AN ORIGINAL SHORT STORY FROM THE ACCLAIMED AUTHOR OF THE NOVELS THE OPPOSITE OF ME AND THE UPCOMING SKIPPING A BEAT . . .
Thirty-year-old Elise Andrews couldn’t bring herself to marry Griffin, her childhood friend turned sweetheart, so she let him walk away. Eight months after their breakup, she arrives in her hometown of Chicago on Christmas Eve and hears a voice from the past calling her name in the grocery store. It’s Griffin’s mother, Janice, who invites Elise over for a neighborhood gathering of eggnog and carols.
Walking into Janice’s house sends Elise tumbling headlong into memories of her relationship with Griffin—and with Janice, who exudes the kind of warmth Elise ached for after her own mom passed away when she was six. But Griffin has moved on, and suddenly Elise doubts her decision to give him up and lose her chance at being folded into his wonderful family. Confused and reeling, she goes in search of an answer to a universal question: How do we say good-bye to people we’ve loved without losing everything they’ve meant to us?
Heartwarming and witty, All Is Bright is a charming story about coming home for the holidays—and finding gifts in the most unexpected of places.
This reading group guide for These Girls includes discussion questions. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book. Questions and Topics for Discussion 1. Discuss the role of work in each girl’s life. To what extent do they find a sense of identity in their jobs? How do they define success or failure in their work lives, and how does either affect the way they think about themselves? 2. Each character in These Girls seems to be facing both an internal and an external struggle. Can you identify these? Are these struggles resolved by the novel’s conclusion? 3. Did you initially empathize with Abby or Joanna? Did your feelings toward Joanna change as the novel progressed? Does the fact that Abby has an affair with a married man make her less of a sympathetic character to you? Why or why not? 4. Describe the ways that each girl interacts with and connects to other people. How are their relationship styles similar, and how are they different? 5. Given the close bond that Trey and Abby share, do you think that he should have told her what happened to their brother? Why or why not? 6. How are mother-daughter relationships depicted in this novel? Was there one dynamic in particular that you identified with? 7. After Cate reminds her mother not to call her at work, she thinks to herself, “It felt odd to be imposing such restrictions and curfews on her mother, as if they’d somehow swapped roles during the past few years” (78). To what extent is this true of all the parent-child relationships we see in These Girls? 8. What is These Girls saying about the role—and effect—of secrets in relationships? Are some secrets necessary, or are they all inherently negative? Do you agree with Abby’s assessment that “The hardest things to talk about are also the most important things to talk about?” 9. Discuss some of the challenges that Cate’s new job presents. How does she handle these? In particular, what role does gender seem to play in them? 10. Each girl sees something in another of her roommates’ disposition that she covets. What are these qualities? Is this kind of desire an essential component of female friendship? 11. In the last scene of the novel, Cate tells Trey, “I don’t want to be the girl who chose a guy over her friends.” How did you feel about their final encounter? Did you agree with how Cate handled this situation? Would you have handled it differently? 12. Ostensibly, Renee wants to lose weight because she thinks it will help her nab the beauty editor job. But does she have other reasons? What else could be driving her? 13. If you were casting the film version of These Girls, who would you pick to play each character? Why? 14. Picture where you see Cate, Renee, and Abby in five years. What do their lives look like? Share your imaginings with your group.
Sarah Pekkanen is the bestselling author of The Ever After, The Opposite of Me, Skipping a Beat, These Girls, The Best of Us, Catching Air, Things You Won’t Say, and The Perfect Neighbors. Her work has been published in People, The Washington Post, and USA TODAY, among other publications. She lives with her family in Chevy Chase, Maryland.