Synopses & Reviews
From the author of Me & Emma comes a dazzling novel of two unforgettable families bound together by their deepest secrets and haunted pasts—perfect for fans of The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes and The Book of Bright Ideas.
Nine-year-old Carrie Parker and her mother, Libby, are making a fresh start in the small town of Hartsville, North Carolina, ready to put their turbulent past behind them. Violence has shattered their family and left Libby nearly unable to cope. And while Carrie once took comfort in her beloved sister, Emma, her mother has now forbidden even the mention of her name.
When Carrie meets Ruth, Honor, and Cricket Chaplin, these three generations of warmhearted women seem to have the loving home Carrie has always dreamed of. But as Carrie and Cricket become fast friends, neither can escape the pull of their families’ secrets—and uncovering the truth will transform the Chaplins and the Parkers forever.
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"In this companion piece to Me and Emma, nine-year-old Carrie and her alcoholic mother flee their small town after Carrie shoots her abusive stepfather dead. At a motel, Carrie's mother gets drunk and entertains strangers, leaving Carrie to fend for herself. On one of her foraging trips, Carrie befriends a girl named Cricket, whose mother, Honor, sees in Carrie an eerie resemblance to her dead daughter and comes to wonder why she never meets Carrie's mother. Carrie herself is puzzled by memories of her younger sister, Emma; she believes that Emma disappeared, but her mother swears Emma is a figment of Carrie's imagination. As Honor and Cricket take more of an interest in Carrie's life, the precarious web of deception that has been built around her comes under threat. While Carrie's abuse is distressing, readers will be more troubled by choices Flock has made in telling her story. Carrie as narrator has the expected limited perspective of a child and a by-the-book colloquial voice; she petitions the reader's sympathy too soon and fails to ever come to life. Ham-fisted coincidences, broad caricatures, and awkward plot twists don't help. Agent: Larry Kirshbaum, LJK Literary Management. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Flock is a former journalist who reported for Time and People magazines and worked as an on-air correspondent for CBS. She is the author of several acclaimed novels, including But Inside I’m Screaming and Me & Emma. She lives in New York City.
Reading Group Guide
1. The mother-daughter relationship is an important theme in this novel. What lessons can be learned from Libby and Carrie, and from Honor and Cricket?
2. Why do you think Elizabeth Flock chose to narrate the story from Carrie’s and Honor’s points of view? How would the novel differ if it were told through the eyes of Cricket? Of Ruth?
3. Honor’s relationship with Cricket is very different from Eddie’s relationship with Cricket. Do you think that father-daughter relationships are inherently different from mother-daughter relationships? If yes, how so?
4. What are the characteristics of a strong mother-daughter relationship? Do you think that Honor and Cricket have a strong relationship? What in their relationship works? In what ways do you think Honor approaches motherhood differently than Ruth does?
5. Discuss Carrie’s relationship with Cricket. How are the two girls alike? How are they different?
6. The death of a child has a devastating impact on parents, and the death of Caroline was one of the main reasons that Eddie and Honor separated. Do you think Eddie and Honor would have gotten back together if Carrie hadn’t come into their lives?
7. Libby seems to put all of her needs before Carrie’s. Do you think that she was always like this? Or was there a time when she was good to Carrie? Is Libby’s act of confession at the end a sacrifice for her daughter, or is it a selfish act?
8. Carrie’s flashbacks hint at what really happened to Emma. At any point before the ending, did you guess the truth? What surprised you most?
9. Ruth kept alive the dream that she was related to Charlie Chaplin for many years. Is her behavior in any way similar to Carrie keeping alive the dream that her mother cared about her? And that her “good” behavior could influence her mother’s moods? Have you ever wanted something so much that you held out false hope? What are the benefits or consequences of fooling ourselves?
10. After losing her first child, Honor has a desperate need to keep control in her life. How does Carrie ease Honor’s need for control?
11. Can you imagine living in a world like Carrie’s? Do you think that you would be able to be as resourceful and optimistic as she?
12. In this book, Mr. Burdock is the only positive male figure in Carrie’s life. Do you think that he should have called Child Protective Services when he saw that Libby wasn’t really looking after Carrie? How do you define the line between minding your own business and stepping in to help someone?
13. Do you feel differently about Mr. Burdock’s inaction versus the Dressers’ overreaction? If Honor and Eddie hadn’t been wrongly accused of child abuse, do you think that they would have been quicker to intervene in Carrie’s situation? Or do you think that Honor made the right decision by feeding and helping Carrie as much as she did?
14. Did Carrie’s unfamiliarity with modern technology make you think about how much of the way we live our lives has changed over the past few years? How would this story be different if it was set in a time without the Internet? Do you think that Carrie would ever have learned the truth about her family?
15. Elizabeth Flock extensively researched child psychology and trauma in order to portray Carrie in a realistic way. Though Carrie is never officially diagnosed or labeled with a psychological condition, how did you interpret her character? Why do you think the author refrained from labeling her in the novel?