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My Favorite Mistake
The Tower of Learning
Tell Me Something I Don’t Know
I Don’t Wanna Talk About It Now
I’m on Fire
Like a Fool
John Carney, sung by Kira Knightly,
Sound track, Begin Again
Still I Long for Your Kiss
The Head and the Heart
Love You For a Long Time
READING GROUP GUIDE
If you haven’t read the novel, note that these questions reveal several plot points.
- At the start of the novel, Liz sleeps with a 23-year-old man she has known since he entered elementary school. And then she beats herself up about having done it. She believes she’s made a really bad life choice with terrible practical, ethical, and moral implications. But none of the disasters she anticipates come to fruition.
How did you feel about her sleeping with C.? Did it surprise you that there were no unfortunate repercussions from their relationship? Was that realistic? Do you think relationships like Liz’s with C. happen outside of novels?
- When Liz loses her creative mojo, she doesn’t immediately do anything about it except seek distraction. Her distractions include sleeping with C., and then with Darius.
Were you impatient with Liz because of how long it took her to confront her issues—not doing anything about them until Darius forces her into action? Have you ever distracted yourself from a situation you didn’t want to face? What did you do?
- Writing about a character, it is important to know their backstory in order to understand how they will react to the situations in which they find themselves. Although Liz and Kit reveal their backstories, Darius is more reticent and only reveals bits of his. Liz intuits that something happened while he and his wife were touring with his ensemble.
Can you imagine the events that made Darius so bitter about love?
- In the end, Liz sees C. as the catalyst that moved her out of her illusions about emotional safety and into a life where she takes more chances and lives more fully, even knowing the consequences may not always favor her.
Is Liz also a catalyst? If so, how? Her influence on Kit is clear. But what about Darius? Is she a catalyst for him as well?
- At the beginning of the novel, Liz presents herself as a self-assured person. She believes in her talent. And, except for what she says about times of grief, she doesn’t doubt her parenting skills, either. She is satisfied enough with her looks. She feels confident around men and in her attractiveness to them.
Is Liz as confident as she acts? Does her confidence level fluctuate during the novel? Did her confidence seem like a good thing to you, or did her self-assuredness irritate you? Whatever your answer, why do you feel that way?
- Liz talks to ancient gods, specifically Zeus, as well as her own religion’s deity. She also communicates with an imaginary giant sock monkey and makes rhetorical statements to her dog. The inspiration for these idiosyncrasies is that I talk to my dog and I have also been known to direct ire at the universe for what befalls me—everything from stubbing my toe to politics can end up as a question or statement to the mysterious powers beyond my own orbit.
Do you do anything similar when you are alone and puzzling out issues or feel exasperated? If so, to whom/what/where do you direct your comments?
- Liz thinks her self-talk gets in her way. Yet she often takes impetuous action and makes choices in the moment that are against her better judgment (per her self-talk). Those impetuous choices include sleeping with C., going South for the winter, and beginning a relationship with Kit.
Does her self-talk really get in her way? In what ways does it affect her choices?
- All of Liz’s not-so-thought-out choices benefit her in the end.
Is that because those decisions aren’t really as impetuous as she thinks? Is there is something else going on in her decision-making that ultimately proves her choices to be the right ones? Are there other factors in her decision-making she isn’t acknowledging? Explain.
- Liz is Jewish. She believes a lot of choices she makes are based on Jewish theology—Judaism’s rules for living a fulfilling life—even though she rarely goes to services. A lot of the time, when people are not regular church (or temple) goers, they say they are spiritual rather than religious. But Liz doesn’t see herself as spiritual. She is nourished by her religion.
Is Liz not alone in believing that you can be religious without spending time in worship with others? What do you think? Has your opinion changed over time?
- Liz has had a lot of practice not falling in love with men she sleeps with, yet she immediately falls for Kit and lets her heart lead for the first time in five years. She knows he’s more of a Rules guy than not—his statement that he’s falling for her, too, to the contrary.
When I first wrote the scene where Kit’s been absent for three days and finally comes over to see Liz and explain himself, he didn’t explain himself. He only told her he needed to take some time out.
Beta readers were bewildered by this turn of events. They were sure a nice guy like Kit would never do such a thing and definitely not do it so suddenly. Based on that feedback, I tried to make his actions less opaque by allowing him to explain himself.
What do you think? Would a nice guy like Kit do what he does without explanation? Or do it with as much explanation as he gives Liz? Do you believe she is right, that Kit feels he is betraying his beloved first wife by falling in love again? Is something else also going on?
- As previously noted, Liz thinks a lot. She spends time intermittently living inside her own head even when she is making love.
Is that realistic? Has it happened to you? Where does your mind go in those disassociated moments?
- Liz has ten rules for how to have relationships with men without falling in love before she decides to write a different set of rules. She references seven of the old rules during the novel.
What are they? Based on Liz’s thinking at the start of the novel, can you image what the other three might be?
- Liz lives in Vermont and has developed a business there. Kit lives in Brunswick, Georgia, and has a business there.
How do you think Liz and Kit will manage the practical aspects of being together?
Not the Usual Diner
The first thing d was that the entire parking lot was covered in old pieces of carpet …
The ground turns a deep periwinkle blue in spring as a carpet of Chionodoxa bloom …
If you ever told me—rugged Vermont individualist I consider myself to be—that I would walk a dog dressed in coat and boots, I would have taken offense.
I’m content. Or rather, I was content until C. made his entrance.
—Willing | READ AN EXCERPT