1. Cecelia is a motivational speaker who preaches that "getting
lost is the only way to find what you didn''t know you were looking
for" (8). Do you think Cecelia is able to take her own advice? How
does moving in with Lise, Joni, and Renie help her explore this
2. Throughout the novel, Cecelia and the other
women often rely on her box of fortunes to help them
search for answers to their big questions. How do these answers
affect their decision-making? Do their fortunes make a difference,
or is it something else that ultimately guides them to these
3. "I, the motivational speaker, have not been able
to motivate myself into making a new life without her," Cecelia
says, referring to Penny''s death (10). What eventually changes for
Cecelia and enables her to start a new life? Does Penny play a part
in this change, even after her death?
4. When Brice, Penny''s husband, tells Cece that he is getting
remarried, she is initially surprised, but also happy that he is
moving on. "People with people, good. People alone,
bad," Penny always used to say to Cece (35). Is it difficult
for Cece to heed this advice? Why might it be easier for Brice?
5. Soon after Cece receives the postcard from Dennis, she
decides to go visit him. What makes Cece so certain about seeing
him again? Do you ever get over your first love? How might this
relate to Lise''s situation?
6. When Cece moves into the house, Renie is initially defensive
and skeptical. Her career as a columnist, too, highlights her
skeptical and sarcastic tendencies. Why do you think Renie
shows only this side of herself for much of the novel? How are the
other women eventually able to uncover the more sensitive side of
7. When Cece volunteers at the Arms and meets Michael, she
opens up to him about Penny''s death. She explains that it was "one
of the most beautiful experiences" of her life (124). What
does Cece mean about Penny''s death being beautiful? How does
that beauty continue to influence Cece''s life?
8. Renie asks the women whether they believe in the truth
of the saying "Be kind, for everyone is carrying a heavy
burden'''' (174). Wanda, the waitress they meet during the
road trip, asserts that although not everyone carries a
heavy burden, everyone does carry the burden of fear (175). How is
this "burden of fear" a theme throughout the novel?
9. Mother-daughter relationships are central to the story: Renie
struggles with meeting her estranged daughter; Lise''s daughter
her not to reunite with her ex-husband after their divorce; Cece
grows annoyed with her mother for acting more like a girlfriend
than a parent (110). What makes a mother-daughter relationship so
special? What makes it so fraught, and sometimes difficult?
10. After Michael dies, Cece remembers a conversation that she
and Penny once had: Cece asked, "What''s the point in loving
anything when it will just change or be taken away?,"
and Penny replied, "The point in loving is only that. And when you
lose something, you have to remember that then there is room
for the next thing. And there is always a next thing." (213)
How does this idea relate to the broader theme of the novel? What
is the "next thing" that Cece, Phoebe, and the other characters
manage to find?
11. Toward the end of the novel, Cece mentions something that
Dennis said about photography, which she feels reverberates
in her own life: "The greatest understanding of a thing is when you
can''t reduce it any further." (217) How does this statement relate
to Cece''s views on love and friendship? How might it relate
to your own?
12. Lise, Joni, Renie, and Cecelia are all very different. What
do you think makes their relationships with one another thrive, in
spite of their differences? Consider how this relates to the quote
at the end of the novel: "We are a convergence of fates, a
tapestry of fortunes in colors both somber and bright, each
contributing equally to the Whole." (218-19)