One of the best parts of being an author is meeting with book clubs. If you’re interested in having me Skype or call into your book club to discuss one of my novels, drop me a line; I’d love to join you.
- Why do you think James is drawn to Lou? Is it really love at first sight and therefore something he can’t control—or is his love a choice?
- How does James’ view of love evolve over time—and why?
- James’ mother says to him, “You do what you can with whatever you get.” This viewpoint seems to reflect his friend Wisnewski’s approach to life—which James suspects is the secret to happiness. Do you think he’s right? And do you agree with his mother?
- What role do names and nicknames play in this novel?
- James says that the difference between love and loss is so slight that it’s almost impossible to perceive. What does he mean by this? And does his fear of loss hold him back from fully loving others, such as Kathryn?
- In recalling his affair with Lou, James says, “It was a small series of choices that snowballed into a much bigger decision, which then became an outcome that none of us saw coming.” Do you think this is an accurate recollection of what happened between him and Lou?
- At the end of the novel, James tells Emerson she should trust Rob, even though he cheated on Lou: “Rob made many mistakes, as did I. They do not mean he isn’t a good man.” Do our choices make us “good” or “bad”? Why do you think both Rob and James failed the people they most loved?
- Why do you think Rob ultimately forgives James? How big of a role does James’ illness play in their reconciliation?
- Echoing the opening line of the novel, James later notes, “Every story ends with loss.” Is that true?
- What do you think was James’ purpose in writing this book for Emerson?
Discussion Questions for Life and Other Near Death Experiences:
- Do you think Libby would have made the same decisions about her health if Tom had not made his confession on the same day she was diagnosed with cancer?
- Libby and her twin brother Paul have different personalities—and markedly different ways of dealing with crisis. Libby suspects that their personalities are at least partially a reaction to their mother’s death, but her father disagrees. Do you think personality is innate? How much of Libby’s sunny-side-up approach do you think is a reaction to her deep grief over her mother’s death?
- Was Shiloh’s announcement (that he, too, had once had cancer) unexpected? Did you suspect he was hiding something?
- Did you agree with the way Libby ended things with Tom? If you were in Libby’s shoes, would you have told Tom about your diagnosis?
- Have you ever gone through a near-death experience—and if so, did you realize it at the time?
- Tom and Libby were high school sweethearts. Do you really know who you are when you are 20? Should people get married so young?
- Do you think Libby’s pre-cancer behavior and ultra-sunny personality had a lot to do with why Tom waited as long as he did to tell her the truth about his sexuality?
- Milagros tells Libby, “Don’t look back too much; you’re not going that way.” Do you think she’s right? Is it a mistake to spend too much time thinking about the past?