Synopses & Reviews
Elizabeth Hampton is consumed by grief when her mother dies unexpectedly. Leslie Hampton cared for Elizabeths troubled brother Ronnies special needs, assuming Elizabeth would take him in when the time came. But Leslies sudden death propels Elizabeth into a world of danger and double lives that undoes everything she thought she knew....
When police discover that Leslie was strangled, they immediately suspect that one of Ronnies outbursts took a tragic turn. Elizabeth cant believe that her brother is capable of murder, but who else could have had a motive to kill their quiet, retired mother?
More questions arise when a stranger is named in Leslies will: a woman also named Elizabeth. As the familys secrets unravel, a man from Leslies past who claims to have all the answers shows up, but those answers might put Elizabeth and those she loves the most in mortal danger.
In this sexy, fast-paced literary thriller, Unger takes readers on a breathtaking ride in which a young New York writer's good deed has terrible consequences and leaves her running for her life.
About the Author
David Bell is an assistant professor of English at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He received an MA in creative writing from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and a Ph.D. in American Literature and creative writing from the University of Cincinnati. His previous novels include Cemetery Girl and The Hiding Place, and he has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize.
Reading Group Guide
1. One of the novels main themes is choice, and how both big choices and little ones can have a profound impact on a persons life. Did Ridley have a choice in finding out the truth about her past? If shed chosen to ignore the first picture and note, could she have avoided all the questions and secrets that arose?
2. Would it have been possible for Ridley to ignore the events of the past and still have developed a true sense of self? Would you be able to?
3. On page 17, Ridley says, “Freedom, Id have to say is probably the most important thing to me, more important than youth, beauty, fame, money.” Does this freedom Ridley craves influence the lies that have been told to her her entire life? Or is this freedom what could have protected her from asking questions about her past?
4. Throughout the story, the author compares Jake to Zack. Are there any similarities between the two men? In the beginning, what does Ridley admire about each of them?
5. Why did Jake keep the truth from Ridley for so long? Would it have been easier to tell her who he was from the start? Would she have believed him? Would you?
6. The author brings up the idea of parental (and adult) control over children, even after these children have grown up. Is there a control parents will always have over their child? Or at some point is control relinquished to the child to live his/her own life? How could Ridleys parents have handled the situation differently? Would it have worked?
7. On page 51, Ridley says, “When you love someone, it doesnt really matter if they love you back or not. Having love in your heart for someone is its own reward. Or punishment, depending on the circumstances.” By the end of the novel, has Ridleys view of her family and Jake altered this idea of love? How has it altered? If her family and Jake followed the same definition of love, would their views have been altered by the events of the story?
8. What do you think of the nature of Project Rescue before Teresa Stones murder? Was there another or better way to protect children from abuse or neglect? What do you think of the systems in place to protect children today in your own society?
9. Do you believe Ridleys father and Max should both be penalized or blamed for what happened? What about Ridleys mother and Ace? Did any of these people have a responsibility to tell Ridley what happened to her? Why or why not?
10. If you were Jake or Ridley, would you have looked into all the cases of missing children, as they did, or would you have focused solely on finding the truth of your own past? What was to gain by looking at all the cases? Could they have found the truth about their own life without looking at the others?
11. Do you think Aces drug addiction and problems with his parents were related to Ridleys history, which he overheard their father and Max discussing one day? How do you think Ridley would have handled the truth had she been told by her parents instead of finding out the way she did?
12. On page 252, Ridley says, “I was operating under a faith that the universe conspires to reveal the truth, that lies are unstable elements that tend toward breaking down.” Do you think the truth would have revealed itself to Ridley without Jakes involvement? Would it have been easier or more difficult to take without Jake?
13. On page 368, Ridley asks, “Isnt that so often true with family, that we see them through the filters of our own fears, expectations, and desire to control?” How does this apply to each of her family members? How is it affected by the truth thats come out, and how will it affect their relationships moving forward? Can Ridley, or anyone, project fear, expectation, or desire to control onto how she views anyone else now?
14. By the end of the story, what do you think of Zacks and Esmes role in Project Rescue? Was it right for Esme to help Max as she did because of her love for him?
15. On page 369, Ridley says, “We dont have control, we have choices.” And on page 371, she says, “In life there are only good and bad choices. And sometimes even choices can only be judged by their consequences. And sometimes not even then.” Is it really as simple as a matter of choice? How would any of the characters agree or disagree with these ideas?
16. When Ridley confronts Jake on the Brooklyn Bridge, she wants to know how he found her to begin with. He tells her that he saw her picture in The Post, just like Christian Luna. Can this be the truth? Or is Jake hiding more than Ridley ever realizes even as the book ends?
In Lisa Ungers debut novel, she spins a web of deceit with her poignantly drawn characters. This guide is designed to help you explore her themes of choice, trust, freedom, and love.