A Wedding in Provence: A Novel

A Wedding in Provence: A Novel

by Ellen Sussman
A Wedding in Provence: A Novel

A Wedding in Provence: A Novel

by Ellen Sussman


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Ellen Sussman, nationally bestselling author of French Lessons, delivers a feast for the senses in A Wedding in Provence—a moving novel of love, forgiveness, and trust, set among the beaches and vineyards of southern France.
Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more.

When Olivia and Brody drive up to their friend’s idyllic inn—nestled in a valley in the Mediterranean town of Cassis—they know they’ve chosen the perfect spot for their wedding. The ceremony will be held in the lush garden, and the reception will be a small party of only their closest family and friends. But when Olivia and Brody’s guests check in, their peaceful wedding weekend is quickly thrown off balance.
The first to arrive is Nell, Olivia’s oldest daughter from her first marriage. Impulsive and reckless, she invites a complete stranger—an enigmatic man who is both alluring and a bit dangerous—to be her guest at the wedding. The next is Carly, Olivia’s youngest daughter, the responsible and pragmatic one. Away from her demanding job and a strained relationship, she feels an urgent need to cut loose—and for once do something brash and unpredictable. Then there is Jake, Brody’s playboy best man, and Fanny, Brody’s mother, who is coping with the fallout of her own marriage. And in the middle of it all is Olivia, navigating the dramas, joys, and pitfalls of planning a wedding and starting a new life.
A delicious, compelling, and utterly enchanting novel, A Wedding in Provence captures the complex and enduring bonds of family, and our boundless faith in love.

Praise for Wedding in Provence
“Utterly charming and wildly romantic.”—Christina Baker Kline, New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train

“With well-drawn characters, beautiful scenery, and challenging emotional terrain, Sussman’s latest is a satisfying exploration of family and the enduring power of love.”Booklist
“As delicious, sensuous and addictive as the meals, landscapes, sexual romps and wild rides of all sorts that Sussman so vividly describes.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“You may not be getting away this summer, but [this novel] can take you places.”Time
“[A] comédie with plenty of insight about love, loss and intimacy.”Good Housekeeping
“Full of surprises . . . Sussman brings the [French] countryside to life.”Bookreporter
One of “10 Hot Summer Reads to Pack for the Beach”—USA Today

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345548979
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/12/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 720,506
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.63(d)

About the Author

Ellen Sussman is the nationally bestselling author of The Paradise Guest House, French Lessons, and On a Night Like This. She has two daughters and lives with her husband in Northern California.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


“I need to see the Mediterranean,” ­Olivia said.


The road from Marseille had taken them through a long claustrophobic tunnel and then into the sprawl of developments on the edge of the city. Boxy cement structures that housed apartments sprouted at the top of every hill. The roads were crowded, the drivers aggressive.


Something kept clicking in the rental car, a persistent, irritating sound that put ­Olivia on edge. She and Brody had tried to identify the source—a seat belt, the radio, an unlatched glove compartment—but nothing seemed connected to the noise. They drowned it out with bad French rock and roll.


“Should we take a beach detour?” Brody asked, pushing up his sleeves.


“Please,” ­Olivia said.


Brody followed the exit ramp until it deposited them on a busy street. Then he glanced at ­Olivia. “Is this better?”


No. McDonald’s on their right, a fast food pizza joint on their left. The air thick with the smell of grease. A long stretch of apartment buildings, many spray-painted with red devils holding guns.


“There’s a sign for Cassis,” Brody said, pointing.


“Take it!” ­Olivia said.


They followed a new road that climbed the hills, leaving the overdeveloped city behind. Soon mountains stretched ahead of them, white rock, red rock, pine forest.


“For weeks now I’ve been dreaming about the big blue sea and the waves washing against the sand,” ­Olivia said.


“There aren’t usually any waves here. It’s as calm as can be.”


“Don’t ruin my fantasy,” ­Olivia said, cuffing his shoulder.


“Look,” Brody said.


They crested the hill and the sea appeared before them. The sun glinted off Brody’s watch, momentarily blinding ­Olivia. She blinked. The car turned slightly, and finally she could see the bay, bordered by sheer limestone cliffs.


“My big blue sea!” she called.


“No waves,” Brody said.


“I don’t need them.”


“My wedding gift to you,” Brody said, opening an arm to the vista.


“You’re so generous,” she told him.


She loved his wide mouth, his deep-set eyes. She never got tired of looking at him. He was handsome in a rugged way; she could see Wyoming in his tall, lanky body, his strong hands, the crow’s-feet in the corner of his eyes.


The road descended quickly, leading them onto a small road that wound its way to the coast. Brody found a parking space near the beach path, and ­Olivia bounded out of the car, eager to feel the sea breeze against her damp skin. They climbed down a well-worn trail and stepped out onto a rocky beach.


Only a few people sat in the late-day sun, which perched on top of a jagged cliff, still dazzling. A couple of children played in the surf and one man swam out to sea, his body slicing through the water.


“It’s beautiful,” Brody said.


“It’s perfect,” ­Olivia said, taking his hand.


She heard a bark, followed by a fury of yelps and howls. She spun around. From a cove a few hundred feet to their left, two large dogs charged toward them. The first, a German shepherd, locked fierce eyes on her. Are they just chasing each other? she thought. No, they’re heading right at me.


Scream. Open your mouth and scream.


But her body tightened and no words escaped her lips. They’ll kill me, she thought.


And then in a rush of mad thoughts, she began to make wishes. What I want before I die: I want to marry Brody. I want a life with him, a long life. And my daughters! I want Carly to ditch her boyfriend. I want Nell to stop fighting against the world. I want to see what happens next in their lives, the men they marry, the women they become. As if time had stopped, the dogs still raced toward her, their enormous jaws wet with anticipation. The sound of her own heart pounded in her ears.


And then Brody stepped forward and she heard murmuring sounds, gentle coos, words that weren’t words at all. He kept walking toward the beasts, speaking some other language, animal language. The shepherd cocked his head, looking at Brody now, as if he just discovered the most interesting creature in the world. Just like that, ­Olivia was forgotten.


The German shepherd stopped. Brody put out his hand and the dog sniffed it warily. He kept talking and now ­Olivia could hear words: “Good dog, hey buddy, what’s going on, pal.”


The other dog, a lean black Lab, circled them but didn’t come closer.


“I thought I was dinner,” ­Olivia said in a small voice.


“He would have picked me first,” Brody said, petting the dog, which seemed to shrink in size. “I’d be much tastier.”


“I couldn’t scream,” she told him.


“Good,” he said. “Screaming would have been a bad idea.”


“You weren’t scared?”


He shook his head. “They weren’t going to hurt anyone.” He patted the dog’s haunches. “Were you, good boy?”


Of course, ­Olivia thought. It’s what he does. Or what he did. He had been a large-animal vet when they met over a year before. But he’d quit his job three months earlier, along with Wyoming, when he moved to be with her in San Francisco. She’d barely known him in his landscape of mountains and beasts.


“You need to do this,” she said quietly.


“Save you from puppies?”


She put her hand on his shoulder. “Work with animals.”


“I’ve been looking. If I can’t find work as a vet I’ll find something else to do,” he said assuredly. But he hadn’t had any luck in three months of trying. She worried that he needed Wyoming in some essential way.


The German shepherd rambled over to ­Olivia and she stiffened.


“Easy, boy,” Brody said. “Be gentle with my bride.”


The dog sniffed and then pushed his nose against ­Olivia’s side. She petted him warily. He moved his nose to her hip and nipped her.


“He bit me!” ­Olivia said, though she wasn’t quite sure what it was. A love bite? A warning?


“Hugo! Lulu!” a voice yelled, and the two dogs ran off, bounding along the beach, heading toward the open arms of a teenager emerging from the sea.


­Olivia rubbed her hip. There was no pain, just a wet spot where the dog’s mouth had been.


“Are you okay?” Brody asked.


­Olivia nodded. “I’m fine. I’m wonderful.”


They watched as the black Lab knocked the boy back into the water and all three of them splashed through the waves until they were swimming, two dog heads and one boy head bobbing on the turquoise sea.


“You know what makes me unbearably sad?” she said, wrapping her arms around her body, suddenly chilled. “I wish we were twenty. I wish we’d never loved anyone before. I wish you didn’t have a dead wife and I didn’t have an awful ex. I wish we had fifty years ahead of us instead—”


Her voice broke. Brody stepped up behind her and took her in his arms. He pressed her back against his chest, leaned his chin on her head.


“It took all those years to bring us to this weekend,” he said. “We needed the wrong turns and the detours and the false starts. Look where we ended up.”


“My big blue sea,” ­Olivia said.


“Marry me,” Brody said.


­Olivia walked into the garden of La Maison Verte, expecting to find Emily already there. She had told Brody that she’d head downstairs early so she could steal a few minutes with her best friend. She sat in one of the wrought-iron chairs and within a few minutes, Ulysse, Emily and Sébastien’s white retriever, padded over and dropped to the ground at her feet. This one’s not ferocious, she thought. She petted him and whispered “Bonsoir, Monsieur Ulysse,” into his ear. He put his head down but his wagging tail swept the tiny stones on the path behind him.


­Olivia leaned back in her chair and looked around. The inn and gardens were exquisite, no doubt due to her friend’s remarkable sense of style. Emily had never run a country inn before, much less one in the south of France, but she had always been able to transform any space into a place that invited you to linger. Look around. Breathe. She even had that skill at twenty when they’d been roommates at Berkeley. Their small suite was every friend’s favorite hiding place thanks to Emily’s found art, wallpaper made from magazine collages, furniture covered with tapestries.


Now she had become mistress of the manor, though this place looked more like a hidden jewel. The house was covered with ivy, and the stucco walls were painted a rusted orange color as surprising as it was pleasing. The building twisted and turned so that here in the garden ­Olivia felt as if the house had taken her in its arms. And the garden itself was both lush and bursting with color, though somehow it calmed rather than assaulted the soul.


She considered the champagne bottle resting on ice in the glass bowl but decided against it. Linger. Look around. Breathe.


Soon she’d give up breathing. Her daughters were due to arrive tomorrow morning along with Brody’s mother and Jake, his best friend. Jake, the cowboy who hated marriage, would perform the wedding ceremony. Why had Brody insisted on that? Would the guy take it seriously? Give it up, ­Olivia told herself. You already agreed.


Now she felt an undercurrent of fear, like an itchy scalp, that this wedding in France was fraught with peril. For starters there were her daughters: One was a mess; the other wouldn’t mess up. Brody’s parents: His father had walked out on their fifty-five-year marriage a couple of months before and no one could understand why. Fanny was coming to the wedding but not Sam, who had cut off all contact with everyone. And then Brody’s best friend, Jake: Well, he had warned Brody against marrying ­Olivia.


Linger. Look around. Breathe.


The inn was tucked into a valley; vineyards carpeted the land as far as ­Olivia could see. Late evening light bathed the hills so that the many shades of green seemed to vibrate and shimmer. Towering above them stood Cap Canaille, a cliff of red rock that ran along the edge of the valley and jutted out into the Mediterranean.


Tonight they were alone at the inn with Emily and Sébastien, her French husband, whom ­Olivia adored. Tonight she’d sleep with Brody in that gorgeous room in the inn and they’d forget about everyone else. Tonight she’d drink champagne.


“The bride,” Emily said and ­Olivia startled, sending Ulysse into a flurry of movement and barking and flying stones.


“He’s me,” ­Olivia said. “That’s what I’d be doing if I weren’t so well behaved.”


“Since when are you well behaved?”


“Can we open that champagne without waiting for the guys?”


“Same old O,” Emily said. Only Emily called ­Olivia O. Once Brody had tried it and ­Olivia silenced him: “Find your own nickname,” she had told him. ­Olivia is ­Olivia to everyone in the world except Emily. And Emily, of course, is Em.


“I’m rattled,” ­Olivia said. “I know you think this is a good idea. Want to let me in on the reason?”


“For a wedding?” Emily opened the champagne while ­Olivia held out two glasses.


“For a wedding with guests.”


“You want me to leave?”


“I want everyone else to leave. And they haven’t even gotten here yet.”


Emily poured the champagne. “It will be wonderful,” she said. “You don’t have to do anything but drink champagne for three straight days.”




Both women dropped into their chairs, side by side. ­Olivia leaned over and clinked glasses again with Emily.


“To you. To your beautiful inn. To your amazing generosity.”


“To our friendship.”


“You guys getting married?” someone called and both women spun around.


Brody walked down the path toward them, the sun low in the sky behind him. He wore a pale blue shirt, jeans, his cowboy boots. ­Olivia felt her heart ease.


“I’m pathetically straight,” she said. “Otherwise I would have run off with this woman years ago.”


“Thank God,” Brody said. “Have you finished the champagne?”


Emily stood and reached for the bottle.


“First, good evening,” Brody said. He leaned forward and kissed Emily on both cheeks. Then he walked to ­Olivia, pulled her up and into his arms.


“Good evening, my love,” ­Olivia said. “You look very handsome.”


“You’re just trying to seduce me into marrying you,” Brody said.


Emily handed him a glass and they all clinked and drank.


“I love you guys,” Emily said. “Who finds love at our age?”


­Olivia was fifty-five, Brody was fifty-two. She had met him when her theater company was on tour across the country. As artistic director, she tagged along for the first few shows because a battle was brewing between the director and the actors. After a performance in Laramie one night, ­Olivia had gone for a drink at the Old Buckhorn Bar and ended up sitting next to a man who was reading a novel while everyone else was downing shots of whiskey. Now, they were getting married.


“Emily!” Sébastien called from the inn. Ulysse bounded toward him.


“Our master calls,” Emily said and headed back down the path.


Brody leaned over and kissed ­Olivia’s head. “Marry me,” he said. He’d been saying it for months, ever since he asked her and she said yes. He claimed to like the sound of it on his lips, her expression each time he asked her, and the certainty he had that she’d say yes. Yes.


“Et voilà!” Emily called. 


She walked up the path, a tray of aperitifs in her hands, followed by Sébastien who carried two bottles of wine. Ulysse shadowed him, almost bouncing as he walked. Happy old dog as long as his people were near.


­Olivia greeted Sébastien with a kiss on each cheek; Brody threw one arm around his back. Brody had met Emily and Sébastien a couple of months earlier when they’d closed down the inn and traveled to San Francisco for a week’s vacation. ­Olivia had loved the ease with which her old best friends and the new guy in her life forged instant friendships.


“I’ve come to tell you all about le mariage,” Sébastien said.


The others groaned.


“We have years of experience! We have wisdom! We have wine!”


“Spare me,” ­Olivia said.


She had been married for twenty-two years to a man who had lost himself in his work. After she finally left him seven years ago, she thought she’d never marry again. She already had kids; she was too old for more. Even after she met Brody she didn’t consider marriage. She lived in California—lots of people had a significant other or a partner in their lives. When Brody had proposed, on the top of a mountain near Tahoe, she was shocked and wildly pleased. Marriage? At our age? Yes!


“Who else will give you advice?” Sébastien persisted. “We’ll start with the wedding night.”


“No!” ­Olivia shouted. “Not that! My virgin ears!”


Sébastien poured himself the last of the champagne and toasted them. “To hot married sex!” he proclaimed.


They all settled into their chairs and Emily passed around the small bowls of olives, tapenade on toast, crisp potato chips.


“This is your life?” Brody asked. “Every day?”


“Not even close,” Emily said. “We wake up to breakfast for ten people. We spend the morning telling folks where to get kayaks, where to taste wine, how to score dinner reservations. If the cleaning girl doesn’t show, I’m in the rooms, seeing things no one should see. At the end of the day, if we’re still awake, we can share a glass of wine with each other on our terrace, hiding from the guests.”


“But you love it,” ­Olivia said, more a statement than a question. She so idealized her friend’s exotic French life that she couldn’t imagine otherwise.


“I love it,” Emily said wearily.


“We would not want to do anything else,” Sébastien said, more sure of himself. “After my mother died I needed to come home to France. Now I have lunch with my father in Marseille every Sunday. I will know when he is sick, when he is dying. I will be with him, not four thousand miles away.”

Reading Group Guide

A Conversation with Ellen Sussman and Amanda Eyre Ward

Amanda Eyre Ward: Ellen, I love how A Wedding in Provence transported me to France. Can you talk about how the setting of Cassis inspired the story?

Ellen Sussman: I lived in Paris for five years when my daughters were babies. We’d vacation every summer in Provence. (I know—­lucky me!) When I thought about writing a novel about a fiftysomething-­year-­old couple getting hitched, I knew immediately that the wedding would take place in Provence. I wanted a setting that was rich in sensory stimulation: The heat! The food! The smells! The light! That blue blue sea! Mix all that with love, and you’ve got a heady combination.
I had not visited Cassis until a few years ago. It’s a charming town on the coast, less touristy than many of the towns along the Côte d’Azur. I fell for Cassis in a big way—­in fact, I now dream of living there one day. When I walked in the mountains, when I kayaked in the calanques, when I feasted in one of the cafés along the sea, I could imagine my characters at my side, already coming to life in this fabulous setting.

I have started spending time choosing where each of my characters lives, even down to finding their house, where they buy their coffee, etc. Did you visit Cassis for research, and if so, can you talk about how you research a setting? Do you walk around taking notes on the sky, or locate where each character will have a drink?

ES: On my first visit to Cassis, I just soaked it all up. I don’t think I even took notes. But my senses were on high alert—­I seemed suddenly able to see things, smell things, taste things with remarkable clarity. Then I wrote the first draft of the novel, pouring all of those observations and sensations into my story.
I went back to Cassis for a weeklong visit between draft one and two of A Wedding in Provence. (Yes, this kind of research is the most fun part of my job!) This time I knew what I was looking for. What did it sound like when it rained? What did it feel like to swim in that delicious sea? What might Carly have seen while sitting at the beach café in Cassis? (In fact, I did see a man surreptitiously taking photos of a lovely young topless woman on the beach—­while his much older wife prepared a picnic for the two of them. And that went right into the novel!)
So some of what happens in that research week is planned and some is dumb luck. I hadn’t thought of using the stormy weather in the novel until we experienced the wild winds of the mistral and I realized it was a perfect backdrop for the drama of my characters.

AEW: How does a novel come to you: fully formed, or in snippets? Does the character come first? Does this change for each novel?

ES: I never know very much about my novel when I’m first starting out. Sometimes it’s a scene that gets me going—­sometimes it’s a character. But I never know what’s going to happen at the end of the novel. I like working that way—­it keeps me curious and interested. I’m on a quest; I need to find out what’s going to happen. And I think that energy goes into the writing. I want my reader turning pages—­and if I’m writing to discover, then they’ll be reading to discover.
That makes for a wonderful first-­draft experience. I give myself free rein to follow my characters anywhere. They dictate what happens—­and I let them fumble their way through complicated situations. It’s the second, third, and fourth drafts where the hard work takes place. Then I have to take a look at the world I’ve created and determine if I’ve shaped the novel well, if I’ve given the characters their full journeys, if I’ve explored this fictional world with depth and passion.

AEW: Any words of wisdom about plotting a book with love and relationships at its center?

ES: In A Wedding in Provence, I knew that I wanted to write a novel about a second chance at love. And I wanted to write about fifty-­year-­olds grappling with love and commitment and family. So I had one driving question that propelled me through the novel: How do you commit to love and marriage when you know so much about all the ways in which love fails?
I don’t start writing a novel with answers—­just questions. Again, I’m on a quest—­I want to learn and discover rather than to report on what I already know.
Once I created Olivia and Brody as the central couple, with their questions about love, I thought, Let’s shake up this world even more. So both of Olivia’s daughters struggle with love. Brody’s mother has just found out that her husband of fifty years has walked away from their marriage. Brody’s best man is de­termined to never fall in love. Olivia’s best friend discovers on the first night of this supposedly idyllic wedding weekend that her own husband has cheated on her. Can anyone get it right?
I gave myself a lot to work with. That’s when the fun begins. I didn’t know what would happen during this wedding weekend, but with so much conflict brewing, I was never at a loss to create drama on the page.
In the end, what did I learn about love? Maybe there is no real way to know that this time we’ll get it right. In the end, we close our eyes and dive in. I’m a love junkie—­I think we just go for it.

AEW: Do you write every day?

ES: Yes! I’m a very disciplined writer. I think it’s crazy to wait for the muse to sit on my shoulder—­I may be waiting a long time. Instead I show up and demand that she shows up too. So I work from nine till noon every day. And I write one thousand words a day. I treat it like a real job—­I get dressed (changing from my yoga pajamas to my yoga clothes), plant my butt on my chair, don’t answer the phone, disable the Internet. (There’s a software program, Freedom, that enables me to do that. And I need it!) I’m a tough boss—­if I haven’t finished my word count by noon, then I march back into my office after lunch. But most days I’ve managed to hit one thousand words, and then I head to the hills for a hike with my dogs.
Some of the best writing gets done during my nonoffice hours. I’ll take notes during that hike, or while waiting at the dentist’s office, or in the middle of the night. Since I write daily, the fictional world swirls in my brain at all times. You might say my characters are my constant companions.

AEW: Now, you have two lovely daughters, and so does ­Olivia. Is the book at all autobiographical?

ES: No! Yes! No! Yes! Here are some of the similarities between A Wedding in Provence and my personal life. I got married for the second time—­in France (though not in Cassis). I have two daughters, twenty-­six and twenty-­eight, the same ages as Nell and Carly. But that’s about it—­the rest is truly fiction. Nothing that happened in the novel happened at my wedding in France. (My girls were twelve and fourteen then. I’m quite sure there were none of the Nell/Carly sexual shenanigans at my wedding!)
My daughters are very different from each other—­though not in the bad girl/good girl roles that Nell and Carly assume. I’ve been fascinated by how siblings can be so strikingly ­different—­as if they don’t come from the same parents or the same set of familial experiences. I wanted to explore the sister bond, sibling rivalry, how kids define themselves in opposition to each other. In the end, I’ve created very different characters from my own daughters. But yes, my own very personal exploration fueled that quest.
And yes, the novel is peppered with tiny autobiographical moments. I really did turn the invisible key on my older daughter’s forehead so that she could turn off her thoughts and go to sleep when she was a child. And yes, my husband and I once stayed at an inn in Provence where the owner’s white retriever, Ulysse, became our lovable Rent-­a-­Dog for daily hikes.

AEW: What are you working on next?

ES: I’m a little superstitious about this—­I don’t talk about a new project until I’ve at least written a first draft. It’s too ­fragile—­or maybe I’m too fragile! If someone were to say: That’s a lousy idea, I might trash the file and never look back. So I keep my characters in a tiny protective bubble—­no one else knows them or what they’re up to.
But I can say this: I’m trying to strike out in a new direction. The new novel takes place in San Francisco. And it’s told in first person—­I haven’t done that before. I’m loving my characters—­they’re not like anyone I know. And so this journey—­for them and for me—­will take us places we’ve never been.
Thanks, Amanda, for taking the time to interview me. Great questions!

I’d love to recommend Amanda’s books to all my readers. She’s one of my favorite writers—­if you don’t already know her work, you’re in for a great reading experience. Check out her latest: The Same Sky. You’ll be wowed.

1. A Wedding in Provence starts by introducing a happy couple on the way to their idyllic wedding. How did this affect your expectations for the book? Were you nervous about how events would unravel?

2. Nell is clearly a loose cannon. What were your initial thoughts when she decided to bring Gavin to the wedding? Did you think he was dangerous, or just a fun-­loving, spontaneous stranger?

3. Were you surprised when Carly took off with Gavin? Why or why not?

4. In many ways Carly is Nell’s opposite, but the two sisters end up attracted to the same man, however briefly. Is it possible that they aren’t actually as different as they seem? Do you think they share any other similarities?

5. At the beginning of Chapter Sixteen, Olivia and Emily are discussing Nell’s vulnerability. Was Emily’s advice to Olivia helpful? How would you have suggested that Olivia manage her daughters’ differences?

6. After learning that Sébastien cheated on Emily, Olivia is clearly rattled. She says “We’re brave old fools. . . . We still choose love when we know everything that can happen,” (page 19). Do you think a marriage can survive infidelity?

7. What did you think of Sam leaving Fanny after fifty-­five years of marriage and refusing to come to Brody’s wedding? Were you surprised when you found out why?

8. Throughout the novel, Olivia and Brody are faced with numerous obstacles that threaten to ruin their low-­key wedding weekend. From Nell’s surprise guest to Carly’s disappearance and Sébastien’s infidelity, which do you think caused the biggest stir? Why?

9. Of all the characters in the novel, which one did you most sympathize with?

10. Even though Olivia’s big day is the backbone of the plot, the narrative rotates among her perspective and each of her daughters’. Was there ever a time when you felt drawn to one of the three points of view more than the others? When and why?

11. As Olivia and Brody get ready to commit to marriage, they witness their friends and family struggling with relationships. Is their love tested by these struggles? Do you think it’s hard to say yes to love when we know everything that might go wrong in a marriage?

12. Of all the themes present in this novel—­love, loss, starting fresh—­which resonated with you the most? Why?

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