For Book Clubs

for book clubs

In more than fifteen years of belonging to a local book club, I quickly came to relish those evenings with friends who love books as much as I do, good food—often planned around the book, and a little wine. I’ve kept those evenings in mind as I dreamed up a few questions to help you start a lively discussion.

I would LOVE to join your group for a discussion of any my books, via Zoom, Facetime, or any other platform. In western Montana, I’ll come in person. Drop me a line. The Spice Shop mysteries and Bitterroot Lake, with their focus on women’s friendships, are particularly fun to talk about!

If you’d like bookmarks to share with your book club, library, or friends, send me your mailing address and how many bookmarks you’d like. (US and Canada only, please!)

Bay and Bridge

DEATH AL DENTE (Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, Book One): 

1. Leslie Budewitz's Death Al DenteErin is surprised to discover the ways that Jewel Bay changed while she was away. Have you gone “home again,” to visit or live in the town where you grew up? What changes caught you off guard? What stayed the same, to your delight or your bafflement?

2. Jewel Bay is not what people expect in a small Montana town. What struck you about the town? What most surprises visitors to your community?

3. Ever been involved in a family business? Are the challenges Erin and Fresca face typical? And what about Ted’s efforts to impress Old Ned?

4. Ah, the mother-daughter relationship. Discuss!

5. Erin is determined to remake a struggling business to fit modern times. What businesses have you seen successfully meet that challenge?

6. Paulette is one of those people with a million passions and no focus. What advice would you have given her?

7. A family recipe provides a clue that helps clear Fresca from suspicion. Does your family have its own cache of recipes? Have you added a secret ingredient to any popular recipes?

8. Old buildings like the Merc—built in 1910—can be maddening and charming. What are your experiences with old buildings, for business or home?

9. Erin is surprised that Kim chose to become a deputy sheriff, rather than follow her childhood dream of working with horses. What were your childhood dreams? Do you have friends whose career choices particularly surprise you?

10. Did you identify the killer? Who did you suspect?

CRIME RIB (Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, Book Two): 

1. Lesle Budewitz' Crime RibErin and Kim seem to be rebuilding their friendship, in part with weekly horse rides. What shared activities help you keep your friendships alive—besides discussing books and testing the recipes?

2. Do you share your recipes? Ever asked for a recipe and been refused? (I have, so I invented my own version—and we liked it better!)

3. Poor Gib, still trying to live up to his father’s expectations. What would you tell him?

4. Erin and Stacia instantly hit it off. Have you ever met someone you knew right away would be a friend for life? What happened?

5. In her determination to investigate her friend’s death, Erin sometimes ignores locked doors; she gets results, so Ike Hoover looks the other way. Is that acceptable behavior in an amateur sleuth, or do you think she crossed the line?

6. Erin and Amber have a surprise encounter with the local wildlife. Have you ever run into a wild animal unexpectedly? Who was more startled—you, or the critter?

7. In NW Montana, huckleberries and morels are so prized that recreational foragers often refuse to tell their friends where their patch is. Are there any similarly prized wild foods in your region?

8. Erin and Tara both live in cabins, but that’s where the similarity ends. Which woman’s log home would you choose?

9. Do you have a favorite TV chef or cooking show?

10. Did you identify the killer? Who did you suspect?

BUTTER OFF DEAD (Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, Book Three): 

1. Butter Off DeadErin and Kim’s friendship is a big part of this series. In BUTTER, Erin finally learns the real reasons for the tension between them. Did the source of tension surprise you? Did it seem realistic? Did the resolution satisfy you?

2. Erin and Christine create the film festival to stir up a little mid-winter fun, choosing movies to appeal to food lovers and film lovers alike. Do you have a favorite food-related movie? Is there a food-related scene from a movie that sticks in your memory and always makes you laugh—or cry, or get hungry? Have you ever been inspired to recreate a dish you’ve seen in a movie?

3. A theme of BUTTER is the drive to collect, and when collections become obsessions. Do you have the collector gene? What’s the oddest collection you’ve seen? The most intriguing? The thing you tossed years ago that you now wish you’d saved?

4. It’s often said of small towns that everyone knows everything about everyone else. Erin certainly thought so, until her father’s death. Now, she sees that it’s a myth. Have you had a similar realization in your community, your family, your circle?

5. Tom Murphy’s unsolved death has haunted his family—and the community—for years. Did the resolution surprise you? What does the incident say about perception, misunderstanding, and grief?

6. Erin works closely with her mother. Have you been involved in a family business? Do the Murphys mirror the joys and challenges you’ve observed?

7. In any amateur sleuth novel, the main character needs a good reason to digress from her own life to investigate the crime. Are Erin’s reasons for investigating credible? She likes to think she has access to info that the sheriff’s deputies don’t have. Is she right?

8. At thirty-two, Erin’s ready to “settle down”—and of course, Fresca and Chiara are urging her on. Do you think she chose the right man?

9. Did you identify the killer? Who did you suspect?

10. Have you ever added a second pet to the household? How did it go?

TREBLE AT THE JAM FEST (Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, Book Four): 

1. Treble at the Jam Fest by Leslie BudewitzErin loves the busy summer season, when the village is full of tourists, festivals, parades, and other lively activities, though she knows she’ll be ready for a break by October. Do you have a favorite season, and why?

2. We’ve all known a person whose parents pushed them to follow a dream—but some dreams belong more to the parent than the child. What do you think of the tensions between Gabby and her parents? How did you avoid that trap with your own children? Do you think Gabby will mature enough to identify and pursue her own dreams?

3. Erin desperately needs to hire a new sales clerk, but she’s hesitant about Lou Mary because though she’s a retail queen, she isn’t a foodie. Have you ever enjoyed shopping in a place because the clerks were so delightful? Or avoided a shop because the clerks were too pushy?

4. Adam and Tanner have been friends for so long they even walk and talk like each other, even though they no longer live close by. How have you nurtured friendships from childhood? How have they nurtured you?

5. Erin fears that Adam might not return to Montana, and wonders whether she could ever leave. If you’ve lived in a place a long time, what would prompt you to move? And if you’re the rambling sort, what would tempt you to settle down?

6. Though Jewel Bay appears prosperous, there are pockets of poverty that surprise Erin. What’s the economic mix in your town? Does it trigger tensions that spill over and affect the community spirit?

7. In any amateur sleuth novel, the main character needs a good reason to digress from her own life to investigate the crime. Are Erin’s reasons for investigating credible? She likes to think she has access to info that the sheriff’s deputies don’t have. Is she right?

8. Fresca surprises her children with a welcome announcement that she’s marrying Bill. If you’ve been the remarrying parent, or the child of one, how did the news hit your family? Did the mix of emotions Erin and Chiara experience sound familiar to you?

9. Did you identify the killer? Who did you suspect?

10. Do you enjoy music festivals? What’s the best festival or concert you’ve attended?

11. Rhubarb. Yes or no?

AS THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CRUMBLES (Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, Book Five):

1. As the Christmas Cookie CrumblesJewel Bay calls itself “Montana’s Christmas Village,” and Erin is determined to make this holiday successful at the Merc. Do you shop ahead, or wait till the snow flies? If you live in a climate where snow comes only in cones, what’s your sign that the holiday season is upon us? Does your community include Hanukkah in the seasonal celebrations?

2. Erin prides herself on a good memory, especially for names, but she just cannot remember the name of the counter clerk at the Building Supply. How is your recall for names? Any funny stories or rituals to help you remember?

3. As in Treble at the Jam Fest, parental expectations rear their head in As the Christmas Cookie Crumbles. And from time to time, even a well-raised child violates the norms in an extreme way. What do you think of Walt and Taya’s response? How do your opinions of them change as you learn more about the Thornton family?

4. As the facts surrounding Merrily’s murder emerge, the crimes of the past also begin to look very different. Do you think Sally can accept the truth? Have you had an experience that dramatically changed your view of something in the past?

5. When Erin wrecks her Subaru, she’s devastated. Her family thinks the loss of her trusty rig is a sign that she’s sticking her nose where it didn’t belong. Are they right? Have you had a favorite car? What did you most like about it?

6. In Cookie, we see four very different sets of siblings: the Murphy kids, the Thornton girls, the Zimmerman boys, and Greg and Wendy Taylor. Discuss sibling relationships.

7. What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? Collections? Recipes? Are peanut butter cookies Christmas cookies?

8. To Erin, Oliver Bello exemplifies the person who moves to a new town and immediately thinks he knows all about it, ignoring the insights of the locals. To him, she’s a citizen interfering with his execution of his duties and putting herself at risk. They’re both right, and both wrong. How do newcomers experience your community?

9. Any pranksters in your life?

10. Did you identify the killer? Who did you suspect?

Assault and PepperASSAULT AND PEPPER (Spice Shop Mysteries, Book One):

1.Assault and Pepper Pepper calls herself a poster child for the “life begins at 40″ cliche. Do you know people like that, especially women?

2. Pepper has a complicated relationship with her former husband, whom she sees regularly in the Market. Have you witnessed a similar dynamic in formerly-marrieds?

3. When Pepper bought the Spice Shop, Sandra was unsure about this new boss, who had no experience in retail, spice, or the food biz. How would you advise her on getting along with her new employer?

4. Tory’s father wanted to protect her from a decision he thought unwise, and caused a rift instead. Have you faced a similar struggle with your own children, or your parents?

5. Zak and Tory hide their relationship from Pepper, worried that she’ll fire one of them. What’s your observation of workplace romances?

6. Have you been to Seattle’s Pike Place Market? Most memorable food? Most memorable sight?

7. Pepper says there’s a constant debate over whether offering goods and services to the street people, homeless or not, helps them, encourages dependency, or even encourages begging. What do you think?

8. Arf is an Airedale. Have you ever known an Airedale, or their relatives, Welsh terriers?

9. Did you identify the killer? Who did you suspect?

10. What’s your favorite recipe from the book?

GUILTY AS CINNAMON (Spice Shop Mysteries, Book Two):

1. Guilty as CinnamonPepper kicks herself for hiring a woman she didn’t feel quite right about, realizing too late that it’s those “desperation hires” that, as she says, “bite you in the bittersweet.” Have you observed that, as an employer or a co-worker? What happened?

2. Pepper is astonished to learn the history between Tag and Detective Tracy. Have you ever picked up on tension between two people, without knowing what it was? How did you deal with the situation? What do you think of the way Pepper handled it?

3. What character did you like most, and why?

4. What’s your opinion of the little lady Pepper met?

5. Historic buildings can be as maddening and frustrating as they are charming and intriguing. Have you ever lived or worked in a historic building? Best part, worst part?

6. Ghost chiles: yes or no?

7. Danielle tells Pepper that holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. Pepper agrees, but letting the past go can be easier said than done. Did Danielle do the right thing?

8. Were you surprised to discover Tamara’s history and the circumstances that sent her underground? Did it surprise you that Alex gave her so much support?

9. A customer says she associates cinnamon with fall, though Pepper says it’s a spice for all seasons. What are some of your favorite uses for cinnamon?

10. Did you identify the killer? Who did you suspect?

11. Arf has a secret skill that surprises Pepper. Have you ever known a dog with a similar skill? Or acquired an older pet whose ways and talents surprised you?

12. What’s your favorite recipe from the book?

KILLING THYME  (Spice Shop Mysteries, Book Three)

1. killing thymePepper’s had her challenges hiring staff for the Spice Shop, but she’s back to a full crew now. Do Matt and Cayenne seem like good additions?

2. Lena, Pepper’s mother, makes her first appearance in the series in KILLING THYME. Oh, mothers and daughters! Discuss.

3. Lena says of Bonnie, once called Peggy, that she craves home and community, but repeatedly makes choices that keep her from getting what says she wants. Do you know anyone like that?

4. In this book, Pepper experiences tensions with both Kristen, her life-long best friend, and Sandra, her key employee. Do you think she handles them well?

5. Mr. Adams is both sweet and crotchety, pained by some changes in his neighborhood and pleased with others. How has your neighborhood changed, and how do you feel about those changes?

6. Pepper’s new bridal registry could give the Spice Shop’s bottom line a nice boost. But at what cost? Discuss weddings and the Bridezilla-Momzilla phenomenon! What’s the most unusual wedding gift you received?

7. Pepper’s relationship with Tag reaches an unexpected place of peace in this book. Should they get back together, or not?

8. Do you have a favorite use for thyme?

9. Did you identify the killer? Who did you suspect?

10. What’s your favorite recipe from the book?

CHAI ANOTHER DAY (Spice Shop Mysteries, Book Four)

1. Chai Another Day by Leslie BudewitzPepper is falling hard for Nate, but still lacks confidence in her judgment when it comes to love and romance. If you were sharing a cup or a glass of something with her on her veranda, what would you tell her?

2. When a man hurls nasty accusations at Seetha at the bus stop, Seetha and Pepper respond to the confrontation in different ways. Discuss their reactions, and how their personal experiences influence their response.

3. Cayenne is reluctant to tell her boss and her co-workers about her illness, at least until she knows more about it. Have you been in a similar position, as an employer or employee? What would you advise Cayenne? Pepper?

4. As the daughter of immigrants, Lena understands some of the tensions Seetha feels with her mother, particularly the tug of war over control and independence, and the challenge of staying connected with an adult child who’s deliberately chosen a different life. Discuss the mother-daughter relationship in Chai Another Day.

5. Joelle has stood by her man loyally, but has finally reached the limits of her patience. Still, that’s not what leads to her murder. Discuss breaking points in a relationship, including Joelle and Justin, and Aimee and Melissa.

6. Aimee works hard to help Tony stay on the straight and narrow. Do you think he’ll make it this time?

7. Do you share Pepper and Aimee’s love for vintage finds? What’s your favorite, on the page or in your home?

8. Each chapter opens with a quote, often with a thematic connection to the action. Have a favorite?

9. Ever tried chai made with buffalo or camel milk? Willing to give it a taste-test?

10. Did you identify the killer? Who did you suspect?

11. If Pepper invited you to her loft for dinner, which recipe from the book would you hope she makes?

THE SOLACE OF BAY LEAVES (Spice Shop Mysteries, Book Five)

1. The Solace of Bay Leaves by Leslie BudewitzPepper defines herself in part by her friendships. In Killing Thyme, her friendship with Kristen was tested, and in Solace, she confronts hard truths about her relationships with Laurel and Maddie. Talk about the role of friendship in your own lives, and how it has evolved over the years.

2. Pepper knows her view of Maddie’s “perfect life” isn’t fair, to herself or to Maddie, but she’s let old jealousies and misunderstandings interfere. Maddie has done the same, blaming her work life for keeping her too busy for friends. It takes a major shock to reorient their thinking and heal the breach. Do their experiences resonate with you?

3. Ever been to a soup exchange? What would you take? Do you have a favorite soup or stew?

4. As a commercial fisherman, Nate spends six months in Seattle and six months in Alaska. What advice would you give him and Pepper about maintaining a long-distance relationship?

5. Pepper is finally willing to acknowledge her part in the end of her marriage, and to give up blaming Tag for violating her trust. Could you forgive a spouse for an affair? Stay friendly after a divorce?

6. Pepper says it makes sense that a family driven from its homeland would value land and property in a new country. Are you familiar with the Armenian genocide? How have you seen family property or business keep a family together, or tear it apart?

7. Pepper says “it’s part of growing up, to learn how to live with ambiguity and unsettled things.” Do you agree with her?

8. A city’s neighborhoods give it their own special flavor. What makes your neighborhood, or one you particularly love, unique? Do you have a favorite historic building in your community?

9. Edgar and young Lily’s family are immigrants; Seetha and Lena, Pepper’s mother, are the daughters of immigrants; and immigration remains central to the Petrosian family history. How does immigration influence the characters and story lines in The Solace of Bay Leaves and Chai Another Day? How does it influence your family and community?

10. What do you think of man buns?

11. Each chapter opens with a quote, often with a thematic connection to the action. Have a favorite?

12. Did you identify the killer? Who did you suspect?

PEPPERMINT BARKED (Spice Shop Mysteries, Book Six)

1. Everyone in the Market—merchants and customers alike—is eager to celebrate Christmas in a big way after the closures, losses, and other changes of the last few years. How does this resonate for you and your own celebrations of holidays and important events?

2. Pepper wavers between wanting to “know things” about her staff and respecting their boundaries. And yet, sticking her nose in Matt’s and Vinny’s business helps her find Beth’s attacker and save Vinny’s shop. When is it okay to pry? How do you strike that balance?

3. Pepper is determined to crack “the guy code.” Can any woman really do that?

4. Laurel says kids who’ve been through trauma young can be remarkably mature, and mentions her son’s friend who had cancer at fifteen and at sixteen, set up a foundation to help other sick kids. Have you observed a greater maturity or generosity in kids who’ve experienced serious illness or injury? Why do you think that is?

5. A major theme in Peppermint Barked is the male search for identity, maintaining a sense of self as life changes. How do the experiences of Matt, Tripp, Vinny, and Nate reflect this theme? How are Matt’s and Tripp’s journeys complicated by their relationships with their fathers?

6. Pepper indulges in a little creative swearing—it’s fun, and it keeps her from cutting loose in front of customers. Do you have a favorite unusual phrase to utter when things aren’t going your way?

7. Matt is angry with his father for keeping difficult truths from him, coming to understand that his father acted out of both love and shame. Have you observed that some people try to protect those they love by keeping secrets? Is it ever a good idea, or does it always backfire?

8. Pepper says Black Friday is less about shopping and more about browsing—getting ideas and getting in the mood. Are you a Black Friday shopper? What’s the best Black Friday bargain you’ve found?

9. Pepper is nervous about meeting Bron, Nate’s brother. Nate has his own concerns about meeting Pepper’s father for the first time. What advice would you give them?

10. Most couples struggle at some point in their relationship to balance work and home. Years after their divorce, Marly still resents Vinny’s commitment to his shop. How do you see Pepper and Nate working at that? They are both past forty—how might age and experience help or hinder them?

11. How has Pepper evolved over the course of the series? At work or in her relationships?

12. Did you identify the killer? Who did you suspect?

BETWEEN A WOK AND A DEAD PLACE (Spice Shop Mysteries, Book Seven)

1. In Wok, Pepper is drawn to investigate less by the discovery of the body in the basement of the Gold Rush Hotel and more by the mystery of the hotel itself and the hidden pharmacy. But you know she’s going to identify the victim and the killer before the police do, don’t you? Does her motivation make sense to you?

2. Many residents of Seattle’s Chinatown-International District worry about the impact on their community of the loss of historically significant buildings, particularly to major construction projects like highways and transit stations. Is there a building or area in your community that you love for its history and cultural significance? Talk about the impact of similar changes in your town or neighborhood.

3. Where would literature be without the recurring theme of tensions between fathers and sons? Talk about the conflicts between Francis and Bobby, and between Bobby and Oliver. What other father-son stories have struck you?

4. Francis Wu hung on to the Gold Rush despite its closure and his son’s indifference in part because it had been such an important center of life for him as an immigrant. What are your family’s experiences with immigration? Are there specific buildings or traditions from “the old country” that continue to be part of your life?

5. Pepper is fascinated by the architectural details of the Gold Rush, like porcelain door knobs, push-button electric switches, and the woodwork. What do you love about old buildings?

6. Oliver spins a tale about the ghost of Bruce Lee to stop Roxanne from discovering that Terence has been prowling around the hotel while she was working. Have you ever encountered a ghost?

7. Glee and Terrence each came to Seattle in search of clues to their family history. Have you researched your family history? What surprises did you uncover?

8. Cayenne switched out the traditional spices in a spice cake for Chinese Five Spice and combined it with an apple cake. Do you enjoy creative substitutions when you cook? Or are you more likely to try them in a restaurant than in your own kitchen?

9. Pepper says “Smoked paprika might just be my favorite spice, if I were playing favorites, but I’d never say so out loud, where the other herbs and spices might hear me.” Do you have a favorite spice?

10. As she learns about Roxanne’s teenage years, Pepper also learns more about Nate. What do you think about him and their relationship?

11. Throughout the book, Pepper wonders if she needs a hobby and ponders the options. What role do hobbies play in your life?

12. Did you identify the killer? Who did you suspect?

TO ERR IS CUMIN (Spice Shop Mysteries, Book Eight)

Leslie Budewitz' To Err is Cumin1. In Cumin, Pepper finds a ratty old wingback left for the taking on the sidewalk. Have you ever found what you though was a treasure left for the trash? What was it?

2. When Pepper finds the cash in the cushion, she takes it to the police. But she feels compelled to search for Talia, believing the girl could not have known about the money, because she isn’t convinced the police will bother, and because Boz’s involvement makes her fear danger may be ahead. Does her motivation make sense to you?

3. Pepper agrees to help her mother with her long-distance kitchen remodel. Have you ever done a kitchen remodel? Are you sworn off or eager to do it again?

4. Though Pepper loves the valise and desk she found at the Vintage Mall, once she realizes what they meant to Talia and how they ended up in the shop, she happily gives them back. Do you have a favorite item that was passed down to you? Something that’s been lost that you wish you had?

5. Talia, Ruth, Pepper, and Detective Tracy all fall for Blue Hair’s Lemon Cream Scones. What’s your favorite scone? Do you try the recipes in cozy mysteries?

6. Ruth’s personalized license plate gets Pepper thinking about what she might choose. Do you have a vanity plate? A favorite you’ve spotted around town?

7. Talia feels guilty over distancing herself from her grandmother, after the mother-daughter fight between the older women. What do you think of Pepper’s advice to her?

8. Pepper, Cayenne, and Edgar put together a spice-focused cooking class at Speziato. Ever taken a cooking class? If you could, what cuisine would you choose?

9. Nate and Pepper continue to work out the kinks of a long-distance, here again–gone again relationship. How do you think they’re doing? What advice do you have for them?

10. Did you identify the killer? Who did you suspect?

BITTERROOT LAKE (written as Alicia Beckman)

1. If Janine had insisted on pursuing criminal charges against Lucas, how might her life have been different? How would the friendship between the four women, or between Jeremy and Lucas, have been affected?

2. If you’d been in a similar situation as Sarah or Holly that tragic week, how would you have responded?

3. Janine feels a deep sense of shame over her mother’s life and her death. She’s convinced that people’s opinions about her mother will influence how they judge her behavior and credibility, both in the past and now. Is she right? How did that belief affect her choices over the years?

4. Women in the 1920s lived very different lives than modern women, particularly those who were on their own. And yet, even with more opportunities, issues of money, autonomy, and safety still arise. The letters in Caro’s trunk demonstrate that some women were aware of their privilege and made an effort to help those who lacked it, but in every era, some women fall between society’s cracks. How might things have been different for Anja, Janine and her mother, and Renee and her family if the divide between the haves and have-nots had not been so wide?

5. Something about a lake is inherently mysterious, as is an old house, especially one that’s been in the same family a long time. How is the setting a critical part of the plot? How do their relationships to the place influence the main characters? What is the significance of home, or coming home, in the novel?

6. Sarah has a very different relationship with Connor than she has with Holly. How do age and gender affect sibling relationships?

7. Vonda wants her parents to know the truth about Michael’s death before they die. Do you think they’ll be satisfied, or further grieved, by what she learns?

8. Sarah’s dreams serve as warnings or guides, inviting her to make conscious what she knows but can’t bring herself to acknowledge. Have you had similar experiences in your dreams, or dismissed a dream only to meet a person or discover something that clarified the meaning of the dream?

9. Cemeteries can be fascinating places to learn about a community or a time gone by. Have you visited any historic cemeteries? What struck you about the graves, the markers or statuary, or the atmosphere?

10. While Sarah’s grief is the freshest, all the main characters are dealing with grief in some way. How does the sense of loss change over time? What advice would you give her? Vonda? Janine?

11. Which character did you most identify with? The least?

BLIND FAITH (written as Alicia Beckman) 

1. The book opens with Lindsay receiving a wallet tied to the victim of an unsolved murder. She removes a photo before turning the wallet over to Detective Donovan, despite knowing it might be evidence, to study it and jog her memory. But she also fears it could tarnish Father Leary’s memory. Did you accept her reasoning? What would you have done?

2. The story opens with a cold case investigation, interspersed with historic scenes that begin decades earlier and continue to the present. It also shifts between four main point-of-view characters. How did the structure help develop both plot and character?

3. Each of the main characters—Lindsay, Carrie, Detective Donovan, and Father Leary—struggles with faith in some way. How did their approaches to faith—religious and otherwise—differ? What interested you about their perspective?

4. Each of the main characters’ view of themselves changes in the story. What are the triggers? How do their early experiences—within their families, with friends, church, school, or career—continue to influence them as adults?

5. The case of the PGA—the Parking Garage Asshole—triggers Donovan’s memory of the man he shot and killed. His lieutenant cautions him not to reveal too much of his personal story to the victim, to avoid making her tragedy about him. If you were her, would you want to know?

6. Lindsay is more upset by Haley’s deception than by her change in plans. But Haley fears her smart, successful mother will judge her as a failure. Was her fear legitimate? How do they rebuild trust? Should Lindsay have told Haley earlier about the reasons she left the prosecutor’s office?

7. Siblings often respond to the same events in very different ways. Carrie notes that she responded to the constant uprooting of her childhood by staying put, while her sister kept moving. What factors influenced their choices? And how do those choices influence their actions later in life, and their return to Billings?

8. Carrie’s older daughter labels Carrie’s reaction to her grandson’s illness “genetic guilt,” because she fears having unwittingly passed along the genes for the disease. Do you understand how Carrie feels?

9. Father Leary longs to be part of Ginger’s life, but Irene shuts him out, because of his ties to Tony and Jerzy and the pain he and Tony caused her daughter. Did she make the right decision?

10. Andy knows Jerzy had hoped Mary Ellen would take over his business empire, had she lived. Lindsay wonders if Mary Ellen would have outgrown her mean girl phase, and what kind of grown woman she’d have become. What do you think?

11. Guilt is a recurring theme, for Lindsay, Carrie, Jerzy, Andy, and Father Leary. Are their feelings justified?

12. Which character did you relate to the most?

13. Where do you see Lindsay and Carrie in five years? Ginger? Detective Donovan?

14. How does the book’s epigraph relate to the story?


P.S.: I’d love to join any group for a discussion of my books by speaker phone or Skype. Anywhere in Montana, I’ll come in person.

If you’d like bookmarks to share with your book club, library, or friends, drop me a line at leslie at lesliebudewitz dot com with your mailing address. (US and Canada only, please!)