My novel, Love and Other Natural Disasters, is great for book clubs. It raises all sorts of questions about intimacy, monogamy, and the fuzzy line between friendship and infidelity. And I’d love to be there for part or all of the discussion, if you’d like.
Here’s the reading group guide for Love and Other Natural Disasters (beware of spoilers if you haven’t read the book yet):
1. After learning that her husband Jon has been emotionally involved with another woman for the past year, Eve thinks, “In all these years, I’d never had occasion to doubt Jon’s love and fidelity. It was like suddenly finding out you’ve been living in someone else’s marriage—someone else’s bad marriage. I mean, these sorts of things don’t happen in good marriages, do they?” Do they?
2. The first time Eve reads Jon’s e-mail, she’s doing it to prove his innocence. Does that make it less wrong? When she continues to do it, is her behavior justified by circumstance? If not, would it be justified by any circumstance?
3. Psychologist and infidelity expert Shirley Glass has said that there are three main traits that distinguish an emotional affair from an ordinary friendship: emotional intimacy that is greater than in the marriage, sexual tension, and secrecy. Does Jon’s relationship with Laney qualify?
4. Eve’s friend Tamara thinks Jon’s actions are less of a betrayal because there was no sex, while her friend Lil thinks an emotional affair is worse than a sexual one. Which point of view does Eve find more convincing? Which do you?
5. Did you find yourself siding with Jon and/or Eve at different points in the book, and being frustrated by the other spouse? Think of the strongest reaction you had to either Eve or Jon, and what experiences from your own life influenced it.
6. The reader doesn’t find out very much of substance about Laney. Why do you think the author chose this approach instead of, say, having Eve call Laney so the reader could get a sense of Laney’s voice? Was it the right choice for the story the author was trying to tell?
7. Tamara advances her stuffer theory: men who don’t feel comfortable expressing their anger stuff it down until it hinders their ability to love their partners. Do you buy Tamara’s theory? And is Jon ultimately a stuffer?
8. If you were to develop a corresponding theory about Eve’s anger, what would it be?
9. Eve decides against staying together for the sake of the children. In initiating an official separation, she tells Jon, “I think they’re better off seeing us first-rate, even if it’s apart.” Do you agree?
10. Eve and Tamara are initially much closer than Eve is to Lil. This element changes during the course of the book. Why do you think this happened? Does Eve become more like Lil and less like Tamara?
11. Eve’s mother finds love in the form of Phil Tibbs. Though it’s not the relationship she would choose for herself, Eve ultimately supports it. Have you had situations like this in your own life?
12. When Eve finally confesses to Jon that she read his e-mails, he becomes uncharacteristically furious, even throwing a glass. Is his response appropriate in the context of what’s come before? Could you argue that it represents growth for him?
13. Were you surprised that Eve had sex with Ray Dubrovnik, and that it clarified her feelings for Jon?
14. Ultimately, Jon and Eve both assume responsibility for their own role in what’s happened, and try to find forgiveness for the other. What do you think the main offense of each person was?
15. Is it a happy ending?