**First of all, if you’re not finished with the book yet, I must say that these questions have spoilers!** Have you enjoyed Secrets of a Charmed Life?? This is a story that I think many readers can relate to. We’ve all made decisions we might regret, or small decisions that changed our lives immensely – “Big doors swing on little hinges,” says W. Clement Stone. You’ve probably heard that before! It’s very, very true, and Meissner’s story centers on this truth and the characters’ abilities to bear the brunt of their choices. Here are a few questions for you to think about, but do read Susan Meissner’s questions in the back of the book (hello, they are far superior – it was tough to come up with more!).
This month’s featured illustrator one of my favorite fashion illustrators, Samantha Hahn, who handlettered a quote from the book as well as a classy lady and a bookmark. You can download the quote and bookmark below!
1. In the book’s outset, Isabel asks her interviewer Kendra if history is merely a recording of facts or our interpretation of it, and Kendra responds that it must be BOTH. “What good is an event if you don’t remember how it made you feel. How it impacted others. How it made them feel. You would learn nothing and neither would anyone else.” Do you agree??
2. As the title suggests, there are lots of secrets kept in this story, and those secrets, in hindsight, affected many relationships. How might things have been different if Emmy knew who her father was? If Emmy had not kept the name Isabel MacFarland?
3. As Emmy decides if she’ll run away with Julia or not, Meissner says, “She stood at a crossroads, half-aware that her choice would send her down a path from which there could be no turning back. But instead of two choices, she saw only one – because it was all she really wanted to see.” Sometimes we want something so badly, that we only see one choice. And Emmy went through with it, setting events in motion. But she learns later that everyone “…made choices, some good, some bad. Just like I did. And then they had to live with those choices, just as I had to live with mine. And as you will have to live with yours.” Has Isabel/Emmy made peace with her choices? If yes, how long did it take her to feel that way? Do we often hold ourselves accountable for events that were not our fault??
4. On page 291, Emmy realizes the “exchanges” everyone made in their lives: her Mum exchanged a life of poverty for one of secrets and illusions to keep her daughters fed and clothed, Julia had exchanged the brides box with the fairy tale book, Emmy had exchanged Julia (or so she thought) for her own future aspirations, her own dreams, etc… “This was how people balanced the scales their world was tipping, Emmy reasoned. It was only after time had passed that a person was able to see whether she might have been able to bear the load she was sure had been to heavy.” Have you ever made a momentous “exchange” when a load was too heavy, just like this?
World War II fiction happens to be a very favorite genre of mine to read. To me, these books make history come alive, just as we mentioned above. Here are a few further reading suggestions:
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave
(And don’t forget Susan Meissner’s other books, which unfold during other tumultuous historical events. I loved A Fall of Marigolds and can’t wait to read more.)
Don’t forget to follow along with us on Instagram, @larsbookclub as the story continues! Tell us how you’re feeling about the book, its characters, and all the poignant events that unfold. Be sure to take a pic of your book and tag us with #larsbookclub. Enjoy!