Is your book club selecting Miracle Beach for your next book? Contact me and I’ll do my best to make an appearance either via phone or in person, time and schedule-permitting.

Questions for Learning to Stay

1.  What was your general reaction to reading Learning to Stay?

2.  Did you know anything about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and Traumatic Brain Injury before reading the book?  What did you learn that most surprised or shocked you?

3.  Discuss the company culture and expectations at Elise’s job at the law firm, within the context of the novel and from your own job experience.  Are they unrealistic expectations, or necessary ones? Do they exact too high a price?  Is it a price you would be willing to pay, especially during this time of high unemployment?

4.  Discuss Elise’s efforts to get Brad help.  Does she do enough, or does she pack him off to his dad too soon?  Not soon enough? Would you have handled the situation differently?

5.  Should more tax dollars go to supporting U.S. veterans? Have you seen indications that more services are being made available? What additional programs would you like to see?

6.  Learning to Stay is, at heart, about a marriage in crisis.  Is it fair to say that the marriage is saved by the dog Jones?

7.  Animals can perform amazing services for humans.  Discuss the stories you’ve heard, or personally experienced, in which an animal enriched, or even saved, a human life.

8.  Darcy thinks Elise should stand by Brad no matter what. Sondra urges her to leave him. If you were in Elise’s situation, what would you do?

9.  Do you think Elise should go ahead and have a child with Brad?  What kinds of questions should a couple consider when deciding whether or not to have a child?

10.  Compare the life Elise might have had with Brad if he hadn’t gone to Iraq versus the life she expects to have with him at the end of the novel.

Questions for Miracle Beach

1. Discuss the novel’s title Miracle Beach and the First Nation’s legend that Sophie tells Jack about how the beach got its name. What does the legend have to do with a miracle? Is the title fitting for this book, and the lives of Macy, Jack, Magda, and Glory?

2. Discuss the novel’s setting. What role does it play in the story, and in each character’s life? Is it significant? If so, why? If not, why not?

3. Have you ever witnessed a death, lived through the death of a person close to you, or watched a friend or relative cope with grief? How do your experiences compare to Macy, Jack, or Magda’s? How does each of the characters handle grief? Is there a right or wrong way to grieve?

4. What would you do if you found yourself in Macy, Jack, or Magda’s situation? Which of their choices do you think are good ones and which are not so wise?

5. Daugher-in-law/ father-in-law/ mother-in-law relationships weave through the novel. Which are the most complex? Which are the most comfortable?

6. The author takes pains to explain the sports of show jumping and salmon fishing. What purposes do these elements serve?

7. Macy and Jack each question how well they knew Nash. Is it possible for someone to really “know” someone else? Why or why not? Have you ever had a similar experience of feeling as though you didn’t know another person when you thought you did? How did you reconcile the person you thought you knew with the other “version” of him or her?

8. The history of Jack and Magda’s marriage runs parallel to Nash and Macy’s. What similarities and differences do they have? Had Nash not died, do you think each of the relationships would have had similar outcomes? What did you enjoy most about the depiction of their relationships? How realistic do you think each depiction is?

9. Magda struggles with the loss of herself to marriage and motherhood, and longs to re-discover her former self. Is her struggle indulgent, or is it valid? Can you relate to it? Have you witnessed others struggle in a similar way?

10. Who is your favorite character, and what do you like about him or her? Which character is your least favorite, and why?

11. Reconciliation seems to be a theme that runs through this novel. What issues are grappled with and reconciled, and which are left unresolved?

12. Much of the novel explores how our pasts and memories shape us. What do you think might be in store for each character as their lives progress.