A Novel

1. Which of the female characters do you think is the most admirable? The least?
      2. Which of the male characters do you think is the least admirable? The most?
      3. What does it tell you about the author or the book that Questions 1 and 2 show the author seems to think that the females are generally better behaved than the males, to just in this story, but generally. Do you? Would you rather read a story that goes the other way?
      4. What do you think would have happened if Michael hadn’t been killed? Discuss the scene as it might have played out if Michael is not in the Cairo airport the day of the bombing and, a few weeks later, shows up at the front door of the duplex and Britt answers his knock.
      5. On page 406, at the very end of the fight in Zia School Park, Marie calls to Britt, who is riding away on her bike, “If you’re so curious about Michael Reid, ask me yourself; don’t have your friend do it.” It appears that Britt doesn’t hear the comment. How do you think the conversation would have gone if she had heard the comment, turned her bike around and said, “What?”
      6. Some readers may have been in the position of Marie (or the male equivalent), deciding whether to “jump the fence,” as Britt and Nikki call it. Others, not. The author has not. Based on your experiences, whatever they have been, do you think the author gets Marie’s reaction to Britt’s presence in her life right?
      7. Going into the courtroom argument in New York City, did you expect that Britt would do well or poorly?
      8. Why did Anna leave home? Was it really Michael’s letter that tipped her over the edge, or would something else have finally done it?
      9. Some readers will be parents. Others, not. The author is not. He was perhaps most troubled during the writing of the story, not by Question 6, but by this one: was Anna’s leaving her children believable?
      10. Do you think that Michael and Anna ever actually saw each other in Athens? Can you imagine the scene if they had actually met and spoken to each other? The scene would have been very different, wouldn’t it have been, depending on when in Anna’s stay in Greece the meeting had occurred? Your group might discuss how those possible meetings would have played out. It is as interesting to think about Michael’s reaction as it is Anna’s.
      11. The story is unclear about how Anna will arrive back in Tallahassee. Will Ben know she is coming and meet her at the airport? Or will she just arrive at home to find Nikki there? In either case, how do you imagine these scenes will play out?
      12. It will, perhaps not surprise you to learn that this book was originally two novellas – the Albuquerque story and the Tallahassee story, with only Michael the link between the two. Rather late into the writing, Nikki showed up to be Ben’s housekeeper, then Nikki turned out to be Britt’s best friend, then Nikki came across Michael’s letter to Anna. Nikki herself hardly believes that such a coincidence is possible. Do you? Would you rather have read two novellas?
      13. If you can accept the possibility of Nikki’s “Utterly Implausible Coincidence,” then Nikki and Michael become, in some sense, the central characters in the story, with Marie, Britt, Richard, Ben and Conner playing out their lives in front of the two of them. And, of course, they both die. Were you sad at the very end to learn of Nikki’s death? Can you imagine a meeting between Nikki and Michael in some alternate future?
      14. If you want to know the truth, the author’s favorite scene in the story is when Rachel calls Nikki “Mommy,” Nikki knows what to do, and that drives Ben crazy. Do you agree? What is your favorite scene?