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  • Written by Jean Reynolds Page
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  • Written by Jean Reynolds Page
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A Novel

Written by Jean Reynolds PageAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Jean Reynolds Page

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List Price: $9.99

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On Sale: December 18, 2007
Pages: 368 | ISBN: 978-0-307-41436-6
Published by : Ballantine Books Ballantine Group
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

How much is too much to ask of friendship? How long will the bonds of family endure when confronted with swift, unexpected change? These are the intimate questions Jean Reynolds Page poses in A Blessed Event, her assured and powerful literary debut.

Joanne Timbro and Darla Stevens have grown up in a small Texas town, their childhood homes separated only by adjoining back yards. Although the families inside these houses have little in common, the two girls find in each other a rare friendship that will take them into their adult lives; a friendship that makes them stronger together than either could be alone.

Then as young women, Darla and Jo enter into an agreement that will startle everyone who cares for them. After years of watching Darla’s heartbreaking failure to have a baby with her husband, Cal, Joanne agrees to give birth to the child that Darla cannot have on her own.

But in the early morning hours of a warm July morning, everything changes. Joanne, then four months pregnant, is driving a car that veers off the road near the home that Darla shares with Cal. In the days and months that follow, Darla must face for the first time in her memory, the possibility of life without Jo. As Darla tries to uncover the secrets that brought her friend out onto the highway in those dark morning hours, she discovers that she must also fight to keep the baby that was intended to be her child.

With the child’s fate hanging in the balance, Darla searches for clues to Jo’s strange behavior leading up to the crash. In the process, she discovers truths that hide in her own life: in her marriage, in her closest friendships, and in a past that has suddenly reemerged, full of unfolding secrets.

Tender and heartbreaking, hopeful and honest, A Blessed Event brings life’s everyday experiences into bright focus, contrasting beautifully the pain of suffering with the sublime joys of surviving—and truly living.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

ONE

Alliance, Texas--July 1983

I wanted a family. I wanted Joanne to be part of us, of our family. Cal, my husband, he wanted the same thing, at first. Somehow, all our reasons got lost. I was the last one to know that something had gone wrong with our plans. Once I found out, everything went to hell pretty fast.

By the time it all came clear to me, Joanne's 1980 Buick Le Sabre was down the hall in my bedroom, tipped headlong over my dresser. A steep embankment runs up beside our house to the highway. Joanne lost control of her car at the moment when her headlights would have flashed by our window. She was my closest friend. I don't remember a time before I knew her. She was as close as family. When she agreed to my plan, she became family. I still believe that.

The seconds after that accident were the most awful moments of my life, when Cal and I woke to the sounds of Jo's car crashing into our bedroom, crunching our wall like a Saltine cracker. Wood and paint sprayed everywhere, along with glass from the windows and picture frames. I had cuts in a dozen places on my body that I never felt.

My first thought was about the baby. Somehow I thought Joanne would be strong enough to get up and walk away. She'd stood up to her daddy for twenty-seven years; a car wreck shouldn't have been the end of it. But the baby, I didn't know if the baby could take something like that. Then I saw Joanne. I saw her bloody and broken through the car window and I just knew they were both lost.

I stayed in the room as long as I could, until the smell of gasoline and the sight of my friend turned my stomach inside out. I stayed while Cal went to get help and I tried to reach in and touch her, but warm blood was everywhere and I had to pull back. Every part of me was shaking.

After the police, the fire truck, and the ambulances all got to my house, I sat in my kitchen. I was trying to get away from the shouting, the thick air and, most of all, from the sight of Joanne. They said she was alive, but just barely. She probably wouldn't make it out of the car. It was more than I could handle. Sitting in my kitchen, I could block out everything else; only for a few seconds at a time, but just enough to hang on to my mind. I'd stare at my cigarette--the first I'd smoked in two years--like it was the most important object in the world, some treasure, and push all the other images away. It would come back to me in no time; but a moment here and there kept me going, like catching your breath when you're too winded to move on.

Cal stayed in there all morning, talking to the police. He came in the kitchen once with the deputy to answer some questions with me.

"When was the last time you saw her?" the deputy asked Cal. I could hear the medical people in our room, trying to get Joanne out of the car. "She been here recently?"

"Yesterday afternoon," I answered for him. "She came over here."

I thought of her then, standing in my house, troubled by something--both of us unaware of the terrible things that would come so soon.

"Yeah," Cal told the deputy. "She was here when I got in from work."

She'd been at the house for an hour before he got home, working hard to say something to me, looking for words that wouldn't fit into the thoughts she had in her head.

"Joanne," I said. "Just tell me, whatever it is."

I put my hand on her arm and she jumped. We'd been familiar as twins for twenty years of my life. She'd never flinched once before. Then Cal came in the front door. She took one look at him and I didn't need any words to know what she couldn't say. It was my fault. I'd put them together. She left without another word to me or to him.

"Was there anything that made you think she was upset or angry?" the deputy asked. He was looking at me.

"Yeah," I said. Cal looked at the floor. "She never quite got it out, but I knew she was upset."

I looked out the side window of the kitchen, saw the steep rise that led up to where our side yard met the asphalt, the curve in the road before you get to our driveway. I saw the tracks in the tall grass where she'd left the highway, gone airborne. She hit the curve like a straightaway, they told me, never touching the brake. They said the accelerator might have stuck or she might have hit the wrong pedal when she was trying to brake. I couldn't think otherwise of her. My soul couldn't hold any other explanation; but I knew what the deputy and the rest of them were thinking. They were thinking that those things never really happen and this was never really an accident.

"Can you tell me anything else?" the deputy asked me.

Cal looked at me, nodded at me to go ahead.

"She was having a baby for us," I said. The cigarette shook in my fingers. I couldn't make it stop. A smear of blood from a cut I hadn't bothered to wash covered my hand, or maybe it was Joanne's blood. I didn't know.

"It's Cal's baby," I said.

The deputy looked up from his notepad. His whole face was a question.

"We'd asked her to have a baby for us. With us. I can't, you see. I can't have a baby. I told her to have it for me, with Ca--with my husband. She'd be an aunt. A godparent."

The deputy looked down at his notepad again and scribbled. I couldn't see his face. Cal had walked to the den. He stood at the window with his back to me. A blinding sun, rising in the Texas sky, made him look dark, like a shadow standing alone.

The deputy got his voice back.

"Had something changed for her?" he asked. "When she talked to you. Was she thinking she didn't want to do it?"

"She'd changed her mind, I think. Not about the baby. She'd changed her mind about us, about Cal, I think."

Cal walked back to me. He rubbed his hand, light on my cheek, and I felt a tear I didn't know was there.

"You don't know what she was going to say," Cal told me.

"I can guess pretty well."

Cal looked as if he wanted to say more, but he stopped.

"We'd shared something, the three of us," he said, now talking to the deputy. "It was hard to figure out what we all felt. She didn't know what to do with it. Hell, I know I got confused. I think we all did."

Then he turned to me again.

"I love you," he said. "She loved you too. We didn't think about everything enough. How complicated the feelings would get."

His face was pulled in all different directions with pain--pain that I'd caused. In some ways, I might as well have been driving that Le Sabre this morning. I put it all in motion. Now I wanted her back, with or without that baby growing in her belly.

"How far along was she?" the deputy asked. "With the baby?"

"Almost five months," I said.

He looked almost sick, or disgusted, I couldn't read him that well.

"The accident," he managed, finally. He'd heard enough of our story. "Do you remember anything else about the accident?"

"The crashing noises seemed like they might have been a bad dream," I told him, "I woke up stunned and scared, my heart racing."

All I remembered was the hot exhaust, the smell of gas, all bearing in on my nose, choking me like a pillow pushed against my face. It took us both a second to collect our wits.

"Cal came around first. He scooted out of bed, out from in front of the car, and pulled me with him. The motor was still running and the car was lodged on my dresser. The motor kept running and running. It must have stopped sometime, but I don't remember when."

Cal started screaming. I didn't say this to the deputy, but I can hear it in my head if I listen. "Joanne! Oh Christ, Joanne!"

But Joanne was a mess and not in any shape to answer. Her face was mashed in on one side, no face at all, really, all blood and hair. And I stood there and looked at her like she was acting in a movie--frantic that the baby had gotten crushed, still hoping that Joanne would come to any minute. But she didn't come to. She didn't move.

"Cal tried to call for help, but the crash did something to our phone," I said. "He went to his work radio in the truck, got somebody at dispatch to call an ambulance."

I stayed in there as long as I could, until Cal got back. Then I had to leave, had to go to my normal-looking kitchen, a weak puppy hiding from thunder.

"Joanne never opened her eyes or anything. Not that I saw."

After I'd answered all of the officer's questions, one of the policemen, or maybe a paramedic, yelled for the deputy to come back down the hall. Cal ran after him. I stayed behind to think about everything we'd done. It sounded different, our story. Saying it all out loud to a stranger, all the details about the baby, made it sound wrong. I never saw it that way before.

I didn't want to think about what Joanne looked like as they pulled her out of the car. Like a coward, I left her there with them, the baby too. I left them both, sat at the breakfast table in my bathrobe staring at the yellow-colored wallpaper in my kitchen. That's when I knew I had to have a Salem Light. I went through every drawer in the kitchen to find the pack. Stale and wrong, it satisfied my fear.

Then I registered the solid ache of what it would mean to lose Joanne--Jo and the baby with her. She'd been with me nearly forever, lived behind me, almost all my years of growing up. Our backyards ran together like a playground and her room looked as familiar to me as my own. Her mama knew my favorite foods, my favorite colors, bought me clothes when she went shopping for Joanne. My mama French-braided Joanne's hair before school and taught her how to embroider on her jeans.

Joanne knew when Junior Evans kissed me and when Sean Latham first moved his hands to places that had been a secret to everyone, including me. Then there was Cal. She knew I wanted to marry him before I'd said it--to him or to myself.

When they brought her down the hall of my house on a stretcher, when they said she was still alive, I yelled out something, I don't know what, some kind of prayer, like some crazed holy roller. I don't know where it came from. I'm not somebody God counts on for attendance.

I ran to her, planned to tell her how sorry I was, but I stopped when I got a good look. Blood, some fresh and some dried, covered her bandages and the still-familiar features of at least half her face. The skin on her arms and shoulders looked like old wall paint, dull and matte. She looked dead. I couldn't help thinking she'd rather be.

Cal stood in the hall and cried. Loud crying, like a child.

It wasn't until the ambulance drove off, until the road dust behind it conjured ghost images in the heat, that I realized they hadn't said anything about the baby. If Joanne was alive, what about the baby?

"The baby," I said to Cal. "What'd they say about the baby?"

He walked into the den, sat on the arm of the couch.

"There's a heartbeat," he said, his voice hoarse and spent. "That's all they know."


From the Hardcover edition.
Jean Reynolds Page|Author Q&A

About Jean Reynolds Page

Jean Reynolds Page - A Blessed Event
JEAN REYNOLDS PAGE grew up in North Carolina and lived in Texas for ten years. She is the author of A Blessed Event. She worked as an arts publicist in New York City and has written about dance for numerous publications. She lives in the Seattle area with her husband and three children.


From the Hardcover edition.

Author Q&A

A CONVERSATION WITH JEAN REYNOLDS PAGE

Arielle Zibrak is a book editor and freelance writer who lives in New York City.

Arielle Zibrak: You were living in Texas at the time you wrote A
Blessed Event,
and the story is set in Texas. Was this writing what you
know, or do you think there is something within this story that needed
to happen in Texas?
Jean Reynolds Page: The story, I hope, has universal themes of
friendship, family, and redemption. I don’t think it needed to happen
in Texas, but the Texas landscape and culture are so rich. I felt that
particular setting would offer wonderful possibilities. I need to place
my characters somewhere specific and identifiable. That way, I know
who they are and how they became who they are. Where you live
shapes you in so many ways. In Texas, the heat, the open sky, and the
special qualities of light that occur define life on a daily basis. Then
you have the disparate cultures—the Cowboy identity, the Southern
identity, along with all of the influences of Mexico that have now become
Texan too. These characteristics have melded into a unique environment.
I loved living there and I loved imagining there.

AZ: You began with a vivid scene of Joanne’s car crashing into Cal and
Darla’s bedroom. Did the whole story grow out of that image, or did it
come after you formed the idea for the story?
JP: A few months before I began writing A Blessed Event, I saw a
newspaper article about a car that had crashed into a house. It was a
different scenario entirely—the woman driving had been drinking and
an elderly couple lived in the house—but the drama of that image
stayed with me. I started with just that single snapshot in my head
and began to ask questions surrounding it. What if the woman in the
car had some connection to the people in the house? What if some
element of mystery surrounded her motives for being out on the road
so late at night? The idea of the baby came later, but really, I started
with that one moment—a single event that changed lives in an instant.

AZ: What parts of the novel were easier to write, and what parts came
more slowly?
JP: I feel fortunate that, for the most part, the writing came consistently.
However, I did tend to skirt around a couple of scenes in the
first draft because I felt shy about writing them. For instance, the
scene where Cal and Joanne are “together” at Darla’s request. I initially
alluded to the scene without actually writing it in a flashback.
My writers group, friends I met through writing workshops at Southern
Methodist University, called me on the omission. They basically
said, “We’re not buying that this could happen unless we see what led
up to it and how it came about. We need to see the conflicted emotions
in Darla as she allows herself to put this in motion.” They were
right, but it was a difficult scene to realize because the characters had
to walk such a thin line of credibility. The truth of the entire narrative
rests to some degree on the reader believing that Darla could be desperate
enough in that moment to ask this of Jo and Cal, and that those
two could each love Darla enough to go along with it.

AZ: As a teenager, Darla feels her endometriosis is a punishment for
her behavior. As she gets older, she feels guilt connected to her infertility.
How did Darla’s reproductive problems shape her character as
you wrote the novel?
JP: In the flashback scenes, Darla’s medical problems define her early
sexual experiences: It hurts, so it must be bad. As she grows older, she
sees herself as flawed, or damaged, because of the baggage that comes
with making love. In some ways, she lives vicariously through Joanne.
In terms of sex, Jo has none of Darla’s physical or emotional pain.
Then later, of course, Darla realizes that the medical condition has
taken away her ability to have children. All of her resentment and
anger at life and at God become channeled in this single-minded obsession
to have a child. So in many ways, the illness chooses the most
disastrous paths for her. Leaving Sean, asking Jo to sleep with Cal . . .
so many wrong turns come as a result of the confusion and pain from
the condition.

AZ: Sean is a priest who was once a hormone-driven teenager, Peggy
is a lawyer who was once a pot dealer. How do you think these transformations add depth to the characters?
JP: I feel that the truest picture of any human being comes when
you look at the contradictions in that person and then reconcile them
somehow. Sean and Peggy, while completely different in their paths,
possess compassion that comes from having had lives outside the
sanctuary and the courtroom. Sean, in particular, needed to be a fully
realized character. His counseling needed to be more than platitudes.
My hope was that in showing the different periods of Sean’s life, he
would become three-dimensional, a true citizen of Darla’s world rather
than an archetype. However, I wanted to keep his nature consistent
throughout his transformation, and the one thing that remains the
same—from Sean’s adolescence into his adult years—is his ability to
love fully, with genuine commitment. First with Darla, and then later
with God, Sean offers himself completely and with integrity.

AZ: The strength of Darla and Joanne’s friendship is a driving force
throughout the novel. What were your inspirations for these two connected
women and their relationship?
JP: People ask me if I had a friendship that was anything like Darla
and Jo’s. I had good, close friends throughout high school, college, and
after, but I never had that intense kind of friendship that continued
and deepened through all the phases of my life. I watched people who
did, and I was always fascinated and a little envious. I speak of Darla
and Jo in terms of twins. And like twins, friends who are that close
seem to have their own language, a private place where only they exist.
In some ways I always wanted to have that when I was growing up,
although, as with any genuine commitment, there are conflicts and
limitations that occur when offering that much of yourself to one person.
I finally found that kind of bonding and friendship with the man
I married—which came with far less baggage and fewer conflicts than
Darla and Jo experienced!

AZ: Darla worries that Cal only loves the part of her that was shaped
by Joanne. This fear is so great that she hesitates with her answer to
his proposal. Do you think friendships as close as Darla and Joanne’s
compromise the friends as individuals?
JP: I believe we are all shaped by the people in our lives. If you’re
lucky, the people you allow close to you—the ones who define you the
most—bring out your best qualities. I see Darla and Joanne as filling
in gaps for each other that would have been there anyway. That’s what
makes their relationship strong and intense. I see them completing
each other in a number of ways. For example, Darla has a crisis of
faith, but also a very close relationship with her father. Jo is estranged
from her father, but maintains a strong sense of herself spiritually. By
the end, I wanted the women to resolve these aspects of life for each
other. Even after Jo is gone, Darla is able to achieve a certain reconciliation
for her with Larry. On the other hand, Jo’s faith, which continues
throughout the turmoil of her life (and later continues through
young Joe), begins to bring Darla full circle with her own spirituality.
Throughout the book, the women fill in the missing parts of each
other.

AZ: There are a lot of issues raised in the legal battle that occurs in
A Blessed Event during the custody trial. Did you consult with lawyers
while writing the book? What did you hope to accomplish in this particular
part of the narrative?
JP: I have always been intrigued by the law, how it is really more
about perceptions than about absolute rules. I talked with a couple of
wonderful lawyers as well as with a writer friend, a clinical psychologist
who has testified in cases having to do with domestic disputes,
and they all suggested that Darla’s case had wide open possibilities.
One lawyer said, “This is one where the judge would shake his head
and say, Why did I get this one? In the end, I wanted the courtroom
scenes to reflect the damage done to all the individuals involved, win
or lose. Darla wins, but is subjected to hearing her life described in
very cold and negative terms. This happens in front of her mother, her
husband, and everyone else. At that point, she has to confront what
her obsession has cost the people she loves.

AZ: Cal is a wonderful character because we, as readers, never quite
know how we feel about him. Do you see him as sympathetic? Did you
envision him as a good husband?
JP: I think Cal wants to be a good husband, and he believes for a
while that giving in to Darla’s obsessive need for a child—at any cost—
will ultimately make him a better partner for her. He didn’t factor in
the damage that, in hindsight, was inevitable. I’ve had wildly varied
responses to Cal from readers: Some people see him as the victim,
while others see him as the cause of the entire mess. One reader went
so far as to suggest that Darla was weak and driven to have a baby—
essentially, not in her right mind—and that Cal took advantage of this
in order to sleep with Jo. Other people see Darla as horrible and manipulative, leaving Cal to sort through and make sense of her mistakes. I felt sympathetic to all the main characters in the book. This only
deepened for me as the story progressed. I felt that, through some terrible
lapses in judgment on everyone’s part, they stumbled into an
awful mess, and then had to find a way out of it with their souls intact.
I believe they all succeeded in doing that—even Jo. To me, this represents
the essential hope of the story.

AZ: When Joanne and Darla are young, they blame Mr. Timbro entirely
for Joanne’s problems, while his wife is handled as a timid bystander.
How did you envision Mrs. Timbro’s role in Joanne’s childhood? Why do Darla and Joanne not criticize her for her failure to intervene?
JP: Early on, Darla is surprised by Mrs. Timbro’s failure to step in on
Jo’s behalf. Joanne, of course, already knows what Darla finds out by
the end of the book: that Joanne had a major role in aggravating the
conflict with her dad, and that Mrs. Timbro felt torn and tortured
when the two people she loved continued to hurt each other. As chil-
dren, we assume that the way our parents behave is normal, because
it’s all we know. As Jo gets older, I think she wants to protect and
change her mother, to make her more assertive. She becomes determined
never to remain passive like her mother, and this fuels her disputes
with her father. Both Darla and Jo underestimate the love and
devotion that the Timbros have for each other, and the fact that their
marriage actually works for them on their own terms.

AZ: When Sean tells Darla that Joanne was considering entering the
order, Darla marvels that she led the two people closest to her to contemplate full-time religion. What place does religion hold for Joanne and Sean? Why did you choose to use it as a haven for both of these characters?
JP: For people who have been raised with religion in their lives, it
seems that the response to huge problems elicits either a tighter embrace
of those beliefs or an angry rejection of them. If, in your very
center, you’ve been taught that God plays a role in what occurs in your
life, you have to do something with that notion when difficult things
happen. For Sean, who had a basic optimism about life, Darla’s rejection
brought him face-to-face with larger questions of purpose and
existence. He needed to find a positive channel for the hurt because
that was his essential nature. Joanne reached the same kind of faith by
walking backward into it. Her need for a consistent, loving, forgiving
authority led her to trust God in ways that she had always wanted to
(but never could) rely on her own father. Religion is ultimately an extremely
personal path, and I believe people can arrive at the same
place with completely different stories to tell about how they got
there.

AZ: Why did you decide to end with a scene of Darla waiting for Joe
to come home, instead of ending with Joanne’s funeral? What did you
want this last scene to communicate to the reader?
JP: Growing up in a small town in North Carolina, I saw a lot of lives
from a very close perspective. Small towns allow that in a way that
cities don’t, in my opinion. I saw people go through things in the
course of normal life that should have destroyed them. The loss of
children, marital affairs, businesses that went under, and some in-
stances of widespread humiliation and embarrassment from private
mistakes that became very public. Then I went off to college and
moved away. When I came back I saw those same people, still living,
going to work, with various kinds of family put together or kept intact
under all kinds of circumstances. Some of them had found happiness
and most had found some balance in life. The resiliency of life began
to strike me as a remarkable occurrence. I wanted to end Jo and
Darla’s story with the most positive thing to come out of all the pain
and the mistakes: Joe. I wanted to demonstrate the resilient qualities
that kept Darla from being destroyed and that kept Jo from being completely gone from her life.

AZ: Are you working on a new novel now? What lessons from A
Blessed Event
were you able to take with you to this next endeavor?
JP: Like A Blessed Event, my new book Accidental Happiness has relationships at the heart of it. It focuses on how people find what they need by allowing other people to walk with them through their challenges.
While writing A Blessed Event, I learned to follow the characters
rather than lead them. Once characters become three-dimensional
and have natures of their own, they don’t proceed in service of the
plot, but they must react according to their natures to the circumstances
in the plot. If actions start occurring that are contrary to a character’s true nature, the novel begins to read like a play-by-play of a chess tournament. The main character in Accidental Happiness is Gina, a young woman who has been a widow for only three months. Suddenly, her late husband’s ex-wife arrives with a child, a daughter whom Gina never knew existed. Gina is forced to deal with how much responsibility she is willing to assume for a life her husband led before she even met him. What Gina doesn’t count on are the ways that she begins to be healed by these unwanted intrusions. The wrong turns and corrections that I had to make while writing A Blessed Event saved me a lot of frustration with Accidental Happiness. In other words, I was able to go a shorter distance down a deadend path before turning around.

Praise

Praise

“Out of a tortured tangle of friendship and betrayal comes this fast-moving, timely tale. . . . Jean Reynolds Page knows how to hold the reader riveted while her story races on to its surprising conclusion.”
—LEE SMITH

“Jean Reynolds Page makes an extraordinary debut with A Blessed Event, a wonderful, riveting novel that explores human relationships from every angle. There is betrayal and there is redemption; in between there are complex situations and wonderful details of the life of a mother, daughter, lover, friend—most of all, a friend. I couldn’t put it down.”
—JILL MCCORKLE


From the Hardcover edition.
Discussion Questions

Discussion Guides

1. What is the nature of the triangular relationship that exists among Joanne, Cal, and Darla? How do the three characters grow to be dependent on one another during the months leading up to the accident?

2. Why do you think Darla’s first reaction, after leaving the hospital, was to go to Joanne’s?

3. Do you feel that Darla was aware of the danger of having Cal fall
for Joanne when she conceived their plan? Was she ever afraid of
Joanne’s falling for Cal?

4. After Darla leaves college, she works at a print shop that puts out
the local newspaper. Why do you think Darla like this job so much?
What do her reasons for liking the job say about her character?

5. The breakdown of Darla’s plan for Joanne and Cal to conceive her
child is propelled by a series of actions that all three characters make.
Do you think that there’s a way in which the plan could have worked
as Darla had envisioned? What would they have had to do differently?

6. Joanne and Darla decide that Jimmy Cagle is “off limits,” but eventually
each only applies this rule to the other person. Do they hold
each other to higher standards than they hold themselves? What are
other examples of double standards between them?

7. Cal tells Darla that Joanne hurt everyone in her life except for
Darla. Do you agree with him? Why do you think Cal says this?

8. How did the death of Darla’s father affect her? How do her perceptions
of home change after he is gone? Do you think these feelings
shaped her later behaviors?

9. Mr. and Mrs. Timbro decide that they want custody of the baby almost
immediately after they learn of Joanne’s situation. Do you think
it’s just for Mrs. Timbro, as she claimed? Or is there some way that a
baby could set things right for Mr. Timbro as well?

10. Do you think Sean was called to a life of religious service? How
does his religious devotion fit into his personality? Do you think this
devotion always existed for him, or did it grow out of circumstance?

11. Mr. Timbro asks Cal if he is “proud of his whole life” when building
an argument against letting Cal and Darla have custody of the
baby. In your opinion, is this a requirement for being a fit parent?
What makes someone qualified to raise a child? Do Cal and Darla
meet those requirements?

12. Do you think Cal’s initial reluctance to sleep with Joanne was genuine?
How much do you think he downplayed his feelings for her to
Darla, if at all?

13. Cal is a bit mysterious when he explains to Darla what drew him
back to Joanne after their initial sexual encounter. What is alluring about
Joanne, someone whom Cal never seemed to care for previously?

14. Toward the end of the novel, Sean tells Darla of Joanne’s plans to
leave Alliance. Do you think that if Joanne hadn’t crashed her car,
Darla would have gone with her out West? Would this have been a better
outcome for Darla and the baby?

15. When Darla was at college, Joanne aborted a pregnancy and never
told her best friend. Why didn’t Joanne seek help from Darla when
confronted with such a hugely emotional decision? How does the
image Joanne created of herself in Darla’s eyes differ from who she
really was?

16. Darla finds comfort in spending time with Joanne at the hospital
and even talking to her, even though she can’t respond. When Joanne
dies, however, Darla feels as though the body at the funeral bears no
relation to Joanne. Why, even in an unconscious state, is a living body
so dramatically different?

17. What would Joanne have thought of Darla’s newfound peace with
the Timbros at the end of the novel? Would she have felt betrayed or
relieved?

18. Darla gives so many reasons for wanting a baby throughout the
course of the novel that it seems as if she herself doesn’t really know
why she has this need. Why do you think Darla wants a baby so badly?
What does she believe a baby in her life will provide for her?

19. Is the ending of A Blessed Event a happy one? Were you disappointed
that Darla is raising Joe by herself, or do you think it’s for the
best?


  • A Blessed Event by Jean Reynolds Page
  • January 25, 2005
  • Fiction - Literary
  • Ballantine Books
  • $13.95
  • 9780345462169

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