Excerpted from Cloud Nine by Luanne Rice. Copyright © 1999 by Luanne Rice. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Describe Cloud Nine...
When I think about Cloud Nine, I think of my experience with my mother. Of how she got sick, and of how I would have done anything to stop that. I think that in Cloud Nine, Sarah, the heroine, wants so badly to stick around to see what's going to happen to Mike, her teenage son, and she would do anything to be sure that happens. And Mike, as closed off as any eighteen-year-old could be, wants this too, more than anything.
Cloud Nine is a novel of healing, of healing between Sarah and her father, and Sarah and her son.
What was it like as an author for Cloud Nine to have succeeded so well? Did hitting the New York Times bestseller list affect you in any way?
The whole thing was a huge thrill. I was in New York at the time, getting ready to go off on tour to promote Follow The Stars Home (in hardcover). The phone rang, and it was my editor calling. "Are you sitting down?" she asked. "Yes," I replied. To be specific, I was taking a bath. She told me "Cloud Nine is number nine on the New York Times paperback bestseller list." I asked her to please say it again. Then, because I wasn't exactly sure I'd heard right, I asked her again. But before she finished speaking, I had started to cry.
I've been writing for a long time. My first poem was published when I was eleven; my first story when I was fifteen. I quit college to see the world and write fiction. Writing has always been my passion, a dream in itself. To live by writing: who could imagine a better life?
I tell myself rewards don't matter: the joy is the work. I have the mermaids to keep me company. As a child, I won the praise of my teachers. My mother, a teacher of English, was very proud of me. Every day I wake up, go to my desk and write the next pages. But the New York Times Bestseller List! Wow! I grew up reading the Book Review. I have perused the lists, cheered when my favorite authors—some of them friends now—made it on. When a book appears there, it's like watching someone's dream come true. The author has found a readership, a group of people who love their work enough to flock to it.
What writer wouldn't want such a thing? When I write, I always imagine my reader. I imagine the light on the pages, the curtain moving at the open window, my reader lost in my story. I know certain people are drawn to my work because of the things in their own lives: certain hopes, dreams, losses, secrets. When they come to my books, they are looking for something very particular.
I know what that is. I do, I do. And I am so thrilled you're still here. I'm so glad I am too.
From the Paperback edition.
1. Discuss the novel’s title. What did Sarah hope to give the customers of her bedding shop? How does the world look to her from the sky, with Will piloting? Where do you find your perfect bliss? Which people in your life help you attain it?
2. How does Sarah approach her illness? What gives her the courage to be optimistic during her recovery? What can she teach everyone who faces a daunting challenge?
3. How does Susan cope with the loss of Fred? What is reflected in her wish to change her name, and in the rage she sometimes expresses in front of her parents?
4. How was Sarah affected by the death of her mother? Is George’s response to grief typical of most spouses? Why does Mike feel more comfortable being with George than with Sarah?
5. Discuss Will’s ex-wife, Alice, and her newfound wealth with Julian. What is missing from her life, despite the financial success? Were she and Will ever a good match?
6. What does Mike need in order to feel secure in the world? How did your opinion of him shift throughout the novel?
7. Why were Will and Sarah drawn to each other so quickly? How do they forge common ground between her past and his–including his history with the navy, and the loss of parents?
8. How is Sarah changed by being reawakened sexually? How did illness and recovery influence her perception of her body?
9. Many of the novel’s characters grapple with the question of why bad things happen to good people. What approaches have you seen to tragedies such as the ones that unfold in Cloud Nine?
10. How has Sarah’s relationship with her family changed by the novel’s closing chapters? What kinds of homecoming experiences did she have? How did the Talbot’s Thanksgiving gathering compare to yours?
11. Why is it important for Will to marry Sarah? What pain from the past is washed away in that moment?
12. How did you react to the novel’s epilogue? What legacy is left for Susan, and for all of the novel’s characters?
13. Luanne Rice often draws on the unique landscape of New England in crafting her novels. What makes the setting of Cloud Nine appropriate for the characters’ lives? What are the beauties and shortcomings of Elk Island and its remote location?
14. In what ways does Cloud Nine underscore the wisdom of love that is evident in each of Luanne Rice’s novels? How does this novel offer a new definition of a happy ending?