friends stick
with you. But, neither of these two women had any other friends, so it would be
hard to compare their friendship to any others.