9 reviews

The Promised World: A Novel
by Lisa Tucker

Published: 2009-09-01
Hardcover : 336 pages
20 members reading this now
5 clubs reading this now
1 member has read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 8 of 9 members
On a March afternoon, while Lila Cole is working in her quiet office, her twin brother Billy points an unloaded rifle out of a hotel window, closing down a city block. "Suicide by police" was obviously Billy's intended result, but the aftermath of his death brings shock after shock for Lila when ...
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On a March afternoon, while Lila Cole is working in her quiet office, her twin brother Billy points an unloaded rifle out of a hotel window, closing down a city block. "Suicide by police" was obviously Billy's intended result, but the aftermath of his death brings shock after shock for Lila when she discovers that her brilliant but troubled twin -- the person she revered and was closer to than anyone in the world -- was not only estranged from his wife, but also charged with endangering the life of his middle child and namesake, eight-year-old William. As Lila struggles to figure out what was truth and what was fiction in her brother's complicated past, her job, her marriage, and even her sanity will be put at risk. And when the hidden meaning behind Billy's stories comes to light, she will have to act before Billy's children are destroyed by the same heartbreaking reality that shattered her protector and twin more than twenty years ago. A love song to the redemptive power ofbooks and stories, The Promised World is a mesmerizing tale of intimacy, betrayal, and lost innocence that will haunt readers long after they have turned the final page.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


he Promised World
First Chapter

While millions of people watched her brother die, Lila sat in her quiet office at the university, working on a paper about Herman Melville's later years. Someone else might have found it ironic that, on that very afternoon, she'd been thinking about Melville's son, who shot himself. Lila herself didn't make the connection until much later, and by then, she was so lost she could only see it as an obvious sign that she should have known, that she'd failed Billy when he needed her most. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. Discuss the novel's title (pg. 75). What is "the promised world" and how does it play into the aspirations of the characters? Does Lila, in the end, attain some form of redemption?

2. Describe the novel's structure. How did you feel about the changing voice of the narrator? How did Lisa Tucker's portrayal of women, men, and children differ?

3. How do the members of the Cole family respond to Billy's suicide? Do they grieve differently?

4. Discuss the role of luck in the novel. How does belief in the "Cole curse" affect the actions of Billy, Ashley, and Lila? How do Billy and Ashley's children view luck and superstition?

5. What does The Promised World tell us about the nature of marriage? How does Patrick's relationship with Lila change over the course of the novel? What sacrifices does Ashley make for Billy?

6. Describe the role of literature in the novel. What does it represent? What is the significance of the Cole family's interest in American literature? Are you familiar with the authors they study and discuss? How do they play a larger part in the novel, particularly Melville?

7. Early in the novel, Lila tells us that Billy would probably have considered her therapist a "hack." What is the role of therapy in the novel? Does attending therapy help or hurt Lila?

8. What are the repercussions of the parenting styles presented in the novel? Was William harmed by Billy's "challenges"? Was Ashley a bad or selfish mother? How did Barbara Duval affect both Lila and Billy's sense of self?

9. On Page 124 Lila recalls "Billy said it was not only the central theme of American literature but also the promise of the American dream-that we can reinvent ourselves however we want." Do you think Billy and Lila have reinvented themselves or are they simply hiding part of themselves from their new families?

10. What aspects of Lila's life emerge during her trip to North Carolina? Who does she meet and how do they put together the puzzle of her past?

11. How does Lila's relationship with Billy compare with Pearl's relationship with Billy? Do you see similarities in the different generations of the Cole family?

12. The action of the book revolves largely round the revelation of secrets. What scene in the novel surprised you the most?

13. What does the Duval house represent to Lila? How does the house add to the suspense of the novel?

14. How would you have responded to Pearl's threat at the end of the book?

15. What were you thinking as you read the novel's closing scenes? Which characters had changed the most, along with your impressions of them?

16. What themes are woven throughout this novel? What is unique about the approach the author uses in bringing the Cole family to life? If you've read other novels by Lisa Tucker, do you see similar themes?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

A Note from the author:

All of my novels are concerned with the intense bond between siblings, but in The Promised World, I have two sets of siblings: the twins Lila and Billy, whose secret history is the main mystery of the novel, and William and Pearl, Billy's children, who are at risk in the present time of the book. Though the story starts with a suicide, I think of it as about the tremendous power of love. There are two marriages in this story, only one of which can have a future. In this way, the marriage stories are similar to the sibling stories and the central relationship between the twins Lila and Billy. They're also similar to the two stories of motherhood in The Promised World. In every "doubling" in the novel, only one side can still be saved.

Book Club Recommendations

Our book club had one of our best discussions over this book.
by hbrugger (see profile) 11/02/10

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "The Promised World"by cmardin (see profile) 01/16/11

Interesting read. There were holes in the sequence which did not always make sense. The characters could have been developed more. That being said, I still enjoyed the book and there are some good issues... (read more)

  "Nice read, not life changing"by marshlynn (see profile) 01/09/11

It reminded me of many popular movies. I enjoyed it while I was reading it, and was interested in finding out what happened next, but afterwards I thought about holes in the story and places where things... (read more)

  "The Promised World"by SandyTague (see profile) 12/18/10

An interesting story with a dark and twisted plot, but I was interested in the story.

  "Kept me thinking"by jaynehoaglund (see profile) 07/23/10

This book was able to grab my attention and keep me "thinking" about what the characters were going through. I liked the twists to the story.

  "The Promised World"by libbybill (see profile) 07/22/10

Interesting topic but confusing a times.

  "The Promised World"by hvala (see profile) 07/22/10

The book kept my interest but I was a little disappointed in the ending. I kept waiting for something more....

  "The Promised World"by auntcak2003 (see profile) 07/22/10

I enjoyed this book. It was genuinely heart wrenching to see how the mother of Billy and Lila treated her children and grandchildren she was an absolute psychopath. But I was left at the end feeling at... (read more)

  "The Promised World"by nancymtang (see profile) 07/22/10

  "The Promised World"by hbrugger (see profile) 11/02/10

Very interesting book, kept you reading to see if it is "truth or lie". Shows what it takes to live in a home with mental illness.

  "Lots of twists and turns!"by nnistler (see profile) 07/22/10

This book was very interesting with twists and turns. I typically can put a book down...but this one I kept reading and reading. Well written.

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