Eve Wallinga​​ 

Reading Group Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. How would you characterize this novel? Is it primarily a story about breast cancer? About relationships? Or would you call it paranormal fiction? Women's fiction? Mainstream fiction? Is it a story of healing? Of faith? Inspirational fiction? Authors are told by the Big Four publishers to write books that can be easily pigeon-holed for placement on a particular shelf in a bookstore, rather than crossing genres. What are your thoughts on this? If you had to summarize the novel in a sentence or two, what words would you use?

2. Near the beginning of the story, the author writes, "It was in this hopeful season that she found the lump in her breast. The nagging thought hovering in her mind for months--that life was going too well, that the other shoe would drop--seemed a premonition." Have you ever shared Allie's anxiety that your life was going too well? What were the circumstances? Were your concerns borne out?

3. After Allie's first surgery, Kevin is assigned the difficult task of telling her she will require additional surgery. Have you had to deliver upsetting news? How did you do it? From Allie's perspective, she "erected a wall around herself and focused her thoughts beyond it. She knew she was good at rationalizing, at setting just the right spin to deal with upsetting information. But her ability to do so with this, right on the spot, astonished her." Have you ever been surprised at your own strength in hearing distressing news?

4. Discuss Kevin's thoughts and feelings when he finds out Allie has breast cancer--and then later, when it turns out she will lose her breast. Do you think such concerns would be common for men? If you were diagnosed with breast cancer and required a mastectomy, would you opt for reconstruction? Why or why not?

5. Do you believe life has a purpose? Does it proceed according to a plan? Do you wonder if there are reasons bad things happen, or if life is just chance? Have you ever had occasion to believe in "signs"?

6. Allie carried vivid recollections of the media coverage of Hurricane Katrina. Do you remember the hurricane and its aftermath? How did it make you feel? What memories stick out most in your mind and why?

7. Allie is fascinated by the courtyards and historical streets of the French Quarter. Is there a place that feels magical to you? Have you ever visited somewhere you felt transported back in time? 

8. Why was Kevin so averse to considering that what Allie told him might be true? Was she justified in accusing him of not respecting her intelligence? If someone related what they considered a paranormal experience to you, would you believe them or would you assume it was due to an active imagination?

9. Do you believe in an afterlife? How do you imagine it to be? Can the dead communicate with the living? Have you experienced this yourself or known someone who has?

10. Kevin admitted to himself that if he'd experienced the strange goings-on Allie did, he'd have checked out of the hotel immediately. Have you ever experienced something supernatural? If you haven't, would you like to? How do you think you'd react? Would you be afraid?

11. Allie takes a leap of faith in traveling to New Orleans for her surgery. Have you ever had to take a leap of faith? Was your faith warranted? Have you ever had a crisis of faith, as Allie did on her second trip to New Orleans?

12. Have you ever had a reading with a fortune-teller or spiritualist? Would you? Did you play any childhood games like Allie did, trying to manifest ghosts or use ouija boards or tarot cards? Do you think it's possible to predict the future? Is the future fixed or can we change it?

13. Did you notice the recurrence of the number "129" throughout the story? The author hopes you did! Did you notice the number of this question? Bwa-ha-ha! Have you ever believed there is more to "coincidence" than coincidence?