About the Book, courtesy of the Publisher:
Laura and Charlie Rider have been married for twelve years. They share their nursery business in rural Wisconsin, their love for their animals, and their zeal for storytelling. Although Charlie's enthusiasm in the bedroom has worn Laura out, although she no longer sleeps with him, they are happy enough going along in their routine.
Jenna Faroli is the host of a popular radio show, and in Laura's mind is "the single most famous person in the Town of Dover." When Jenna happens to cross Charlie's path one day, and they begin an e-mail correspondence, Laura cannot resist using Charlie to try out her new writing skills. Together, Laura and Charlie craft florid, strangely intimate messages that entice Jenna in an unexpected way. The "project" quickly spins out of control. The lines between Laura's words and Charlie's feelings are blurred and complicated, Jenna is transformed in ways that deeply disturb her, and Laura is transformed in her mind's eye into an artist. The transformations are hilarious and poignant, and for Laura Rider, beyond her wildest expectations.
About the Author:
Jane Hamilton is the author of The Book of Ruth, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award for first fiction, and A Map of the World, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Both The Book of Ruth and A Map of the World have been selections by Oprah's Book Club. Her latest novel, When Madeline Was Young was a Washington Post Best Book of the Year. She lives with her family in Wisconsin. Learn more about her at www.janehamiltonbooks.com
Reading Group Guide:
1. Laura muses that "she could only be her ultimate self when she was alone." She isn't the only one who has a clear "real" self and a constructed self. In what ways do the characters create new personas? Are these personalities convincing? Are they necessary?
2. Does Laura have the talent to be a writer? Are there rules that writers must follow, as she believes? Is Jenna correct when she suggests that it's impossible to write without a historical knowledge of what has come before you?
3. How does the first interaction between Charlie and Jenna at the side of the road set the tone for their relationship? What changes and what remains the same once Laura is involved?
4. It is made clear during her interview with Jenna and again at the writers' conference that Laura is not terribly knowledgeable about books and writing. Was she also naive to involve her husband with another woman? What other characters display inexperience or ignorance?
5. Charlie and Laura are similar to Jenna and Frank in that both couples' passion for one another has cooled after years of marriage. In what other ways are the couples similar? How are they different?
6. How has e-mailed affected correspondence? How has it affected writing in general? What opinions would Charlie, Laura, and Jenna each have on the topic?
7. When Charlie thinks back to his childhood and his life with Laura, he recognizes Prairie Wind Farm"had never been his goal, in part because he'd never had any particular goals." If not his job, what else drives Charlie? What other examples are there of the gap between desire and reality?
8. Is a "conscious romance" possible? What kind of relationship would that be like?
9. Is it possible that Laura did, in fact, mean to paste Jenna's e-mail, whether Laura realizes it consciously or not? Why would she have done it intentionally? Why is her reaction to the e-mail being sent out so different from Charlie's and Jenna's reaction?
10. Laura Rider starts a list of what women want. What would be on your list?
11. Who, in the end, has the uper had in the Jenna Faroli Radio Show interview with Laura Rider? Or do neither or both have the upper hand?
12. Is any character responsible for Jenna and Charlie's affair? Who or what would be the cause according to Laura? Jenna? Charlie?
13. What is the attraction, either romantic or not, between Charlie, Jenna, and Laura? What does each of them provide to each of the others?
14. In this satire, are all the characters skewed equally?
15. What does Hamilton seem to be saying about the writing life? Are writers necessarily ruthless?
To enter please just recommend a book one of your favorite books of 2009.
1. Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win. No email address, no entry.
2. You must be a follower to join the contest.
The contest is limited to US and Canada only. No P.O. boxes. The contest ends at noon on April 15, 2010.
Thank you so much to Valerie and Hatchette Book Group for sponsoring this giveaway!