1. Mary Beth was keenly aware of people's thoughts and feelings, yet
she wasn't always able to transfer this knowledge to deal with her own
situations with her sister, father, Ben, and even herself. Leeann, a
teen with a reputation for being lighthearted and carefree, seems better
able to address feelings and memories on a personal level. Mary Beth's
secrets haunt her, her inability to deal with her own memories tortures
her. How does this shape their lives? Leeann offered Mary Beth several
opportunities to reveal the truth about the past. How would things have
been different had Mary Beth been honest? Could she have avoided the
2. Tommy, like Leeann and Mary Beth's mother, is an orphan. Why is
Mary Beth inclined to take in an abandoned child? What void does Tommy
fill in Mary Beth's life? Why does Leeann think Tommy will be able to
heal and ground Mary Beth at the end of the book, when he was unable to
do so when she first got sick?
3. Leeann's quest to find her father is an important part of the
book. Knowing what she does about how ill her father is, why does she
call on him for help? Does Leeann ever really find her father? If so, at
what point in the story does she find him? Describe what you feel for
4. Mary Beth is strong and has endured much. Why does the incident
with Holly completely break her down? What really caused Mary Beth to
shut down? Why do music, Tommy, and her father fail to bring her back?
Do you feel differently about Mary Beth before, during and after her
5. What qualities does Mary Beth share with her mother? What
qualities does Mary Beth share with her father? What qualities does
Leeann share with each of her parents? How do these qualities affect how
the sisters relate to each other and how they see their circumstances?
How does the sisters' past manifest itself in the relationships they
have with Juanita, Ben, Kyle, Mike, Holly and other secondary
6. Early in the book, the author gives the reader some insight about
the circumstances surrounding the death of Mary Beth and Leeann's
mother. After learning about how unhappy Mom truly was, do you accept
the notion that her death was an accident?
7. The '80s have been characterized as a time when people began to
talk openly about family problems and examine how their past influenced
their present. The author artfully takes us back to the decade through
pop culture references-the records, the record players, letters and the
popular songs. How would this novel have worked differently had it been
set in the today's culture of CDs, MP3s, e-mail, music videos and Oprah?
8. In several instances, walls play an important part in the
story-when the sisters discover their dad's lists written on walls, when
Mary Beth recreates her surroundings in the apartment after Leeann's
accident and when Juanita reveals Mary Beth's first painting project in
the basement of the old family home. What message is the author writing
on the walls?
9. Where do you see each of the characters in five years? Do they
relocate? Does Mary Beth take up song reading again? Does Leeann try to
song read? How is Tommy's life influenced by his past? Does Dad leave
again? Is Ben in the picture? How does Mary Beth and Leeann's
Lisa Tucker grew up in small towns outside of Kansas City and St.
Louis, Missouri, and has toured the Midwest with a jazz band and worked as
a waitress, writing teacher, office cleaner, and math professor. She has a
graduate degree in English from the University of Pennsylvania, and a
graduate degree in math from Villanova University. Her fiction has
appeared in Seventeen and Pages, and is forthcoming in the
music-inspired anthology, Lit Riffs. She currently lives with her
husband and son in northern New Mexico, where she is at work on another