Readers Discussion Questions

1.Can anyone truly escape their past and start over? How would you react if your mother ran away at the age of seventy?

2. How did you feel when Olivia said in the first paragraph, “…I chose freedom with uncertainty over secure entrapment.” How important is autonomy to you?

3. Did you most identify with Olivia - the one who went away, Luella - the one who stayed behind, Andrea, Alexander, Ray or Billy? Who was your favorite character? Why? How and when did you most identify with the character?

4.Were Olivia’s perceptions of Andrea and Alexander accurate? Was she perhaps clouded by grief from the loss of her sister and sister-in-law? Did you ever doubt Luella would break her promise of secrecy to Olivia?

5.In what ways were Andrea and Alexander’s perception of their mother accurate or inaccurate? How did Olivia’s disappearance from her children’s life affect them in the short and long term?

6. Did the story cause you to question assumptions about someone you have may have been taking for granted in your life?

7. Did you like Ray? In what ways did you or did you not find him charming and believable? Olivia had not been romantically involved with a man nor did she expect to be at the age of seventy; since her husband died many years ago. How did you feel about Olivia and Ray’s blossoming friendship?

8. Have you ever met someone like Billy? Do you believe there are some people who are incapable of change? Were there too many bad adult children? In what ways did Olivia and Ray enable their adult children to be self-centered?

9. How did you feel about Olivia’s steely resolve to leave the past behind? How did you feel about Andrea’s refusal to accept her mother’s death? Were you satisfied with Olivia’s attempt to reconnect with her children at the end of her life?

10. At what point does strong personal determination cross the line …and become stubborn pride? One of the reasons Olivia left was because she didn’t want to end up living in a small apartment and dying alone. Did you find this ironic?