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Book Discussions > Discussion Questions: Happens Every Day: An All-Too-True Story by Isabel Gillies

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message 1: by Sammee (new)

Sammee (chasing_sammee) | 379 comments Mod
***SPOILER WARNING***: These book club discussion questions on Happens Every Day: An All-Too-True Story by Isabel Gillies contain details about the book. Finish the book before reading on.

Introduction

Isabel Gillies had a picture perfect life: she lived with her loving husband and two wonderful children in a gorgeous home in Oberlin, Ohio. She was splitting her time between teaching drama and being a mother and wife. It was perfect – too perfect.

When a new professor at Oberlin named Sylvia enters Isabel's life, she embraces her as a close friend. But Isabel soon begins to suspect that Sylvia and Isabel's husband, Josiah, are having an affair. A devastated Isabel frantically attempts to make things work but realizes that she must deal with loss of her marriage and the breakdown of her family; an event that apparently "happens every day."

Happens Every Day is the story of a woman who left everything she knew to be with the man of her dreams, only to have that man break her heart. It is a book about losing love, finding strength, and moving on.

Questions for Discussion

1. Discuss the theme of identity in the book. Did Isabel give up any of her identity when she made the choice to follow Josiah? Follow this up with Isabel's notion that "when you move around so much together from job to job…one person slowly loses their identity" (p. 9).

2. What were some of the warning signs about Josiah that Isabel admits she did not heed? Why did she choose to ignore them? What would you have done if you were presented with similar warning signs in a partner?

3. Throughout Happens Every Day, Gillies compares events and people in her life to plots and characters from famous movies and novels. Why do you think she does this? How does this add to the descriptive quality of the characters and events?

4. Talk about Isabel and Sylvia's relationship throughout Happens Every Day. How did Isabel handle the transition from Sylvia as her "good friend my own age" (p. 75) to the woman responsible for ending her marriage?

5. Isabel mentions "I remember thinking my life was perfect. It felt so perfect that I thought something was bound to go wrong. Life doesn't stay this good" (p. 94). Do you feel that everything was really as "perfect" as she made it out to be, or is this hindsight? Were there warning signs on the horizon that her marriage was in trouble?

6. What is the significance of the title Happens Every Day? Who did it come from? What impact did it have on the author? (p. 177)

7. There's a very pivotal moment in the book between Isabel and a pancake. What did that moment prove to her? Why was it so important for Isabel to have that moment?

8. What was the pet name that Isabel and Josiah had for each other? How did it get started? How does it play a key role in Isabel's realization that her marriage is truly over?

9. Isabel's separation and divorce takes place in the small town of Oberlin, Ohio. Do you think the location had a great impact on how she dealt with her divorce? Do you think she would have handled things differently if she were in New York?

10. Isabel ends the novel right after she leaves Oberlin, claiming, "telling you everything we went through after December 17 would fill another book" (p. 254). Would you have liked to learn more about Isabel's new start? Why do you think she chose to end it where she did and the way she did?

BONUS*** Isabel tells us what her motto is. Share your own motto with your bookclub and discuss how it's helped through both the good times and the bad.


message 2: by Lilybeth (new)

Lilybeth (_li_) | 335 comments Mod
I liked some of these questions so I thought I'd take the time to share my responses (for those that care :)

1. Discuss the theme of identity in the book. Did Isabel give up any of her identity when she made the choice to follow Josiah? Follow this up with Isabel's notion that "when you move around so much together from job to job…one person slowly loses their identity" (p. 9)
She had no identity. She found her identity in her extended family and in Josiah. Which is why she lost it when he was leaving her.
Who was she if she was not part of an idyllic Northeastern Family? Who was she if she was not Josiah's wife? I don't think she knew who Isabel was. She was just going through the motions of her life choices. Been there, done that!

7. There's a very pivotal moment in the book between Isabel and a pancake. What did that moment prove to her? Why was it so important for Isabel to have that moment?
The pancakes proved to her that she was able to enjoy something WITHOUT Josiah. She wasn't eating normal pancakes. She was eating some crazy version of pancakes. It was something new, out of the norm. And she liked it. It made her happy. In the midst of all the crap, there is still goodness and happiness. When we're down in the trenches, it's hard to see the sun. The pancakes reminded her of the sun. That little moment was a tiny spark to energizing her battery again.
Once again, been there, done that.

10. Isabel ends the novel right after she leaves Oberlin, claiming, "telling you everything we went through after December 17 would fill another book" (p. 254). Would you have liked to learn more about Isabel's new start? Why do you think she chose to end it where she did and the way she did?
Of course I would have liked to learn more about her new start but that's not what this book was about. HED was about what happens to an individual and their family during a divorce. It would have been great to read but I think the Christmas story (drums for Wallace) was the perfect point to leave off. The original plan (Drums in the house = marriage with Josiah) didn't work out so we had to go with Plan B (drums in the NYC apartment = starting life over). The Plan B hit a snag (too many piece, no instructions = starting over at your parents house is not going to be easy) but it's works out just as well (Sam Ash guy coming to build the drums = deal with the cards you're given and move on.)

She said it best: I knew it was the best we could do, and the best you can do has to be enough.
My parents say this to me all the time and while sometimes I don't want it to be the truth, IT IS the truth and IT IS good enough.


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