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Second Acts
by Teri Emory

Published: 2017-09-26
Paperback : 342 pages
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The interwoven tales of three lives unfold in the voices of Sarah, Miriam, and Beth, whose friendship takes root in a college dorm in the late nineteen-sixties. Fueled by the optimism and bravado of that era, they charge into adulthood with lofty ideals and high expectations. Sustained by ...
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Introduction

The interwoven tales of three lives unfold in the voices of Sarah, Miriam, and Beth, whose friendship takes root in a college dorm in the late nineteen-sixties. Fueled by the optimism and bravado of that era, they charge into adulthood with lofty ideals and high expectations. Sustained by their decades-old abiding friendship, Sarah, Miriam, and Beth are forced to confront hard truths about themselves and the choices they have made. They must let go of past regrets and make peace with present circumstances as they begin the second acts of their lives.
 

Editorial Review

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Excerpt

I expected to see Helen when I landed in Jacksonville. Instead, Sidney was at the gate, ashen and jittery.
“There’s—um—no party, Sarah,” he began. He was fiddling with his car keys. “Martin had a heart attack. We got the call from what’s-her-name, the girlfriend, Pauline, early this morning.” He paused for a moment, and then he began to race uncomfortably through the rest of his news. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1) How does the structure of the novel—with three narrators—add
to the reader’s understanding of each character?
Are they all reliable narrators?

2) Every chapter begins with a lyric from music written in
the 1960s, and additional lyrics are scattered through the
book. Why did the author include these? What role did
music play in Sarah, Miriam, and Beth’s generation?

3) Each of the main characters experiences the loss of
someone close to her. How do these losses affect them?
What do they learn about forgiveness, and about themselves,
as a result?

4) How does the era in which Sarah, Miriam, and Beth
first meet—the late 1960s—color their friendship? Which
elements of the friendship remain the same over time?
Which change?

5) Sarah faces sexist attitudes at work, from her boss and
even from a female co-worker. Could Sarah have done
more to combat sexism at her office at that time (the end of
the twentieth century)? Have things changed for women at
work since then?

6) Miriam relates many of her experiences to movies she
loves. Has her appetite for on-screen romance given her
unrealistic expectations about life? What role does her
keenness for movies play in her relationship with Peter?
With Gabe?

7) Beth notes that she, like one of her patients, is part of
the “first generation of women to feel entitled to interesting
lives.” Beth also says that, “…we speculate from time
to time about what life might have held in store had we
married different men, or not had children, or not married
at all.” What does Beth mean by these observations? Are
they contradictory? What do they reveal about Beth’s
marriage to Jim?

8) Though the three main characters are New Yorkers, they
spend time in, and have emotional connections to, other
locations as well: Acedia Bay, Savannah, Rome, Paris. Are
these places “characters” in the book? How so?

9) What do Sarah, Miriam, and Beth think about
marriage? Are they optimistic about it? Resigned? Cynical?

10) Sarah raises her daughter mostly alone; Beth loses a
son; Miriam has no children. What does the novel have to
say about motherhood?

11) How did trust between Sarah and Kevin erode? In
what ways is Kevin’s behavior like that of Martin, Sarah’s
first husband? Were there signs that Kevin was distancing
himself? If so, why did Sarah ignore them?

12) Each of the women is forced to compromise on something
important to her. What do these compromises entail?
How do the three differ in the ways they handle setbacks or
disappointment?

13) In assessing her long marriage to Jim, Beth says,
“Nothing in life really begins, or ends, when we think it
does.” In what ways is this statement true for each of the
three women? How is this idea likely to affect their “second
acts?”

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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