1. In the opening scene of the novel, Meghann Dontess is talking to her therapist, but clearly Meghann has little or no interest in really addressing the pain in her past. Why does she see a psychiatrist? What does it say about her character that she spends time and money in pursuit of emotional well being, but refuses to actually answer the questions posed by Dr. Bloom?
2. Meghann and Claire obviously grew up in a very dysfunctional home environment. Each has in large part fashioned a life based on the lessons learned from their inattentive/unloving mother. How are the sisters alike in their choices? How are they different?
3. Meghann often uses sex to dull the pain of her loneliness. But sex with strangers generally leaves her feeling more alienated and dissatisfied with her life. Why is she so afraid of intimacy? Why does she really have these random encounters with men?
4. In many ways, Between Sisters is a novel about the disappointments that come with love. As a hotshot divorce attorney, Meghann is particularly entwined with the daily aftermath of a love gone bad. She believes she is protecting her heart by steering clear of love, but is she? Or is she more damaged by her inability to love at all? In one scene, a client finally says to her, “What happened to you?” Meghann answers that it requires emotional armor of a sort to do her job. Is that the truth, though? How is that question—what happened to you—the centerpiece of the novel? The question that each character must ultimately face and answer.
5. Claire is obviously scarred by her mother’s neglect and abandonment. Why is Claire more able to rebound from these wounds? Does she blame Meghann for leaving her in the first place or for never really coming back? Did Meghann make the right decision all those years ago? Would you have done the same thing in that situation?
6. Joe and Meghann both claim to be unable to truly feel their own emotions. Is that true? Or are they both too able to feel loss? How are they alike in the way they handle pain?
7. Meghann is a deeply flawed and wounded character. Would she agree with this assessment? If not, why not? And if her flaws are a product of an unhappy childhood, why is Claire so different? How much do The bluesers contribute to Claire’s happiness with her own life? Discuss the pivotal role of female friendship in our lives. Do you think it becomes even more important as we get older?
8. At the beginning of the novel, Meghann may be unhappy and aware of that unhappiness, but she is a force to be reckoned with in the legal world. How does her career as a divorce attorney play into her world view and sustain her fear of intimacy? It’s clear that as she begins to “break apart,” her ability to practice family law is one of the first things to go. Why is that?
9. What is your opinion of Meghann? She is certainly judgmental and hard headed and critical of people and their emotions. How much of her cynicism is real? How much of it is a defense mechanism? Why is she so afraid of her own emotions? Do you know anyone like her?
10. How much of the sisters’ personalities were shaped by their shared and separate past? Who would Meghann have become if Sam had taken her in and made her a part of his family? Did she give Sam a chance or was she looking for an excuse to leave?
11. What drew you to each character? With which character did you sympathize? Did your opinions change over the course of the story?
12. The medical crisis is ultimately the catalyst for change in the novel. As is often true, terrible times can bring out both the best and the worst in people. In many ways it can be said that Meghann became her best self during the tragedy with her sister and ultimately even helped to save Claire. But how did the crisis—and Claire—save Meghann?
13. Claire’s battle with cancer brings the sisters opposing personalities into sharp focus. Each must grapple with faith and hope and the possible loss of both. How does this struggle change each character? How does the idea of death bring Meghann and Claire closer together? How does it push them apart?
14. In Between Sisters there is a deeply symbiotic relationship between the characters and the place in which they live. Each sister is defined to a great extent by where she lives. Meghann learns to adapt to, and even love, Claire’s hometown. Could Claire ever be as happy in Meghann’s world?
15. How will Claire’s life change with Bobby’s success?
16. After a lifetime of responsible, rational decisions, Claire falls in love with Bobby in one evening. Or does she? Does she really believe in love at first sight? Do you?
17. Was Claire right not to tell Bobby about her illness? Did you understand her decision? About this choice to protect her husband, Claire says to her father, “You can sacrifice for them. Isn’t that what love is?” What does this scene tell you about Claire’s idea of love?
18. What is Mama really like? When she sees Claire in the hospital, Mama’s accent disappears and she won’t let Meghann touch her. What do these little choices reveal about Mama? Do you believe she loved her daughters? Was she capable of love? And how did their mother’s view of love shape the girls sense of worth?
19. Joe is carrying a heavy burden and has been for several years. The death of his wife—and his part in it—has eroded a part of his soul. Do you think Claire is right when she says, “She shouldn’t have asked it of you?” If Diana truly loved Joe, would she have asked such a thing of him, knowing the cost? And should Joe have done it? Do you consider euthanasia an act of mercy or murder?
20. Were you surprised by the ending of the novel? Was it organic to the story, or did you feel it was too easy? What would have happened to Meghann and Joe and Ali if Claire had been less fortunate?