Life Changing,

1 review

by Laura Moriarty

Published: 2007-08-07
Hardcover : 320 pages
7 members reading this now
6 clubs reading this now
5 members have read this book
In The Rest of Her Life, Laura Moriarty delivers a luminous, compassionate, and provocative look at how mothers and daughters with the best intentions can be blind to the harm they do to one another.

Leigh is the mother of high-achieving, popular high school senior Kara. Their ...

No other editions available.
Add to Club Selections
Add to Possible Club Selections
Add to My Personal Queue
Jump to


In The Rest of Her Life, Laura Moriarty delivers a luminous, compassionate, and provocative look at how mothers and daughters with the best intentions can be blind to the harm they do to one another.

Leigh is the mother of high-achieving, popular high school senior Kara. Their relationship is already strained for reasons Leigh does not fully understand when, in a moment of carelessness, Kara makes a mistake that ends in tragedy -- the effects of which not only divide Leigh's family, but polarize the entire community. We see the story from Leigh's perspective, as she grapples with the hard reality of what her daughter has done and the devastating consequences her actions have on the family of another teenage girl in town, all while struggling to protect Kara in the face of rising public outcry.

Like the best works of Jane Hamilton, Jodi Picoult, and Alice Sebold, Laura Moriarty's The Rest of Her Life is a novel of complex moral dilemma, filled with nuanced characters and a page-turning plot that makes readers ask themselves, "What would I do?"

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


Chapter 1

Several times that summer, Leigh further tormented herself by considering all the ways the accident might never have happened. She thought of the stray dog, and how its presence had, in a sense, decided everything. If there had been no dog, there would have been no accident. If the dog would have stayed home where it belonged, if it would have had a more responsible owner, if it wouldn’t have dug under a fence or slipped through an open door, it would not have followed some scent this way and that until it ended up in the middle of Commerce Street at that particular time on that particular afternoon. Leigh’s daughter would most likely have driven home without incident, and Bethany Cleese would still be alive. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

From the Publisher:

1. Leigh is certainly a flawed human being. But what are her strengths -- as a mother and as a human being? What are her weaknesses? If her weaknesses are a product of her difficult childhood, why is her sister so different?

2. In the course of the novel, the relationship between Leigh and Kara changes. What do you think of as the major turning point in their relationship? What do you think was at the heart of the conflict?

3. How important is the setting to this story? Would the same situation have played out differently in a larger town, a suburb, or a city? What do you think would have been the same?

4. At the beginning of the novel, Leigh believes she likes living in a small town like Danby because she likes the sense of community it offers. Is she really a part of this community? How does Leigh’s relationship to the town change over the summer?

5. When Leigh accuses Eva of being a gossip, Eva defends herself by saying she just cares about what’s happening in the lives of people in her community. Do you buy this? Leigh spends a lot of time worrying about what people are saying about her family, but is gossip ever a positive force in the story? Do you like Eva? Why or why not?

6. After hearing Eva deny being a gossip, Leigh is stunned: “People didn’t see themselves, she considered. It was almost eerie when you saw it face to face.” Who else in the novel might not see herself or himself clearly? Does anyone? Do you think of this selective “vision” as a conscious choice or a true inability?

7. Is Gary a better parent than Leigh? In what ways does his relationship with Justin mirror Leigh’s relationship with Kara? What is it about each child that brings out such different responses from both Gary and Leigh?

8. The first time the bereaved mother confronts Kara, it is Leigh -- not Gary -- who steps in to protect her. Leigh believes she recognizes something in Diane Kletchka, something we can assume Gary does not. What do you think it is about Diane that feels familiar to Leigh?

9. In this novel, we see Leigh in several different kinds of relationships: she's a mother, a daughter, a sister, a wife, and a friend. How do all these different roles compete with each other for Leigh's attention/ loyalty? Does she give too much attention to any one role? Not enough to another? In what ways do these different kinds of relationships influence one another?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

A note from Laura to book clubs:

I have always thought guilt is the hardest emotion to endure. When I read about tragic accidents in the newspaper, I often wonder about the driver as well as the victim. I imagine the driver's sense of identity would be fundamentally changed if she knew she was the cause of someone else's death - even if the accident was caused by a moment of inattention, a careless mistake. As a writer, I wondered what a thoughtful character would do with that guilt for, as the title of this book suggests, the rest of her life.

The main 'accident' in the book is a car accident, of course, and it happens because the teenage driver never sees the pedestrian in her path. But in the relationships portrayed in the book - specifically, the mother's relationship with her daughter - there are other kinds of accidents caused by people not seeing each other - or themselves - clearly. The book also ended up being about community, and how important it is to reach out, and let others reach out to you, in difficult times.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "An easy read, but nothing too exciting or original"by Elisabeth A. (see profile) 01/09/08

The story is choppy with numerous plot holes and irrelevant details. Nevertheless, the characters have realistic qualities and there is likely someone in this book you can relate to. We had more fun... (read more)

  "The book involves complex and interesting characters who are put into an extremely difficult situation. It engenders a lot of discussion."by Sue R. (see profile) 12/14/07

My book club read this book and all of us liked it. It was difficult to read at times (especially for those of us who have daughters) because of Leigh's strained relationship with Kara. We talked a lot... (read more)

  "Unconvincing"by Lisa Heist H. (see profile) 03/09/15

Definitely makes one think about teens and driving but there's no believability in this book. No one seeks any therapy to cope with its affects on this family after the tragic accident. You'd think the... (read more)

  "For Mothers and Daughters"by Melissa H. (see profile) 06/27/11

Book garnered a lot of discussion from mother's and daughter's alike. The difficult role of parenting, nature vs. nurture, taking responsibility for one's actions.

  "Fast read of the realities of having teen drivers"by Laura G. (see profile) 01/16/09

  "Enjoyed the book over all"by Sydney K. (see profile) 11/19/08

I read this book in 2 days and feel anyone with children worries about this every time they leave the house behind the wheel of a car. I was a little disappointed and I will leave it at that so you read... (read more)

  "Interesting topic"by shannon r. (see profile) 01/04/08

We always find a way to be attracted to books regarding mother and daughter relationship. This is another interesting topic on the subject. Some were frustrated with the mother's reservations and then... (read more)

  "Good Book but definitely not in the league with Jodi Picoult"by Wendy G. (see profile) 09/07/07

This was a good book, but I was a little disappointed in it. It kept my attention, but did not have the pull on me that one of Jodi Picoult's books do. The story focuses on the strained relationship... (read more)

Rate this book
Remember me

Now serving over 80,000 book clubs & ready to welcome yours. Join us and get the Top Book Club Picks of 2022 (so far).


Get free weekly updates on top club picks, book giveaways, author events and more
Please wait...