From bestselling author Deb Caletti comes a beautiful and profound novel of three women coming to terms with love and marriage—sure to move and delight fans of Kristin Hannah, Liane Moriarty, and Anna Quindlen.
“You don’t grow up on a divorce ranch and not learn to take a vow seriously.”
Use these discussion questions to guide your book club…
1. Imagine you were doing a six–week stint at one of the divorce ranches of yesteryear. If you could choose which women (past or present) you stayed on with, who would they be and why? Who’s your favorite of the characters at Tamarosa Ranch under Nash’s watch?
2. Of course, the divorce ranches weren’t all fun and games for women seeking quickie divorces, but as in The Secrets She Keeps, there’s a definite spirit of liberation, indulgence, spunk, and camaraderie underlying it all. What part of checking into a divorce ranch could you get used to, if you had to? What would be the hardest thing about it? How are these pros and cons addressed in the novel?
3. The notion of home plays a major role throughout the book. Callie loved her house so much that she’d “put up with almost anything if it meant not losing that brick pathway [she’d] planted with perennials.” Veronica, on the other hand, doesn’t know where she’ll call home once she’s officially divorced Gus. What does home mean or come to mean for each of the characters? Discuss the larger statement the novel might be making about home when human nature seeks both permanence and change.
4. At one point, Callie wonders, “What heedless actions would you change if you could read the future,” going on to say, “I don’t have the answer to that even now.” By the end of the novel, do you think Callie should want to change any of her “heedless actions”? Would you wish for the opportunity to edit your own life in such a way, or like Callie and Nash, do you believe in fate instead?
5. Callie and Shaye find it hard to believe that Nash never got married. Why do you think Nash never joined the ranks of married women? Would it have changed your impression of her if she ever had?
6. Jack tells Nash that seeing the wild horses changes a person; that it’s a message from nature that leaves you transformed. How does seeing the horses change Nash and Callie in fundamental ways? Can you describe a similar event in your own life that had the same effect on you?
7. Shaye’s love life, with its many conquests and questionable “dark storm clouds,” is completely at odds with Callie’s enduring marriage and domesticity. But they’ve both ended up at a crossroad in their lives and relationships, where they seem to be searching for the same thing. What is that thing and have they each managed to find it by the end of the novel? What lessons did they learn from each other’s disparate experiences and approaches to love that they might not have realized on their own?
8. How did it affect your read to have Callie’s marital issues set against the interwoven stories of the divorcees at Tamarosa Ranch? Did you see her problems as more trivial in comparison to those experiences or tantamount? How might you have seen her and the book in general differently if this were Callie’s story alone?
9. “Every person must come full circle to his or her rightful life, Nash knows. Sometimes, you have to make that same trip more than once.” Discuss how this sentiment applies to the journeys undertaken by the central characters.
10. One of the major things Callie grapples with is the expansiveness of life and its endless possibilities. At one point, she remarks that being in the desert “was a whole slice of life I knew nothing about, which makes you realize just how many such slices there are.” Later, she says, “There were so many possible lives to lead. Every day, you chose your life, even if you could forget that.” Do you think Callie finds this position liberating or maddening? Does the limitlessness she sees before her actually stunt her in some ways? On the flip side, why did she have to step outside of her little slice in order to be satisfied with it, and what made her choose that life in the end?
11. Did you realize all along that Callie was undergoing a legitimate midlife crisis or did this come as much as a surprise to you as it did to her? Why do you think she was able to hide it from herself for so long? Was it easier to see Thomas’s actions as more indicative of a midlife crisis for some reason?
12. Nash offers such comic relief to the story, even though she’s the one facing her own mortality. Do you think her clear–eyed, straight–shooting nature is a result of her nearing the end of her life, or do you see glimmers of that personality from her earlier years? What was your favorite life lesson learned from Nash? Does she remind you of anyone you know?
13. What did you make of Jack as a character? Nash says she fancied the idea of him rather than the man himself. Did you get the sense while reading that he functions more as an idea for her than a man? Or as a means to some
14. “When it comes to sisters, it seems that one stays and one goes, one remains bound and the other is set free. [Nash] is who she is in good part because of who Gloria isn’t. In order to be herself, in order to be different from her sister, she had to take what was left over, the opposite, unchosen road.” Compare the sister relationships in the book. Does this statement hold true in all cases? Does it apply to your relationship with your own siblings?
15. Discuss how the past and present are contrasted in the book, both in terms of character foils and times, mind–sets, customs, etc., either changing or staying the same. Do you wish any of the old, forgotten ways as portrayed in this story were still preserved? Like Nash, do you think we’ve come light–years from the bygone era of divorce ranches, or like Shaye, do you think those days might not be as far in the past as we’d like to believe?
16. Nash and Lilly exchange books in an act that bonds them as friends. Have you spoken the love language of books with your friends, and which are the stories you’ve gifted? Which book would you have given Lilly if you were in Nash’s place? Which would you have given Nash?
17. The opening chapter told from Nash’s point of view establishes the expectation of “a doomed mission of the heart.” Did you have any preconceived ideas about what Nash’s mission entailed, and if so, were you surprised by the revelation of her actual secret in the end?
18. Nash says she doesn’t know if she believes in happy endings but that the story goes on. Do you think this particular story has a happy ending, or that things are left open-ended? What do you hope for these characters if that’s the case?