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The Chilbury Ladies' Choir 
Jennifer Ryan, 2017
384 pp.

Just because the men have gone to war, why do we have to close the choir? And precisely when we need it most!
As England enters World War II's dark early days, spirited music professor Primrose Trent, recently arrived to the village of Chilbury, emboldens the women of the town to defy the Vicar's stuffy edict to shutter the church's choir in the absence of men and instead "carry on singing."

Resurrecting themselves as "The Chilbury Ladies' Choir," the women of this small village soon use their joint song to lift up themselves, and the community, as the war tears through their lives.

Told through letters and journals, The Chilbury Ladies' Choir moves seamlessly from budding romances to village intrigues to heartbreaking matters of life and death.

As we come to know the struggles of the charismatic members of this unforgettable outfit...
  ♦ a timid widow worried over her son at the front
  ♦ the town beauty drawn to a rakish artist
  ♦ her younger sister nursing an impossible crush and dabbling in politics she doesn't understand
  ♦ a young Jewish refugee hiding secrets about her family
  ♦ a conniving midwife plotting to outrun her seedy past.

...we come to see how the strength each finds in the choir's collective voice reverberates in her individual life.

In turns funny, charming and heart-wrenching, this lovingly executed ensemble novel will charm and inspire, illuminating the true spirit of the women on the homefront, in a village of indomitable spirit, at the dawn of a most terrible conflict. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Jennifer Ryan is a novelist and nonfiction editor. Her debut novel, The Chilbury Ladies' Choir was released in 2017.

Ryan, was born in a small village in Kent in the UK, which afforded her a near idyllic childhood. As she writes on her website, those early years were spent…

gallivanting around the countryside, often on bikes, climbing tress...and eating cheese and tomato rolls in red telephone boxes to shelter from the rain.

She writes of the scent of lavender and roses and freshly mown grass, memories that permeate settings for her stories.

Ryan attended college, and afterward became an editor for nonfiction books in London. As she gained more experience editing and writing, she eventually found the courage to try fiction. Once she married and took off time to have children, she was able to carve out time to develop her first novel, The Chilbury Ladies' Choir.

That novel is based on stories from her grandmother, who was 20 when World War II began. She recalls bumping into people during the blackouts, singing in air raid shelters, and the relishing the freedom many women felt with the men absent in the war. And, of course, her grandmother belonged to a choir.

Ryan has moved to the Washington, DC, area with her husband and children. (Adapted from the author's website.)

Book Reviews
Told in the form of diaries and letters in the voices of the female characters, Ryan’s novel, reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, captures the experience of the war from a woman’s perspective.… [The] format works well and the plot elements satisfyingly come together.
Publishers Weekly

 Unfortunately, debut author Ryan miscalculates the credibility of her novel's structure and her narrators.… The stalwart ladies of the choir deserve better. —Bette-Lee Fox
Library Journal

All are borderline stock characters, and little that happens in the book is unexpected—though the brutality of Brig. Winthrop… does come as a bit of a shock. The author also tends to tell rather than show.… Mildly entertaining, Ryan's debut novel seems overfamiliar and too intent on warming the heart.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, please use our LitLovers talking points to start a discussion for The Chilbury Ladies' Choir...then take off on your own:

m. What are the consequences on village life of the war and the absence of so many men?

m. In the fairly large cast of characters, who are your favorites—whom do you find most engaging or most admirable, generous, or helpful, and why? Which characters do you find less so? Mrs. Brampton-Boyd, perhaps? Or Miss paltry?

m. Then there is the Brigadier. Does he surprise you?

m. What tests do the many women in this novel face? In what manner does each rise to the occasion in order to meet (or not) those challenges?

m. The book, like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, is made up of letters and diary entries, documents, and notices. Do you enjoy the insertion of these extra-textual narratives, or do you prefer straightforward storytelling with a narrator?

m. When asked if music will help strengthen the spirit of the women during the war, Prim responds:

Music takes us out of ourselves, away from our worries and tragedies…. All those cadences and beautiful chord changes, every one of them makes you feel a different splendor of life.

Do you agree? Do you, personally, find that music offers consolation? What other forms of art might do so, as well?

Discuss, also, how being part of the choir affects each of the characters. What do the members gain, individually and together?

m. Consider the symbolic and/or spiritual significance of the Chilbury choir in this story—the gathering together of people, the blending of a multiplicity of voices, and fact that many voices are more powerful than one. Think of chords and harmony. How might all that relate to the thematic concerns of the novel?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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The Orphan's Tale 
Pam Jenoff, 2017
368 pp.

A powerful novel of friendship and sacrifice, set in a traveling circus during World War II, by international bestselling author Pam Jenoff.

Seventeen-year-old Noa has been cast out in disgrace after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier during the occupation of her native Holland.

Heartbroken over the loss of the baby she was forced to give up for adoption, she lives above a small German rail station, which she cleans in order to earn her keep.

When Noa discovers a boxcar containing dozens of Jewish infants, unknown children ripped from their parents and headed for a concentration camp, she is reminded of the baby that was taken from her. In a moment that will change the course of her life, she steals one of the babies and flees into the snowy night, where she is rescued by a German circus.

The circus owner offers to teach Noa the flying trapeze act so she can blend in undetected, spurning the resentment of the lead aerialist, Astrid. At first rivals, Noa and Astrid soon forge a powerful bond.

But as the facade that protects them proves increasingly tenuous, Noa and Astrid must decide whether their unlikely friendship is enough to save one another—or if the secrets that burn between them will destroy everything. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Where—Silver Spring, Maryland, USA
Education—B.A., George Washington University; M.A., Cambridge University;
   J.D., University of Pennsylvania
Currently—lives in Cherry Hill, New Jersey

Pam Jenoff was born in Maryland and raised outside Philadelphia. She attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Cambridge University in England.

Upon receiving her master's in history from Cambridge, she accepted an appointment as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. The position provided a unique opportunity to witness and participate in operations at the most senior levels of government, including helping the families of the Pan Am Flight 103 victims secure their memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, observing recovery efforts at the site of the Oklahoma City bombing and attending ceremonies to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of World War II at sites such as Bastogne and Corregidor.

Following her work at the Pentagon, Pam moved to the State Department. In 1996 she was assigned to the U.S. Consulate in Krakow, Poland. It was during this period that Pam developed her expertise in Polish-Jewish relations and the Holocaust. Working on matters such as preservation of Auschwitz and the restitution of Jewish property in Poland, Pam developed close relations with the surviving Jewish community.

Pam left the Foreign Service in 1998 to attend law school and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. She worked for several years as a labor and employment attorney both at a firm and in-house in Philadelphia and now teaches law school at Rutgers.

Pam is the author of The Kommandant's Girl, which was an international bestseller and nominated for a Quill award, as well as The Diplomat's Wife, The Ambassador's Daughter, Almost Home, A Hidden Affair and The Things We Cherished.

She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and three children. (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
In prose that is beautiful, ethereal, and poignant, The Orphan's Tale is a novel you won't be able to put down.

Against the backdrop of circus life during the war, the author captures the very real terrors faced by both women as they navigate their working and personal relationships and their complicated love lives while striving for normalcy and keeping their secrets safe.
Publishers Weekly

Noa becomes pregnant by a soldier and is compelled to give up both baby and home. Living above a railway station she cleans to pay her bills, she discovers a boxcar full of Jewish infants bound for a concentration camp and steals one, joining a traveling circus to cover her tracks. Over-the-top imagination.
Library Journal

A Jewish trapeze artist and a Dutch unwed mother bond, after much aerial practice, as the circus comes to Nazi-occupied France.… The diction seems too contemporary for the period, and the degree of danger the characters are in is more often summarized than demonstrated. An interesting premise imperfectly executed.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add the author's questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to start a discussion for The Orphan's Tale...then take off on your own:

1. Noa gives her newborn away but remains bereft by the loss and tormented by visions of the child. What do you make of her decision?

2. In her own voice, Noa tells us...

I am unfamiliar with infants and I hold him at arm's length now, like a dangerous animal. But he moves closer, nuzzling against my neck.

Talk about the horror of that scene in the "nursery car" (which is historically accurate). What prompts Noa to save a half-dead?

3.What do you make of Astrid, whose voice alternates with Noa's? How has her tumultuous past shaped her character, especially in terms of her ability to trust others?

4. Talk about the development of the Noa and Astrid's relationship, on the ropes and off. 

5. Author Pam Jenoff conducted considerable research into Jewish circus dynasties, which has enabled her to provide the grainy details of circus life. What do you find interesting or what, in particular, strikes you about life under the tent?

6. Talk about the symbolic use of the circus with its twinkling lights as a foil to the darkness and terror of the Nazi era.

7. What do you make of the novel's other characters—Herr Neuhoff, or Peter, for instance. In what way do they demonstrate courage in the face of danger, brutality, and evil?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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Perfect Little World 
Kevin Wilson, 2017
352 pp.

When Isabelle Poole meets Dr. Preston Grind, she’s fresh out of high school, pregnant with her art teacher's baby, and totally on her own. Izzy knows she can be a good mother but without any money or relatives to help, she’s left searching.

Dr. Grind, an awkwardly charming child psychologist, has spent his life studying family, even after tragedy struck his own. Now, with the help of an eccentric billionaire, he has the chance to create a “perfect little world”—to study what would happen when ten children are raised collectively, without knowing who their biological parents are.

He calls it The Infinite Family Project and he wants Izzy and her son to join.

This attempt at a utopian ideal starts off promising, but soon the gentle equilibrium among the families disintegrates: unspoken resentments between the couples begin to fester; the project's funding becomes tenuous; and Izzy’s growing feelings for Dr. Grind make her question her participation in this strange experiment in the first place.

Written with the same compassion and charm that won over legions of readers with The Family Fang (2011), Kevin Wilson shows us with grace and humor that the best families are the ones we make for ourselves. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Where—Winchester, Tennessee, USA
Education—B.A., Vanderbilt University; M.F.A., University of Florida
Awards—Shirley Jackson Award
Currently—lives in Swanee, Tennessee

Kevin Wilson is the author of the novels Family Fang (2011) and Perfect Little World (2017). His short story collection, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth (2009), received an Alex Award from the American Library Association and the Shirley Jackson Award.

Wilson's fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, Tin House, One Story, A Public Space, and elsewhere, and has appeared in four volumes of the New Stories from the South: The Year’s Best anthology as well as The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2012.  He has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Rivendell, and the KHN Center for the Arts.

Born and raised in Tennessee, Wilson now lives in Sewanee, Tennessee, with his wife, the poet Leigh Anne Couch, and his sons, Griff and Patch. He is an Associate Professor in the English Department at Sewanee: The University of the South. (Adapted from the author's website.)

Book Reviews
Kevin Wilson…knows how to construct a story.… Like Vonnegut, like Atwood, Wilson is up to serious business—like them, he's also very funny.… [Perfect Little World is] a novel you keep reading for old-fashioned reasons—because it's a good story, and you need to know what happens. But you also keep reading because you want to know what a good family is. Everyone wants to know that.
John Irving - New York Times Book Review

Charming.… Wilson pulls off his sweet-and-tart tone.… The novel delights in the project’s Willy Wonkaesque sense of antic chaos.
Lisa Zeldner - Washington Post

The sheer energy of imagination in Wilson’s work makes other writers of realistic fiction look lazy.… The novel’s grand finale…reminds us that not everything unpredictable is painful or bad, and that conventional arrangements have no monopoly on the profound connections that make family.

Family is far more than a biological bond; that’s not a groundbreaking idea. But Wilson has found a lovely new way of telling readers something they know by heart.
Houston Chronicle

Delicious.… Wilson is such an inventive and witty writer.… [His] "perfect little world" of a novel pretty much lives up to its title.

Persistently compassionate.… Wilson’s best moments are funny and earnest.… [His] crisp language and smart plotting make Perfect Little World immensely likable and absolutely enjoyable.

Quirky.… Wilson’s Perfect Little World finds its bliss in the vast disconnect between people’s best intentions and where they land.
Entertainment Weekly

[Kevin Wilson's] sweet and thoroughly satisfying second novel.… Wilson grounds his premise in credible human motivations and behavior, resulting in a memorable cast of characters. He uses his intriguing premise to explore the meaning of family and the limits of rational decision making.
Publishers Weekly

It takes a village, or in this case a well-meaning, utopian parenting study, to create the ingredients for this almost farcical yet moving novel about love, parenting, and the families we create for ourselves. —Lauren Gilbert, Sachem P.L., Holbrook, NY
Library Journal

(Starred review.) Stellar.…  Compelling.…  Realer and wiser and sadder and eventually reassuring about human nature than dozens of other novels.

(Starred review.) This is another bittersweet story about messed-up families from the talented Wilson.… [The novel] checks in on the "Infinite Family Project" every year or two…[and] delves into the drama and tensions inherent in this strange aquarium.… A moving and sincere reflection on what it truly means to become a family.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, please use our LitLovers talking points to start a discussion for Perfect Little World...then take off on your own:

1. What was your initial impression of Dr. Preston Grind when he is first introduced in the novel? Do you find him—or his goals—sympathetic? Did your views of him change during the course of the novel?

2. How did Grind's childhood affect his adult life, the kind of person he is? Discuss the "Constant Friction Method." What were the goals of his that experiment? Were his parents crazy?

3. Talk about Izzy. How would you describe her character?

4. Follow-up to Question 3: Given Izzy's lack of family support (or shall we say the horror that is her family), what do you make of her decision to sign her child over to Grind—does she have other viable options?

5. What is Mrs. Jackson's motives? Were you suspicious of her? How does her background as an orphan shape her decisions?

6. Kevin Wilson asks us to consider the definition and make-up, of family. What is family? What forms does it take in this book? Do you think there is an ideal family constellation—or is it possible for a solid and effective family structure to take different shapes?

7. The characters, Izzy, Grind, and Mrs. Jackson, all products of broken or nonexistent families, long for community and a sense of belonging. How does that trait evidence itself in each of these characters?

8. Talk about the breast feeding assembly line, which makes Izzy feel as if she...

had ended a shift in a factory that had been imagined by Walt Disney, the bright colors and happy music overriding the weird fact that you were working on an assembly line that created superbabies.

9. Kevin Wilson is both clever and perceptive, writing often with humor. What parts of this novel did you find humorous? Consider, for instance, the Stanford marshmallow experiment. (Do you know that it is a real-life experiment?)

10. Talk, of course, about the irony inherent in the novel's title. Can you come up with any other titles that might be appropriate?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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A Piece of the World 
Christina Baker Kline, 2017
320 pp.

   Later he told me that he’d been afraid to show me the painting. He thought I wouldn’t like the way he portrayed me: dragging myself across the field, fingers clutching dirt, my legs twisted behind. The arid moonscape of wheatgrass and timothy. That dilapidated house in the distance, looming up like a secret that won’t stay hidden.

To Christina Olson, the entire world was her family’s remote farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. Born in the home her family had lived in for generations, and increasingly incapacitated by illness, Christina seemed destined for a small life.

Instead, for more than twenty years, she was host and inspiration for the artist Andrew Wyeth, and became the subject of one of the best known American paintings of the twentieth century.

As she did in her beloved smash bestseller Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline interweaves fact and fiction in a powerful novel that illuminates a little-known part of America’s history. Bringing into focus the flesh-and-blood woman behind the portrait, she vividly imagines the life of a woman with a complicated relationship to her family and her past, and a special bond with one of our greatest modern artists.

Told in evocative and lucid prose, A Piece of the World is a story about the burdens and blessings of family history, and how artist and muse can come together to forge a new and timeless legacy.

This edition includes a four-color reproduction of Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Raised—in Maine and Tennessee, USA, and the UK
Education—B.A., Yale University; M.B., Cambridge University; M.F.A., University of Virginia
Currently—lives in Montclair, New Jersey

Christina Baker Kline is a novelist, nonfiction writer, and editor. In addition to A Piece of the World (2017) and Orphan Train (2013), her novels include Bird in Hand, The Way Life Should Be, Desire Lines, and Sweet Water.

Kline also commissioned and edited two widely praised collections of original essays on the first year of parenthood and raising young children, Child of Mine and Room to Grow. She coauthored a book on feminist mothers and daughters, The Conversation Begins, with her mother, Christina L. Baker, and she coedited About Face: Women Write About What They See When They Look in the Mirror with Anne Burt.

Kline grew up in Maine, England, and Tennessee, and has spent a lot of time in Minnesota and North Dakota, where here husband grew up. She is a graduate of Yale, Cambridge, and the University of Virginia, where she was a Hoyns Fellow in Fiction Writing.

She has taught creative writing and literature at Fordham and Yale, among other places, and is a recent recipient of a Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation fellowship. She lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with her family. (From the pubisher.)

Book Reviews
[I]n expanding on Christina’s story, Kline defies what some might see as the strength of Wyeth’s work, its undercurrent of mystery.… Despite the naturalism of his style, Wyeth asks viewers to exercise their own imaginations. In contrast, Kline sometimes over-explains.… This approach serves readers who want to fill in the blanks, to experience the daily grind of a way of life that often has been burnished by the passage of time, to honor the rectitude of people who stoically shoulder their burdens and get on with their chores. A Piece of the World is a story for those who want the mysterious made real.
Becky Aikman - New York Times Book Review

Like Wyeth’s paintings, this is a vivid novel about hardscrabble lives and prairie grit and the seemingly small but significant beauties found there.
Christine Brunkhorst - Minneapolis Star Tribune

Kline’s gift is to dispense with the fustiness and fact-clogged drama that can weigh down some historical novels to tell a pure, powerful story of suffering met with a fight. In fiction, in her quiet way, Christina triumphs—and so does this novel.
Oprah Magazine

A gorgeous read.
Real Simple

Artfully (pun intended) inspired by the Andrew Wyeth painting Christina’s World.
Marie Claire

[I]ntriguing.… The story is told from Christina’s point of view, from the moment she reflects on the painting; it then goes back and forth through her history.… Through it all, the author’s insightful, evocative prose brings Christina’s singular perspective and indomitable spirit to life.
Publishers Weekly

(Starred review.) [A] finely drawn novel.… Kline expertly captures the essence of Wyeth's iconic masterpiece and its real-life subject, crafting a moving work of historical fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 8/15/16.]—Christine Perkins, Whatcom Cty. Lib. Syst., Bellingham, WA
Library Journal

Readers will savor the quotidian details that compose Christina’s "quiet country life." Orphan Train was a best-seller and popular book-discussion choice, so expect demand.

The real-life subject of an iconic work of art is given her own version of a canvas—space in which to reveal her tough personality, bruised heart, and "artist's soul."… It's thin on plot, but Kline's reading group-friendly novel delivers a character portrait that is painterly, sensuous, and sympathetic.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, please use our LitLovers talking points to start a discussion for A Piece of the World...then take off on your own:

1. A good place to start a discussion of A Piece of the World is by considering Wyeth's painting, Christina's World. What does the painting exude, how would you describe its mood? Why might Wyeth have chosen not to reveal Christina's face? Observing the painting how does Christine strike you?

2. Now consider the novel. Do you think Christina Baker Kline captures the essence of Wyeth's painting? Is her own "drawing" of Christine what you might expect from the painting? More...or less than? Different?

3. Follow-up to Question 2: Describe Christine and the hardships she faces in her life. Talk about her debilitating disease. No one seems to pity her; is she deserving of pity in your eyes? Is she deserving of pity in her own eyes?

4. What was life like in Maine for Christine and her family in Cushing, Maine? Does Kline's portrayal detract at all from the nostalgic sheen which bygone eras sometimes create in us? Was there once an idyllic rural past?

5. In what way does Andrew Wyeth open up Christine's life? What does he show her about her surroundings? How does Kline portray Christine and Andy's attachment to one another?

6. Emily Dickinson's poetry and life seem to loom large in Christine's imagination. What does Christine find in the poet's work that inspires her?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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Behind Her Eyes 
Sarah Pinborough, 2017
Flatiron Books
320 pp.

Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone.

When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar. The very married man from the bar…who says the kiss was a terrible mistake, but who still can’t keep his eyes off Louise.

And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend. But she also just happens to be married to David. And if you think you know where this story is going, think again, because Behind Her Eyes is like no other book you’ve read before.

David and Adele look like the picture-perfect husband and wife. But then why is David so controlling? And why is Adele so scared of him?

As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong. But Louise can’t guess how wrong—and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.

In Behind Her Eyes, Sarah Pinborough has written a novel that takes the modern day love triangle and not only turns it on its head, but completely reinvents it in a way that will leave readers reeling. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
AKA—Sarah Silverwood
Where—Buckinghamshire, England, UK
Education—West London Institute
Awards—British Fantasy Award
Currently—lives in London, England

Sarah Pinborough is a British novelist of "grip-lit." She is know for her Young Adult fiction (occasionally using the pseudonym, Sarah Silverwood). Her recent adult offering, Behind Her Eyes, was released in 2017 with considerable fanfare in the UK and the US. 

Pinborough was born in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England. Her father was a diplomat, and the family lived in Syria until she was eight, when she was sent to board at Bedford High School. She describes herself as "the naughtiest girl in the school" and was thrown out at 16, after which she went to Edinburgh Academy for Boys. She attended the West London Institute (now Brunel), where she studied history and English.

In her early twenties she managed a strip club in Soho and later became head of English at Lea Manor High School in Luton.

Pinborough has been a full-time writer since 2008, publishing more than 20 novels and several novellas; she has also written for the BBC. Her recent novels include the dystopian love story, The Death House (2015), and a YA horror story, 13 Minutes (2016), which as of this writing is in production with Michael "Fifty Shades" De Luca for Netflix. (Adapted from the Evening Standard and the author's website.)

Book Reviews
By injecting a spritz of supernatural fizz into Behind Her Eyes, Pinborough shrewdly transforms a romantic suspense novel into an eerie thriller calculated to creep you out.… Pinborough keeps us guessing about just who’s manipulating whom—until the ending reveals that we’ve been wholly complicit in this terrifying mind game.
Marilyn Stasio - New York Times Book Review

The second twist turns the creepy factor up to 11 and is a total wrong-footer. #WTF ending indeed— the sort that makes you go back to the beginning to check if it all pans out. And it does.
Guardian (UK)

[A] twisty psychological thriller.… Pinborough will keep even veteran genre readers guessing about which members of the trio, if any, are providing trustworthy accounts of their pasts and presents.
Publishers Weekly

Deserves its own warning label.… Avoid any contact with the growing buzz concerning the novel’s ingenious, to-die-for twist.

(Starred review.) A masterpiece of suspense…and dread that is highly satisfying. But it is with the plot, so tight and yet also intricate, that Pinborough shines…as the story moves to the disturbing conclusion that everyone is talking about.… Readers will likely never see it coming

One of them is hiding a secret, revealed near the end of the book, which will leave you (and another of the characters) gasping.… [Y]our patience and indulgence will be rewarded in spades.

Discussion Questions
(We'll add specific questions if and when they're made available by the publisher. In the meantime, use our generic mystery questions.)

Mystery / Crime / Suspense Thrillers

1. Talk about the characters, both good and bad. Describe their personalities and motivations. Are they fully developed and emotionally complex? Or are they flat, one-dimensional heroes and villains?

2. What do you know...and when do you know it? At what point in the book do you begin to piece together what happened?

3. Good crime writers embed hidden clues in plain sight, slipping them in casually, almost in passing. Did you pick them out, or were you...clueless? Once you've finished the book, go back to locate the clues hidden in plain sight. How skillful was the author in burying them?

4. Good crime writers also tease us with red-herrings—false clues—to purposely lead readers astray? Does your author try to throw you off track? If so, were you tripped up?

5. Talk about the twists & turns—those surprising plot developments that throw everything you think you've figured out into disarray.

  1. Do they enhance the story, add complexity, and build suspense?
  2. Are they plausible or implausible?
  3. Do they feel forced and gratuitous—inserted merely to extend the story?

6. Does the author ratchet up the suspense? Did you find yourself anxious—quickly turning pages to learn what happened? A what point does the suspense start to build? Where does it climax...then perhaps start rising again?

7. A good ending is essential in any mystery or crime thriller: it should ease up on tension, answer questions, and tidy up loose ends. Does the ending accomplish those goals?

  1. Is the conclusion probable or believable?
  2. Is it organic, growing out of clues previously laid out by the author (see Question 3)?
  3. Or does the ending come out of the blue, feeling forced or tacked-on?
  4. Perhaps it's too predictable.
  5. Can you envision a different or better ending?

8. Are there certain passages in the book—ideas, descriptions, or dialogue—that you found interesting or revealing...or that somehow struck you? What lines, if any, made you stop and think?

9. Overall, does the book satisfy? Does it live up to the standards of a good crime story or suspense thriller? Why or why not?

(Generic Mystery Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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