This reading group guide for The Ever After includes discussion questions and ideas for enhancing your book club. 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.Topics and Questions for Discussion
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1. Josie quickly taps into latent detective abilities in order to discover the full extent of her husband’s deception. If you realized a romantic partner had lied to you, would you also try to find out everything that had happened? How difficult do you think it would be to track down all the information you’d want?
2. When Karin confesses her own infidelity to Josie, she says, “It became an affair the moment I answered his text. The moment we created a secret” (p. 99). Do you agree? If so, would you feel differently if it had never escalated to physical contact? What do you think constitutes an affair?
3. How did your opinion of Frank change over the course of the book? Were you able to sympathize with him?
4. When confronted about his emails with Dana, Frank initially says it was “just flirting,” which he amends to “only kissing” (pp. 8–9) when pressed on the issue. How important do you feel the specific physical acts that transpired are, as opposed to the betrayal of trust and acts of deception? Why does Frank think it will be less upsetting if he minimizes how far he went with Dana? Do you think it would be more or less hurtful to Josie if Frank had slept with Dana, but only seen her on one occasion?
5. In the wake of Frank’s affair, Josie’s instinct is to “make him feel the same sort of agony” (p. 52) that she is experiencing. At times, she expresses the desire to physically hurt him, or to have her own affair simply to even the score. Given the circumstances, was she justified in wanting revenge? In what situations is it okay to wish someone else pain, or to make petty choices?
6. In chapter twenty-one, Josie recalls the memory of when she first realized her parents hid things from her and lied. In the same moment, she experiences a shift in her own relationship to honest communication, recalling how “she’d joined in their game of pretend. She had become a faker, too” (p. 193). What is the significance of this memory for Josie, and how does it relate to her present-day life?
7. Josie asserts that she may be able to reconcile with Frank, on the condition that she could “make sure that this was the only time” (p.217) he had an affair. At the end of the book, do you feel confident that Frank’s affair with Dana was his first and only time cheating on Josie? Why or why not?
8. Amanda theorizes that Frank may have—subconsciously—gotten caught on purpose. Do you believe this was the case? If so, do you think it was because he wanted to confess but didn’t know how, as Amanda reasons, or did he have another motivation for sabotaging himself?
9. Josie insists that she doesn’t want to fall back into her marriage because “she didn’t know how to be without Frank, or out of guilt because of the children” (p. 177). Nevertheless, throughout the novel it is evident that their daughters, Zoe and Izzy, are one of Josie’s primary considerations in choosing whether to give Frank a second chance. Do you think staying in a marriage just to protect the children is ever a good idea? Why or why not?
10. Josie is ultimately convinced that Frank never had feelings for Dana. If he had
cared for Dana, would that change how you understand what he did? If so, in what ways?
11. Through therapy, Frank and Josie both uncover the impact their childhoods and relationships with their families had on their own attitudes and communication styles. Do you think their separation will have a lasting impact on Izzy and Zoe, and if so—what will that impact be?Enhance Your Book Club
1. Although Dana is a key character in The Ever After
, we see only the briefest glimpse of her and her husband, Ron, and never in person. Yet they are dealing with parallel circumstances to Josie and Frank. Write a scene from the perspective of Dana or Ron. In what ways might their experience be distinct from what we saw Josie go through? Has Dana cheated before? Has Ron? What does their marriage look like? Does Ron truly believe the version of events that Dana tells him? How does Dana feel about her affair with Frank? Consider these or any other questions about their side of the story as you write, and share your piece with your reading group.
2. As a result of the variety of definitions of infidelity, it can be challenging for researchers to study or get a sense of how pervasive it is. Nevertheless, it remains a subject many psychologists and sociologists are compelled to learn more about. Take a look online at some articles on the subject from recent years, such as www.businessinsider.com/science-of-cheating-2017-8
. Did any findings surprise you? Discuss with your group.
3. Consider reading one of Sarah Pekkanen’s other novels, such as The Perfect Neighbors
, Things You Won’t Say
, Skipping a Beat
, or her cowritten novel, The Wife Between Us,
for your group’s next meeting. You can also connect with Sarah Pekkanen on Facebook and Twitter, and learn more about Sarah’s books or invite her to Skype your book club by visiting www.sarahpekkanen.com.