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The author writes from the first person perspective using the point of view of a character named Nordis Spect. Nordis discusses the difference between truth and deception early on in the book. How reliable and trustworthy of a narrator do you feel Nordis really is? Do you think she describes situations in a factual manner or does she filter events through her own distorted and unique thought process? Comment on how accurate to reality you think she is on the following issues: Her physical appearance, the ways that her mother Judith behaves toward her, the culminating tragedy with her high school friend, Ruth.
Body image is a central theme in this book. Discuss the ways in which feelings about her own body affect the way Nordis relates and interacts with the other characters.
Soon there will be a way for science and technology to guarantee couples to have a male or female child. How do you feel about that issue, morally? Discuss your views on someone desiring a child of a specific gender. When does it cross over from a personal preference to an unhealthy obsession? Why might someone only desire to have sons or just daughters?
What has caused Nordis to be so suspicious of most of humanity? If Nordis were your personal friend, what advice would you give her to trust again?
The author employs a different point of view in certain passages where she departs from the conversational, first person narrative and transitions into a more formal “script” format. Why do you think the author would choose to do this in these specific areas of the plot? What effect did it have on you while reading?
The difference between deception for selfish purposes and altering reality for altruistic reasons (doing the wrong thing for the right reasons) is a major part of the story. Discuss the following characters and their motivations for tampering with the truth. A) Nordis Spect B) Nordis’husband, Nathan C) Nordis’ mother, Judith D) Dr. Sam Manning E) Ruthany Manning F) Barbara, Brenna’s mother G) Dr. Grant
Forgiveness and exoneration play a critical role in this story. To what degree does empathy and compassion shape the resolution? Would you have forgiven Nathan and Judith? If you were Sam, would you have forgiven Nordis? If you were Brenna, would you forgive her mother, Barbara?
How does the sun (heat, warmth and temperature) play a part in this story? What does it represent?
What is the significance of water in this novel? How about eyes? Photography? Food?
Nordis keeps many past events secret from her husband. She justifies that “people evolve and the past should be allowed to stay the past.” Do you agree or disagree when it comes to keeping your history a secret from your spouse? Do they deserve to know or do you deserve a clean slate?
In what ways do you think Nordis stereotypes little girls and little boys. Accurate or not?
Nordis tells us that several people in her life feel she should be on medication. Categorize your assessment of Nordis’ mental health? Is Nordis a typical, frazzled, stressed wife and mother? Is she slightly down, a little eccentric, neurotic, insecure, erratic, impulsive? Or could she have a clinical diagnosis such as obsessive/compulsive disorder, postpartum depression, borderline personality disorder, anxiety disorder? Or does she lose touch with reality completely in certain points?
Reflect on Nordis and Sam’s relationship? What was it based on? What did they bring to one another’s life?
Jealousy and envy are dealt with several times in the novel. Is there a difference between the two feelings? Which events appear to happen because of jealousy? Can either emotion ever lead to a positive outcome?
Have you ever experienced a friendship like the one Nordis and Ruth have had? Why do you think they stayed enmeshed through the years?
What do you believe triggers the initial attraction (for both women) that begins a friendship between Nordis and Brenna.
Nordis talks about how important the mother-daughter relationship is with regards to her desire to have a daughter. Keeping this in mind, comment on the relationship she has with her own mother, Judith.
Why is Nordis’ father, who only appears briefly in the book, ultimately so significant in her motivations and choices? Reflect on how having a parent who was a holocaust victim might impact the relationship between a father and a daughter?
Who is the very minor character named Jane? Is she real? What could she be a metaphor for?
Discuss how Nordis, a character who needs to feel she has power and influence in her life, becomes so completely out of control?
How well matched do you feel Nordis and Nathan are as a couple? What kind of a husband is Nathan, really? Can we take him at face value?
How much of yourself do you actually see in Nordis when it comes to her self-scrutiny and self-esteem? Do you feel (as Nordis does) that there is a great deal of competition and judgment from other women? In relating to females, do you experience more sisterhood and camaraderie or more competition and “catty” behavior? Do you feel Nordis’ life would change dramatically if she didn’t live in a culture that was so oriented toward beauty, youth and thinness?
As a mother, how much do you think the gender of your child influences the relationship you will experience with him or her? As a youngster? Long term into the future?
At the conclusion of the story, what do you see transpiring for Nordis in the next five years?
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