Synopses & Reviews
Three very different women, each trying to reconcile her dreams with reality, are drawn together by a hypnotic voice from the past.
In a once-grand Southern California neighborhood, Linda, a New York City transplant, is panicking over the disappearance of her precocious ten-year-old stepdaughter. Christine, who has struggled to get pregnant for years, finds herself expecting a baby—just as her husband is accused of murder. And Audrey, who’s always played it safe because of her family’s history of bad luck, takes a romantic risk and suddenly finds herself facing a disaster of her own.
When an old journal surfaces at a neighbor’s tag sale, the women are inexorably drawn into the life of Mala Rinehart, an itinerant Romany woman who wrote down spells and predictions in a cryptic, slanting hand. As the three women feel the pull from across sixty intervening years, they vow to discover what became of Mala. For through the worn pages, their happiness has intertwined with hers, their futures spelled out in her chants and recipes. And as they unravel the mystery of Mala’s origins, their lives transform in ways they never could have expected.
"A gypsy family, camped in 1940s Pecos County, Tex., decides to banish young Mala Rinehart, on trial before her clan because her predictions and presence appear the cause of life's woes. Meanwhile, in upscale, present-day Southern California, a woman finds Mala's notebook at a garage sale. It contains no information about the author, only pages of adages and spells for altering the direction of one's life. As the book and its spells are passed between three friends, a series of strange, unpleasant events casts a pall over their neighborhood. The friends attempt to uncover the origins of the mysterious notebook, their lives and woes now linked with that of the wartime gypsy girl. MacDowell cleverly alternates between Mala's adventure and the three friends' ordeals, but readers will have to wait patiently to find the deepest connections. Enlightening and entertaining, MacDowell's novel shows how choices and ambitions can, and sometimes should, change. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Rose MacDowell is the author of The Lost Book of Mala R. and co-author of the novel Turning Tables. She lives in Boston and New Hampshire's White Mountains. Check out The Lost Book of Mala R.'s website here: http://www.lostbookofmalar.com.
Reading Group Guide
1. Do you think that the spells in Mala’s book help Linda, Christine, and Audrey, or do they bring them greater conflict? In what ways does the past both help and hinder characters throughout the novel?
2. Do you agree with Audrey’s reasons for being so superstitious? Do you ever find yourself questioning your ability to shape or control the events in your life?
3. Did Christine ignore the warning signs about Tim? She was so intent on getting pregnant that it seemed nothing else mattered. Have you ever been so focused on something that you overlooked other important aspects of your life?
4. A relationship with a step-child can be a difficult one. What do you think of Linda and Paige’s relationship? In what ways did it reflect what we know about Linda’s troubled upbringing?
5. What do you think of Tim’s character? Were any of his actions justifiable? Do you think that Christine made the right choice regarding their relationship in the end?
6. Why do you think Mala left before speaking to Henry? She spent months by Beni’s sick bed but could not bring herself to speak to her real father, even though it was made clear that he wanted to see her. Do you think that Henry could have tried harder to be in touch with Mala while she was still alive?
7. Do you think that Mala ever truly accepted that she was going to have a child? If she had told Elliot earlier, do you think that the outcome would have been the same?
8. Why do you think that Audrey was the most intent on finding Mala?
9. What made Audrey want to hold on to her marriage with Mark? When he suggested a divorce, she seemed stunned, and yet she was spending so much time with William that the marriage seemed irreparable. What are some of the reasons that people cling to a damaged relationship?
10. Living in a tightly-knit neighborhood can have both good and bad aspects. Neighbors look out for one another, but there is also a great deal of gossip and speculation. In what ways was Mala’s community similar to that of Christine, Linda, and Audrey? In what ways were they different? Do you think that the women would have had the same issues in a bigger town? What are the benefits and drawbacks of living in a small community?
11. How does fear motivate people? The people in Linda, Christine, and Audrey’s neighborhood had strong reactions to Jennifer Guthrie’s murder and Paige’s disappearance. How do you react when there is a tragedy? How do you think members of a community should react?
12. Mala’s clan banished her because she read people’s fortunes accurately, and allegedly cast unpredictable spells. How does our current society deal with people who are considered different? Why do we find stories about characters who don’t “fit in” so inspiring?