For Book Clubs
I love book clubs! The serious-dedicated-reader kind, the mostly-drink-wine-and-gossip kind, and everything in between! I’m available to visit with your group via Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangout or in person. To schedule a time, contact me here.
For book clubs reading HALF OF WHAT YOU HEAR, I’m happy to provide this reading group guide to inspire your discussion. (Spoiler alert! Some of these questions reference revealing story details!)
1. Does Bess’s move to Greyhill feel like an escape from her humiliation in Washington or a proactive move for her family? What would you have done in her shoes?
2. Do you think Bess deserved to lose her job at the White House? Is “venting with a coworker,” as Bess describes her behavior, ever acceptable or is it always a bad idea?
3. In what ways is Greyhill a typical “small town”? Does it seem like the residents make a conscious effort to keep out outsiders, and if so, do you think this is true of small towns in general? Would you ever live in a place like it?
4. Does Cole owe it to Bess to help her feel more comfortable in Greyhill because it’s his hometown, or is it better for her to have to carve her own path?
5. What does Susannah owe the residents of Greyhill? Is it fair for her to sell off the land even if it means a fundamental change in the town’s character? Is change inevitable?
6. How do the flashbacks to Bess’s high school years reflect her current-day experience with the other mothers in Greyhill? Is Cole right that she’s projecting a bit? Or is Livvie’s experience trying to find friends in their new town similar to hers?
7. Susannah is a layered, complex character with many secrets. By the novel’s end, how had your initial impressions of her changed? Did you feel more or less sympathy for her?
8. Henrietta Martin has taken on an important symbolic significance for the residents of Greyhill. What does she represent for them? How do you think they’ll change their opinions about her and her death now that Bess’s article has shed some light on the incident?
9. Diane is, in some ways, a typical mother-in-law, but she surprises Bess by the end of the book. Did you have to revise your earlier impressions of her, as Bess did? What do you think their future relationship will be like?
10. Does gossip serve any positive purpose in this novel? Have you ever had an instance in your own life when gossiping helped a situation, or do you believe in the old adage that if you can’t say something nice, then you shouldn’t say anything at all? What do you think of people who are described as gossips?