Twenty Questions

( 4 )

Overview

"It seemed to June that she had the perfect marriage until the day Ronald Pruett was arrested for the murder of Vernay Hanks. Through her job at an elementary school, June knew both the victim's child and Pruett. Moreover, on the day of the murder, she had almost taken a ride from Pruett herself." This connection with the murder becomes an obsession for June and leads her into a deceitful and increasingly complicated involvement with the dead woman's brother and her child. Pretending to have been a friend of the victim, June inserts herself into
... See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers.
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (25) from $1.99   
  • New (7) from $1.99   
  • Used (18) from $1.99   
Close
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any BN.com coupons and promotions
$1.99
Seller since 2007

Feedback rating:

(1351)

Condition:

New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

New
0743272668 Fast Reliable Shipping From a trusted online seller!

Ships from: Cypress, TX

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$1.99
Seller since 2009

Feedback rating:

(2615)

Condition: New
2006-07-11 Hardcover First Edition New 0743272668 Ships Within 24 Hours. Tracking Number available for all USA orders. Excellent Customer Service. Upto 15 Days 100% Money Back ... Gurantee. Try Our Fast! ! ! ! Shipping With Tracking Number. Read more Show Less

Ships from: Bensalem, PA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$11.36
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(337)

Condition: New
Hardcover New 0743272668 XCITING PRICES JUST FOR YOU. Ships within 24 hours. Best customer service. 100% money back return policy.

Ships from: Bensalem, PA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$11.36
Seller since 2015

Feedback rating:

(514)

Condition: New
Hardcover New 0743272668! ! KNOWLEDGE IS POWER! ! ENJOY OUR BEST PRICES! ! ! Ships Fast. All standard orders delivered within 5 to 12 business days.

Ships from: Southampton, PA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$13.69
Seller since 2010

Feedback rating:

(799)

Condition: New
Hardcover New 0743272668! ! ! ! BEST PRICES WITH A SERVICE YOU CAN RELY! ! !

Ships from: Philadelphia, PA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$31.47
Seller since 2015

Feedback rating:

(333)

Condition: New
Brand New Item.

Ships from: Chatham, NJ

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$45.00
Seller since 2015

Feedback rating:

(214)

Condition: New
Brand new.

Ships from: acton, MA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Close
Sort by

Overview

"It seemed to June that she had the perfect marriage until the day Ronald Pruett was arrested for the murder of Vernay Hanks. Through her job at an elementary school, June knew both the victim's child and Pruett. Moreover, on the day of the murder, she had almost taken a ride from Pruett herself." This connection with the murder becomes an obsession for June and leads her into a deceitful and increasingly complicated involvement with the dead woman's brother and her child. Pretending to have been a friend of the victim, June inserts herself into their lives and through this discovers disturbing things about her marriage and herself.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This might have been a fairly typical murder mystery were it not for the compelling protagonist at its center: June Duvall, a smalltown woman who works at an elementary school cafeteria. Her life changes when Ronald Pruett is arrested for strangling Vernay Hanks, a local waitress; June had declined a ride from Pruett a day earlier, thus changing her fate (or so she believes). Perhaps out of survivor's guilt, June decides to befriend Vernay's daughter, Cindy, and gruff, laconic brother Harlan, who has reluctantly become Cindy's caretaker. As June slowly becomes more involved in Harlan's and Cindy's lives, the state of her decade-long marriage becomes questionable; when she unravels the true circumstances around Vernay's murder, her life is turned upside-down. Clement's subtle prose renders June's existential pondering and anxious thoughts convincingly, and the novel's intriguing plot elements click. Clement, an elementary school librarian in western Oregon, makes a fine debut. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Following a strong debut (Pretty Is as Pretty Does), Clement returns with the engrossing story of June Duvall, who believes that through a quirk of fate her life has been spared and another woman murdered in her place. June's remorse about this death is compounded when she realizes that her job in the local elementary school kitchen brings her into contact with the dead woman's ten-year-old daughter, Cindy Hanks. Childless and yet happily married for ten years to Bill, an attractive chef, June begins to visit the girl, now living with her uncle, under the pretense that she was her dead mother's friend. In some ways a child woman herself with na ve notions, June believes her deception is harmless until she begins to discover unexpected truths about herself and her marriage. As in the peeling of an onion, the narrative unravels layer by layer. People change as they gain new insights about themselves and those close to them; their strengths emerge when duplicities are exposed and truth becomes a goal to be sought and valued. Suffused with an awareness about the struggles of the working poor, the novel offers a sometimes sad yet finally gratifying glimpse into one woman's awakening about death, fate, life, and love. For all public libraries.-Maureen Neville, Trenton P.L., NJ Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-A novel about the twists and turns of deceits, small and large. June, a cafeteria worker in an elementary school, learns that a man from whom she refused a ride has been arrested for the murder of the mother of a student in her school. As she begins to obsess about the fate she seemingly escaped, she visits the dead woman's daughter, Cindy Hanks, pretending to be an old family friend. There is a rumor of incest in the family and June, who is childless, considers adopting the girl. Soon she has been given some of the dead woman's clothes, but she also discovers a secret that jeopardizes her almost-perfect marriage. Clement is a master of plot surprises as the relationships among June, Cindy, and even Cindy's uncle grow more convoluted. When the lies begin to unravel, June becomes aware of the danger in telling even well-intentioned untruths and learns the limits of responsibility. Her moral dilemma will appeal to readers as she attempts to balance her good intentions against the half-truths that she feels she needs to tell. Teens will appreciate the quandaries of an adult world that will soon be theirs.-Pat Bangs, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An Oregon woman's life unravels as she grapples with the possibility that another woman was murdered because she was not. June is supremely happy in her life. She likes her job as the cook in an elementary school attended by the more downtrodden children in town, and she loves her husband Bill, a chef, with whom she has shared a childless but blissful marriage for ten years. One day when June's car breaks down, the father of a child from the school offers her a ride home. She considers the invitation, then decides she'd rather walk. That same afternoon, the man is arrested for the rape and murder of another woman, Vernay Hanks. June did not know Vernay, but the dead woman's child Cindy is also a student at June's school. June feels responsible for the death, thinking the murderer took Vernay when he couldn't get June. Without telling Bill, and under the false pretense of having been Vernay's friend, June visits Cindy, who lives with her uncle Harlan. As June insinuates herself into their lives, she puts off telling Bill. As clues pile up, June rationalizes away her suspicions that Bill knew Vernay until the day Cindy appears wearing a bracelet that belonged to Bill's mother. Confronted, Bill admits he had a year-long affair with Vernay. Although he apologizes, June's trust is shattered and they separate. She continues to see the Hanks, both of whom she has begun to love, without mentioning her connection to Bill. Of course, they discover it and are devastated. Then it turns out the police arrested the wrong man. June's eventual clarity is hard-won, but as a character she never quite jells. Although Clement (Pretty Is as Pretty Does, 2001) can get preachy about the oppressed poor and theevils of war, she wrestles eloquently with some meaty issues: lies, responsibility, chance.
From the Publisher
"Twenty Questions peels away the facade of a happy marriage and shows the utter wasteland beneath the lies...Such is the power of Clement's storytelling." - The Oregonian.

"Clement's subtle prose renders June's existential pondering and anxious thoughts convincingly and the novel's plot elements click...A fine debut." - Publishers Weekly

"Touching, funny...Twenty Questions passes the test with an A." - BookPage

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743272667
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Publication date: 7/11/2006
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Alison Clement has been a waitress, bartender, housepainter, and fruit picker. She lives with her partner and their two children in western Oregon, where she is an elementary school librarian.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Twenty Questions

A Novel
By Alison Clement

Atria

Copyright © 2006 Alison Clement
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0743272668

Chapter 1

It started the day she opened the paper and saw Ralphie Pruett's father. She knew then that she was alive only because she had said no to him, and so he went and got some other woman and killed her instead.

The paper was in the staff room, left over from the teachers at lunch. June spread it out flat on the table and looked at it. She started to reach for a cigarette, but she was in school and so she stopped herself. She had finished her shift and was ready to go home. She took her apron off while she read the article.

His name was Ronald Pruett. He had killed the girl last Wednesday; on Saturday the body had been found, and he had been arrested. The article didn't say where the girl's body was when they found it. Sometimes, June thought, it's a shallow grave and sometimes it's a place like the garage. She thought of her own garage with its concrete floor. You couldn't very well bury someone in a garage like that. And she got sidetracked and stuck on the idea of the garage, the dark garage full of old dirty things, plastic gallon containers of automotive fluid, old lamps and broken appliances, and an old car or two. She was stuck there. Shedidn't think of the girl, Vernay Hanks, yet. Vernay was just a waitress at Darrel's Hamburgers, although they weren't really called waitresses, just a girl who needed a ride.

She folded up her apron and put it away. She grabbed her pocketbook and walked out the back door. She walked through the empty playground, through the parking lot and to her car; the car that broke down over on Jackson Street last Wednesday. Jackson Street was named after Andrew Jackson who had his belts made from the skin of Indians: an obsessive thought she never failed to have whenever she heard his name, a monster. The old fuel pump went out right there on that street with the unfortunate name, and then Ralphie's father stopped.

He had a blue pickup with mag wheels and a beige fender where it had been replaced and they had used the wrong color. He stopped and offered her a ride. He was just as nice as could be. She couldn't place him right away, and then she did, from when he waited in the hallway for Ralphie after school sometimes. She usually said yes when people insisted, but that day she didn't.

He had gotten out of his truck and looked under her hood. They were on a street with big, old, well-built houses: houses that people used to know how to make before the dark ages when everyone forgot what they knew, or just didn't care about it anymore. June had never been inside one of those houses. No one she knew lived here. None of the students lived here. None of the teachers. The Pruetts, of course, didn't live here.

Ralphie's father had left his truck running, like he was in too big a hurry to turn it off, and from the sound of it, that truck needed a muffler.

When someone stops to help with your car, it's hard not to feel obligated to watch what they are doing, June thought. You feel you should watch even if you don't know a thing about it or care. She had tried to tear her eyes away from the houses and aim them instead beneath her hood, where the father of one of the students, she hadn't remembered which one yet, twisted and pulled and wiggled his hands around.

One of the houses had its blinds up and the lights on. She could see the dining room table from where she stood. She could see a chandelier, a wooden high chair, a tall vase of flowers, a silver candlestick holder, a painting on the wall. June wanted to walk up the steps and open the front door to that house. She wanted to go inside and sit at the table. She wanted to light the candle and sit in one of the wooden chairs, waiting for dinner. She wanted to hold the baby on her lap.

She thought about when she was young and might have married someone who could have given her a house like this one. She might have married Sean Callahan who had his own airplane, but she didn't.

June didn't like conflict. If pressed she'd usually say yes, but she hadn't said yes to Sean, and she didn't say yes to Mr. Pruett either, even though he had been so nice and then so insistent. She didn't want a ride. Truly. She wanted to walk along Jackson Street in the late afternoon, by herself. She would walk into downtown and catch a bus.

June wasn't a dreamy woman, and she wasn't restless, and June loved her husband, Bill. Bill, I love you so I always will. It was an old Laura Nyro song. June could never say the name of her husband without thinking of it, another obsessive thought but this time harmless. Sometimes she'd sing it to him, and she meant it. Bill.

If June ever imagined having a different kind of life, it was always with Bill. Remembering it now, it seemed that she had had a strange feeling that day. She had felt oddly alive in those moments, standing by the car, strangely excited, almost as if something in her knew how close she was to the end. It stood right there. A fork in the road had been reached, and she had been only one misstep away from a grave in someone's garage.

People came into the kitchen, a teacher, an assistant. The custodian came in, and usually she would talk to him, but that day she didn't. Ralphie's father was a secret, and he would be a secret until the moment she told Bill, and then finally she would know what it meant. She would know by what she felt when she said it, by how it sounded to her, by what he said back, and by what she said back again. Until then it was a mystery.

June drove home from work telling herself, I was lucky. It could have been me, but it wasn't. She didn't let herself think of the other woman. She had skimmed that part of the article. It had been that woman instead of her, and she was glad, there was no getting around it. She was glad to be alive driving her car down the road with the sky above her, with her arms and legs and her whole body, breathing and sitting and looking, feeling and thinking. The nuns used to say that the body is a temple, and that seemed right to June. Her body was a temple, and it was alive; but the other woman, her body was lying on a slab somewhere. It was in a drawer in a cold room; it had a tag tied around the toe, or maybe that was only in the movies. It could have been me, June thought, and she began to shake.

Bill had left a roach in June's ashtray, which in plain English meant the leftover end of a marijuana cigarette, and she lit it. She smoked it even though she had just come from work, which was at a school, and was still in her work frame of mind, which was wholesome, more or less. When you work in a grade school, you become wholesome, and you say oh my goodness when you're excited, instead of Jesus Christ, and you stop saying shit and goddamn it altogether, June thought.

Ralphie's father had kept asking, and she had kept saying no. She had been pretty far from home, and it was almost dusk. Maybe she would have relented finally, but then a woman came out of one of the houses. She walked down the stairs toward her car. She said hello to them, and she looked at them both. She had spent enough time there to identify Mr. Pruett in a police lineup, maybe, although identifying people for the police is harder than you might think, June had heard. The mind doesn't like a vacuum. If there's a blank, the mind will fill it in. If you don't remember a nose, the mind will find one for you and stick it there and that nose, which is something the mind made up itself and should recognize as a lie, will be as true to the mind as the honest to God truth. Why take a chance, Ronald Pruett must have thought, when there are so many other women everywhere? Maybe I'll go by Darrel's Hamburgers instead.

Ralphie Pruett was pale and skinny. He was a mean boy. You knew what kind of man he'd grow up to be, but you couldn't hold that against him. So far he was just little, six years old. He had tiny perfect ears and little fingers that clutched his plastic food tray and then reached to put corn dogs on it, and other things that would kill you.

Somewhere in the food that Ralphie Pruett ate there were remnants of real food. There was a pig, and corn that grew in a field. And somewhere in Ralphie was the perfect being that we all are. In Ralphie, with his dirty fingernails, his sallow skin, waxy ears, whiny voice, and wary eyes, his shoving and his thickness -- somewhere there was the boy he could have been if someone loved him and gave him something decent to eat every now and then. It's surprising, June had thought more than once, how little is actually required.

Before you work at a school, you think you know what children are. You think children have small worries, sleep at night in warm beds with stuffed animals, eat meals at a table with their families, have fathers and mothers who love them. Before you work at a school, you think you know what parents are. You imagine parents like your own parents: not perfect, but people who fed you and cared if you did your homework, people who made sure the bills were paid and there was a refrigerator in the house, with food.

Usually on her way home from work, June listened to the news, but today she didn't think she could bear it: every day some new disaster, as if she was suddenly in a Doris Lessing novel, one of her series about the end of civilization. Just when it seemed that nothing else could go wrong, it did, and now there was the war. The kids talked about it all the time. "We are winning," they told her. They had heard this at home, she knew -- but how could anyone call what was happening in Iraq winning? Unless it was a killing contest. If it was a killing contest, they were winning hands down. She thought, The only thing that stands between me and the world is Bill. She would tell him that when he got home.

June put on the music station, and Steve Earle was singing a song he had written about capital punishment.

Send my Bible home to mama

Call her every now and then

June had mixed feelings about capital punishment. When a man in Portland killed a six-year-old boy, she was for it, but when she listened to Steve Earle sing his song, she was against it.

People said that anybody could be redeemed, but June didn't believe that. Maybe, she thought, a man doesn't deserve to be redeemed. Maybe sometimes he just goes too far. Maybe sometimes a man gets to be like a mad dog; the best you can do is take him out back and shoot him, that's all.

June thought of Mr. Pruett, and she wondered if he could be redeemed. She wondered what he had thought after he killed the woman. What had he done next? Did he just go in and wash his hands and eat dinner? She thought of the politicians who chose war, knowing what it meant: murder and mayhem, blood, guts, horror, and death. They chose war and then talked about it on TV in their clean white shirts, smiling, and then the next minute sat down to eat dinner. No one blamed them for being cold-blooded.

She tried to remember exactly what Ralphie's father had looked like, where he had stood, how he had moved, what he had said, everything about him, no matter how small. She tried to find some clue, but she couldn't. You'd think if you stood right next to someone who was prepared to strangle you, you'd notice something out of place. People reveal small things about themselves in countless ways, June thought, but somehow she had stood next to Ralphie's father, with his unspeakable plans, and she had only thought of her car. She had tried to be polite and helpful. She had thought of the street where they stood and the houses nearby. She had felt oddly alive, but what kind of clue was that?

June parked her car and ran up the front steps and into her house. She was barely in the door when she started telling Bill the story. The paper said he had strangled her. June hadn't even taken her coat off. She stood in the kitchen doorway, talking quickly, barely seeing him. She watched his hands, as they covered a dish of pasta salad with foil. She had been talking, but now she stopped. She had only gotten to the part where the woman in a red coat had come out of her house and seen them both looking into the engine of her car.

She wondered about the red coat. Was it something real from that day, or something her imagination had inserted? She wanted to tell it all, everything she could remember, plus everything she remembered but might have only imagined. She stood in the doorway and looked at the yellow daffodils on the table and relayed the story to Bill, but Bill exclaimed, "Wait a minute, baby! Just hold on a minute!"

He said she needed to calm down. Calm down, relax. She was all wound up. He put the bowl of pasta in the refrigerator and turned to her. Was she sure it was the same man? Was she positive? It was the same day? "Oh, my God." He pulled her to him, saying, "There, there, shhh, it will be all right. Never take a ride from someone you don't know, June." He was just glad she was safe. He put his finger to her lips and said, "What do you think, it's your fault the other girl was killed?" He said, "Things happen, and we don't know why." He said, "Come here, baby. Come here," and he put his arms around her, and she leaned into his chest. If anybody ever touched her, he'd kill them.

She wanted to tell the whole story from the beginning to the middle to the end. She sat down at the kitchen table and started again, with the woman in the coat. He sat across from her, listening. He was a good listener. He let her talk. She knew he had to go to work soon, but he didn't look at his watch. When she was finished, he told her she ought to call her friend Louise. "Don't sit around here, being morbid. Go have some fun." He always thought she should go have fun, whatever that meant.

"I don't want to have fun!"

She followed him into the bedroom, and he got ready for work. June sat on the bed, watching him dress. He wore good black pants and a white shirt to work even though he was the cook, the chef, back in the kitchen where no one saw him.

Bill was a handsome man. He was tall, 6'2", and muscular. He had thick black hair and dark eyes, long eyelashes, and broad, capable hands, cooking hands, he called them. He was the kind of man women liked to talk to, a man who knew how to listen. He came from Chicago. His mother was Italian, and his father was a bricklayer. Bill was dark like his mother, and strong like his father. He was raised Catholic like June, but he had never believed it, not for one minute.

June's own father was dead, and her mother was still back in Greenville, South Carolina. June had one brother, but he was in Texas. She had always wanted a big family, like the other kids at school. She went to Catholic school, Holy Rosary -- Holy Roller, they had called it, for a joke. The other kids had big families, a child in every grade it seemed like, but for June there was just her and her brother.

Bill and June had been married ten years, but she liked to watch him, and she liked to hear what he had to say. If she was in a crowded room and someone was talking to her, it didn't matter who that person was, if she heard Bill's voice, she strained to hear what he was saying.

He buttoned his shirt, watching her. Then suddenly he thought about the dead girl and said, "Fucking nuts out there. I'd like to get my hands on them."

June liked to sit outside on the back steps but it was just April, and the days were still too cold so, after Bill left for work, she sat at the kitchen table. He had made dinner for her, and it was in the refrigerator. It was conventional wisdom that plumbers' wives could never get their plumbing fixed and the families of construction workers lived in half-built homes. Whatever your husband did at work, you couldn't expect him to do it around the house. But Bill loved to cook for her. He loved to feed her, and he loved to watch her eat. In a few more years they would both be fat.

She drank a glass of red wine and looked out the window. It had been a dry spring, but the days had been cloudy and often a thick, wet fog had settled over the town. Oregon needed rain, everyone said, but June hated the rain. It had been sunny the day Ralphie's father had stopped -- a good day for walking. If it had been raining, if there had been clouds or fog, would she have taken the ride?

June looked out the window at the house next door. The neighbors had been fighting, but that night they were quiet.

Her friend Louise called, but June didn't say anything about Ralphie's father. She locked the door and sat on the couch, but she didn't turn on the TV or read. She sat quietly, and she did not think morbid thoughts about being buried in a garage with old tires. She didn't think of the dead woman or Ralphie's father, although something in her kept trying to bring them to mind.

Some people said everything happened for the best, but June didn't believe that, not for a minute. People said everything happens the way it should, but that wasn't true either. People said all kinds of things, but it was only to hide from facts, and June didn't want to hide from facts. She told herself that the opportunity for pain in the past and in the future was limitless, but that we need to look at what is here, right now, that's all.

June looked around the room. She was sitting on an old purple velvet couch. The floors were wood. The walls were pale yellow, a warm color, and the ceiling was white. The ceiling was high. It was an old duplex, and the couple next door had just moved in and they fought. The TV was across from her. She had picked daffodils the day before and set a bouquet in a mason jar on the coffee table. Yellow was her favorite color but it hadn't always been. She wasn't going to think of anything in the past, even if it was just what her favorite color had been. She looked at the flowers. She breathed in and out.

Copyright © 2006 by Allison Clement



Continues...


Excerpted from Twenty Questions by Alison Clement Copyright © 2006 by Alison Clement. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Introduction

Twenty Questions

Alison Clement

Introduction

Life can change in an instant. For June Duvall, that moment came on a spring afternoon when her car broke down. Normally she would have accepted a ride from a seemingly harmless man, Ronald Pruett, but instead she opted to walk. Later that day Pruett murdered a woman, Vernay Hanks, setting in motion the unraveling of June's comfortable life and jeopardizing her decade-long marriage.

Stricken with guilt and obsessed by the thought that she could have been the one who died, June visits the Hanks home. Here she meets Vernay's brother, Harlan, and 10-year-old daughter, Cindy, a student at the elementary school where June works. June's life is soon intertwined with those of Harlan and Cindy, based on June's impulsive and well-intentioned lie that she was friends with Vernay. As time passes, questions surface about Vernay's actions in the months leading up to her death. . . and ultimately reveal a devastating connection to June.

Witty and poignant, gripping and perceptive, Twenty Questions explores how the choices we make govern our lives, how even the most innocent of lies can have serious consequences, and how a pivotal, split-second decision is sometimes all it takes to alter the direction of one's life.

Questions & Topics for Discussion

1. June admits that she "usually said yes when people insisted" (2). Why then did she decline a ride from Ronald Pruett on the day her car broke down? After reading the story and getting to know June, is it surprising that she would have turned down the ride? Why or why not?

2. June tells herself on several occasions that she will not go the Hanks' houseagain. What compels her to keep returning? Are the visits something she's doing for herself, or for Cindy and Harlan?

3. When June first goes to the Hanks' home, why does she tell Harlan she was friends with Vernay? What prompts her to lie about who she is and why she's there? "Sometimes people lie out of laziness, [June] thought. Sometimes a lie is an accident; sometimes it's a kindness" (97). How would you characterize the lies that June tells? How does June see them?

4. June's initial impression of Harlan is that he is "a simple man" and "not a thinker" (57). Is she justified in forming this opinion, or is she jumping to conclusions? What makes her change her mind about Harlan?

5. June eventually finds out there were other people who might also have affected the outcome for Vernay on that fateful day, including Harlan, who had not fixed the brakes on his sister's car, and Mimi, the waitress who switched shifts with Vernay. Does having this information make June feel less responsible for Vernay's murder? How so?

6. Why does June take some of Vernay's things? What's the significance of the things she chose and why does she later wear them?

7. June "had told Bill she didn't care if they had children or not. She had meant it, but either she had changed or she had said it without full knowledge of her own mind" (95). Describe June's feelings about and attitude toward motherhood. Does she regret not having a child of her own? How much influence did Bill have on her decision? Why do you think June was drawn to working at an elementary school?

8. How did June's perception of her marriage differ from reality? Once she had some distance from Bill and from their marriage, what things did June notice about their relationship that she previously had not?

9. At what point does June acknowledge the truth about Bill and Vernay? After Bill admits to having an affair with Vernay, why does June continue to live in the same house and even sleep with him?

10. The novel states that June "didn't know how to measure her own distress within the context of the world" (168). What does that statement reveal about June that she thinks about her life in this way?

11. Why does June decide to quit her job at the elementary school? What is the significance of June taking only a few possessions with her when she leaves her house for the last time?

12. Compare June to the other women in the novel — Louise, Mona, and even Vernay. Is June more alike or different from these female characters? How do you think June views herself?

13. When June goes to see Harlan at the salvage yard he tells her Ronald Pruett did not kill Vernay. "Everything was built on a mistake," thinks June. "She had befriended the family. She had found out about Bill, and she had left him. She had lost everything" (262). If June had it to do over again, do you think she would do anything different? If so, what would those things be?

14. Did you find June to be a compelling character and an interesting narrator? Why or why not?

15. Discuss the novel's ending. What do you think the future holds for June? How about for some of the other characters like Harlan, Cindy, Bill, and Mona?

16. What themes does Alison Clement explore in this novel? Are they seamlessly woven into the narrative? What did you enjoy the most about Twenty Questions? How about the least?

Enhance Your Book Club

June often compares situations and people in her life to movie scenes and characters. Take turns talking about who you would cast in a film version of Twenty Questions.

Play a variation of the guessing game Twenty Questions, only instead of random objects use your group's past reading selections. One member selects a book and the other members each ask up to twenty questions in order to identify it.

Forget the kind of fancy fare that June's cheating chef husband, Bill, prepares. Serve up chicken enchiladas, the dish that Cindy asks June to make. Try one of several chicken enchiladas recipes at epicurious.com. And for dessert? Root beer floats.

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

Twenty Questions

Alison Clement

Introduction

Life can change in an instant. For June Duvall, that moment came on a spring afternoon when her car broke down. Normally she would have accepted a ride from a seemingly harmless man, Ronald Pruett, but instead she opted to walk. Later that day Pruett murdered a woman, Vernay Hanks, setting in motion the unraveling of June's comfortable life and jeopardizing her decade-long marriage.

Stricken with guilt and obsessed by the thought that she could have been the one who died, June visits the Hanks home. Here she meets Vernay's brother, Harlan, and 10-year-old daughter, Cindy, a student at the elementary school where June works. June's life is soon intertwined with those of Harlan and Cindy, based on June's impulsive and well-intentioned lie that she was friends with Vernay. As time passes, questions surface about Vernay's actions in the months leading up to her death. . . and ultimately reveal a devastating connection to June.

Witty and poignant, gripping and perceptive, Twenty Questions explores how the choices we make govern our lives, how even the most innocent of lies can have serious consequences, and how a pivotal, split-second decision is sometimes all it takes to alter the direction of one's life.

Questions & Topics for Discussion

1. June admits that she "usually said yes when people insisted" (2). Why then did she decline a ride from Ronald Pruett on the day her car broke down? After reading the story and getting to know June, is it surprising that she would have turned down the ride? Why or why not?

2. June tells herself on several occasions that she will not go the Hanks' house again. What compels her to keep returning? Are the visits something she's doing for herself, or for Cindy and Harlan?

3. When June first goes to the Hanks' home, why does she tell Harlan she was friends with Vernay? What prompts her to lie about who she is and why she's there? "Sometimes people lie out of laziness, [June] thought. Sometimes a lie is an accident; sometimes it's a kindness" (97). How would you characterize the lies that June tells? How does June see them?

4. June's initial impression of Harlan is that he is "a simple man" and "not a thinker" (57). Is she justified in forming this opinion, or is she jumping to conclusions? What makes her change her mind about Harlan?

5. June eventually finds out there were other people who might also have affected the outcome for Vernay on that fateful day, including Harlan, who had not fixed the brakes on his sister's car, and Mimi, the waitress who switched shifts with Vernay. Does having this information make June feel less responsible for Vernay's murder? How so?

6. Why does June take some of Vernay's things? What's the significance of the things she chose and why does she later wear them?

7. June "had told Bill she didn't care if they had children or not. She had meant it, but either she had changed or she had said it without full knowledge of her own mind" (95). Describe June's feelings about and attitude toward motherhood. Does she regret not having a child of her own? How much influence did Bill have on her decision? Why do you think June was drawn to working at an elementary school?

8. How did June's perception of her marriage differ from reality? Once she had some distance from Bill and from their marriage, what things did June notice about their relationship that she previously had not?

9. At what point does June acknowledge the truth about Bill and Vernay? After Bill admits to having an affair with Vernay, why does June continue to live in the same house and even sleep with him?

10. The novel states that June "didn't know how to measure her own distress within the context of the world" (168). What does that statement reveal about June that she thinks about her life in this way?

11. Why does June decide to quit her job at the elementary school? What is the significance of June taking only a few possessions with her when she leaves her house for the last time?

12. Compare June to the other women in the novel — Louise, Mona, and even Vernay. Is June more alike or different from these female characters? How do you think June views herself?

13. When June goes to see Harlan at the salvage yard he tells her Ronald Pruett did not kill Vernay. "Everything was built on a mistake," thinks June. "She had befriended the family. She had found out about Bill, and she had left him. She had lost everything" (262). If June had it to do over again, do you think she would do anything different? If so, what would those things be?

14. Did you find June to be a compelling character and an interesting narrator? Why or why not?

15. Discuss the novel's ending. What do you think the future holds for June? How about for some of the other characters like Harlan, Cindy, Bill, and Mona?

16. What themes does Alison Clement explore in this novel? Are they seamlessly woven into the narrative? What did you enjoy the most about Twenty Questions? How about the least?

Enhance Your Book Club

June often compares situations and people in her life to movie scenes and characters. Take turns talking about who you would cast in a film version of Twenty Questions.

Play a variation of the guessing game Twenty Questions, only instead of random objects use your group's past reading selections. One member selects a book and the other members each ask up to twenty questions in order to identify it.

Forget the kind of fancy fare that June's cheating chef husband, Bill, prepares. Serve up chicken enchiladas, the dish that Cindy asks June to make. Try one of several chicken enchiladas recipes at epicurious.com. And for dessert? Root beer floats.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 4 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(2)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(1)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2006

    A Fantastic Book!

    This has to be one of the best books I've ever read. The book description only scratches the surface of what it's about. It's an incredible story about a woman, June Duvall, and her relationships with other people and how she thinks and how she reacts to things that happen in her life, both directly and indirectly. Alison Clement is an immensely talented writer who has done an amazing job of developing the characters that make them seem so real, like you're getting to know them rather than just reading about them. Her use of dialog between June and the people in her life, combined with both subtle and vivid descriptions of June's thoughts and reactions, make this a book that's hard to put down. I also highly recommend the author's previous book, Pretty Is As Pretty Does. It's a completely different story, but just as enjoyable and well written.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2006

    amateur sleuth augment a deep character study

    When she saw the newspaper, Oregon elementary school cafeteria cook June Duvall knew instantly how fortunate she was. Yesterday her car broke down and Ronald Pruett offered her a ride she considered accepting it as she hates saying no, but declined anyway. Pruett has been arrested for the strangulation murder of Vernay Hanks, a waitress at Darnay¿s Hamburgers, who obviously said yes to his ride offer. --- Though not sure why she cannot stay out of this tragedy, June, rationalizing it as survivor's guilt, befriends the victim¿s daughter, ten years old student Cindy, and her newly named guardian, her crotchety Uncle Harlan. Though she loves her spouse Bill as she always thinks of the Nyro-Fifth dimension tune, she finds herself spending more time with the grieving duo. This leads her to wonder what is lacking with her relationship with Bill, but soon a bigger puzzle surfaces when Cindy wears a bracelet that belongs to June¿s mother-in-law other evidence surfaces linking Bill with Vernay as June, applying the kids¿ game TWENTY QUESTIONS, inadvertently begins to disentangle the circumstances that led to the woman¿s homicide. --- Though the anti-war stance seems out of place, this fine drama makes strong cases that justice is myopic when it comes to the unfair treatment of the disenfranchised poor and on a personal scale to be honest with yourself and others in relationships. June is a terrific protagonist struggling with deep feelings of guilt that ignite inside her when she realizes Cindy attends her school. She knows her lies to gain access is wrong though her intentions are honorable. The amateur sleuth elements augment a deep character study of personal and often overlooked societal responsibilities to one another. --- Harriet Klausner

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2006

    Disappointing Resolution...or lack thereof

    An interesting story. As Clement develops both the plot and protagonist, the reader is compelled to try and solve the obvious deception. However, the clues don't add up and neither does the ending!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)