Synopses & Reviews
"The Gilford family's yearly reunion encompasses the lives of matriarch Marty Gilford and her four daughters, especially youngest daughter, Emma, 43, who has spent a good part of her life doing whatever her mother and sisters want without really thinking of herself. Then Samuel, a voice from her past, calls up to rekindle their romance and throws Emma's well-ordered life into turmoil. Emma is forced to do some tough self-examination and to embrace her sisters for who they are good and bad. Radish displays an intimate understanding of boisterous families, and as a veteran at portraying female relationships, her affection for her characters shines through, but she's covering a lot of familial ground here, and it's easy to confuse the characters. Also, the complaining, put-upon Emma is not totally sympathetic. While those familiar with Southern families will delight in a taste of home and there are many funny parts, overall, Radish's latest falls short." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
With all the warmth, wildness, and vivid characterizations that have made her novels Book Sense Picks, Radish serves up a sassy, sexy celebration of sisterhood.
About the Author
Kris Radish, author of six novels, now lives in the San Francisco Bay area, where she is at work on her new novel, which Bantam will publish in 2010.
Reading Group Guide
1. What do you think the books title means? What do you think the definition of the word “distance” is in the context of what happens in the novel?
2.Out of the four Gilford sisters-Emma, Erika, Debra, and Joy-did you identify with one in particular? Which sister, and why? If you have sisters, how do you think author Kris Radish depicted the Gilford siblings relationships?
3.Kris Radish entitled each chapter of The Shortest Distance between Two Women with a question that also appears within the chapter itself. Did you like getting a sense of what was about to happen in each chapter before you read it, or would you have rather been surprised as events unfolded?
4.“Emma does know something simple. She knows when she is in her garden lying, standing, sitting, working, planting, walking through it all-her heart slows. Her breathing lengthens, and everything seems clear,” [page 39]. Talk about Emmas garden, and how she retreats to it when feeling stressed. Do you have a sanctuary like a garden, or a different ‘escape hatch that helps you deal with lifes pressures?
5.Talk about the books opening chapter, “The First Question.” How does it set the stage for the rest of the novel? What was your initial impression of Emma?
6.Were you stunned to learn about how Samuel and Emma first met, and how they got to know one another? Did you think Debras rage at her sister was justified?
7.The specter of Louis Gilfords death hangs over all the Gilford women. How did it affect each of the sisters and Marty? What did you think of Martys revelation to Emma regarding Louiss calling as a gardener?
8.Emma often describes the Gilfords as a “wild” and “crazy” family-do you think that they were unusual in being so? What is a “normal” family, in your definition? Is there even such a thing?
9.The Gilford women operate under a sense of decorum, believing that there are times and places for certain behaviors, and certain things are better left unsaid. But one by one each woman drops her respective guard and starts speaking her mind. Which Gilford made the greatest strides toward expressing herself, no-holds-barred? What led her to this point?
10.“Emma stammers because she realizes Susie Dell has just told her the truth of female life,” [page 182]. Consider what Susie says to Emma at the end of Chapter 18. Do you agree that all women share the experiences she describes-that they are overwhelmed by family obligations, or wish they had made different choices in marriage and life, and more?
11.What did you think of the poem Stephie penned and presented at the beauty pageant [pages 322-323]? Emma offered her interpretation of it, but what do you think it meant? How did the poem fit into the books themes?
12.“And Emma gets up, walks purposely towards her kitchen trailing Martys white scarf like the fine tail of a kite, and heads directly toward the answering machine and the telephone that is sitting on top of it.” With this last line of The Shortest Distance between Two Women, what do you think happened next? Who did Emma call?
Attention: Some plot spoilers in this guide.