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Jodi Picoult Discussion Questions: Leaving Time

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

Leaving Time_Picoult

For more than a decade, Jenna Metcalf has never stopped thinking about her mother, Alice, who mysteriously disappeared in the wake of a tragic accident. Refusing to believe she was abandoned, Jenna searches for her mother regularly online and pores over the pages of Alice’s old journals. Desperate to find the truth, Jenna enlists two unlikely allies in her quest: Serenity Jones, a psychic, and Virgil Stanhope, the jaded private detective who’d originally investigated Alice’s case along with the strange, possibly linked death of one of her colleagues. As the three work together to uncover what happened to Alice, they realize that in asking hard questions, they’ll have to face even harder answers.

Speaking of questions and answers, below are some discussion questions that can guide your book club discussion of Leaving Time.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Despite their different backgrounds, Jenna, Serenity, and Virgil form a sort of unconventional family together. What do you think brings them together? Have you ever had a similar experience of finding support from an unlikely source?

2. Alice says that 98 percent of science is quantifiable, leaving 2 percent “that can’t be measured or explained. And yet that does not mean it doesn’t exist.” (p. 392) Do you agree or disagree? Can you think of examples from the book or from your own experience of something that fits into that 2 percent?

3. Virgil grapples with helping Jenna when he suspects discovering the truth might be more painful to her than never knowing. Have you ever been in a situation where you knew a truth that it might hurt someone to hear? What did you do?

4. Serenity’s fake psychic readings are successful, she says, because people look for sense in the nonsensical. Do you agree or disagree? If a psychic reading brings someone comfort or helps them grieve, do you think it matters if the message is faked?

5. Jenna meets up with another character at the very end of the book. (pp. 394–395) Were you surprised to see who that was? Why or why not?

6. Alice describes some amazing examples of elephants appearing to exhibit grief and empathy, which are drawn from real–life research. Discuss some of the ways elephant grief is depicted. How is it the same as human mourning? How is it different?

7. One of the major themes of Leaving Time is loss and how to cope with it. Discuss some of the ways the characters in this novel deal with their losses. Do you identify with any of these coping mechanisms more than others? How do you approach loss?

8. Do you think Thomas’s erratic and upsetting behavior justifies Alice’s affair with Gideon? What would you have done in Alice’s place?

9. Jenna compares her search for her mother to Captain Ahab’s search for the whale in Moby-Dick, or Javert hunting Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, saying they are all three defined by their search. Do you agree with this assessment? Have you ever felt defined in this way by something you wanted?

10. Why do you think Serenity loses her gift? And why do you think Jenna is able to help bring it back?

11. Do you believe in ghosts? If you could communicate with anyone who has passed away, who would it be?

12. Discuss the significance of the title Leaving Time. What is the literal meaning that Jenna ascribes to the phrase as a baby? What are some other ways the title could be interpreted?

13. “Negative moments get remembered. Traumatic ones get forgotten.” (p. 12) What do you think this means? Do you agree or disagree? Have you ever experienced something and discovered later that someone else remembers it completely differently?

Giveaway Opportunity: GOLDEN STATE by Michelle Richmond

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Richmond_Golden State “A breathtaking read and one I’ll not soon forget.”—Melanie Benjamin, author of The Aviator’s Wife

Perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult, Jacquelyn Mitchard, and Anna Quindlen, Golden State is a powerful, mesmerizing new novel that explores the intricacies of marriage, family, and the profound moments that shape our lives.

Doctor Julie Walker has just signed her divorce papers when she receives news that her younger sister, Heather, has gone into labor. Though theirs is a strained relationship, Julie sets out for the hospital to be at her sister’s side—no easy task since the streets of San Francisco are filled with tension and strife. Today is also the day that Julie will find herself at the epicenter of a violent standoff in which she is forced to examine both the promising and the painful parts of her past—her Southern childhood; her romance with her husband, Tom; her estrangement from Heather; and the shattering incident that led to her greatest heartbreak.

Infused with emotional depth and poignancy, Golden State takes readers on a journey over the course of a single, unforgettable day—through an extraordinary landscape of love, loss, and hope.

“This is the kind of book you want to read slowly, but instead you read it in a mad rush to find out where this incredibly talented writer is taking you.”—Ann Packer, author of Swim Back to Me

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Enter for your chance to win NO CHILD OF MINE by Susan Lewis

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Lewis_No Child of Mine_tp From internationally bestselling British author Susan Lewis comes an unflinching, thoroughly suspenseful novel—perfect for readers of Jodi Picoult—about the darkest secrets a family can hide.

Alex Lake’s life is centered on helping people. Her job as a social worker in a British seaside town is more than a career: It’s the very essence of who she is. And though there are frustrations, Alex takes to heart the rewards of placing a child in a safe and loving home. But when she encounters three-year-old Ottilie Wade, Alex is completely unprepared for the effect the sweet, shy little girl has on her. Though on the surface Ottilie seems to want for nothing—she’s perfectly healthy and lives in a very nice home—she’s mysteriously silent and asocial. Alex knows that something is not right in the Wade house. And the deeper she looks into the case, the more Alex comes to feel that she and Ottilie are being drawn together by fate.

As disturbing evidence mounts and Alex’s superiors seem unwilling to help, Alex knows she will have to risk everything—her job and the life she loves—to save Ottilie. But Alex will also have to wrestle the demons of her own past before she can secure a future for this child in need.

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Jane’s Bookshelf, Volume 1: New Year, New Books

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

JVMWhat does a publisher at the world’s biggest publishing house read for pleasure? (And how does she find the time?) Jane von Mehren is the Senior Vice President and Publisher of Trade Paperbacks at the Random House Publishing Group. Every now and then, she’ll be featuring her favorite new reads in her Reader’s Circle column, Jane’s Bookshelf—books that she thinks you’ll love, whether you read them solo or with your club! And if you’re on Twitter, you can follower her tweets at @janeatrandom.

The AffairEvery year, I use the holiday break as a time to try new authors, revisit favorites, explore genres I don’t often reach for, and catch up on that classic I’ve been meaning to get to. This year, my new author was Lee Child. So many people rave about this series’ hero, Jack Reacher, I had to meet this guy. THE AFFAIR is a perfect place to start since it’s the story of the events that result in his leaving the military and becoming the loner ex-military cop he’s so famous for. I loved being in Reacher’s mind as he investigates the death of a young woman in a small Mississippi town, uncovering a case that is more complex and nuanced than he’s been led to believe. And when he brilliantly outwits the bad guys who definitely don’t want to be found, I cheered, realizing that I too had become a “Reacher creature.”

lonewolfI haven’t read a Jodi Picoult novel in ages, so when an early copy of LONE WOLF (being published by Atria this spring) came my way, I knew I was in for a treat. After an accident leaves Luke in a vegetative state, his estranged son and overprotective daughter must decide his fate in a tale that is emotionally and morally riveting. Luke has spent his life working with wolves, and what you learn about wolf pack behavior resonates beautifully with the story of this family in crisis. Yes, I cried—and yes, there are some painful moments—but I couldn’t stop reading. And the ending has one of those incredible surprises that I didn’t see coming, but was so true and utterly satisfying.

Catherine_the_GreatI have always loved biography, but with so many (often shorter) books on my pile, I don’t read as many as I’d like. Robert Massie’s CATHERINE THE GREAT brings Catherine, who became Empress of Russia in 1762, completely alive in the pages of this masterful portrait, making you understand her as a woman, mother, politician, lover, and ruler. No less impressive is his account of the era’s history and the artistic, military, philosophical, and political events that she controlled for more than three decades.

MadameBovary_transLydiaDavisOnly part way through the classic, Lydia Davis’s translation of MADAME BOVARY, I’ve found myself reading it a bit differently since I’ll be discussing it with my Ladies of Lefferts book club in a couple of weeks. I cherish the conversations and camaraderie of our evenings together, which reminds me of the delightful, witty memoir by Rachel Bertsche, MWF SEEKING BFF we just published. Bertsche writes about how central the book club experience was to her while trying to forge the friendships she craved when she left behind her BFFs in New York and moved to Chicago. She’s right: the combination of delicious food and lively conversation brings people together in an intimate way. As I finish MADAME BOVARY and start 2012, I wish you many a great read, engrossing discussion, and deepened friendship.

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