Reader's Guide for A Life Apart by L.Y. Marlow

L.Y. Marlow is excited to join book group discussion. Email CrownReadingGroups@randomhouse.com to invite her to yours.

From the author of Color Me Butterfly, a poignant novel about a decades-long love affair and the complicated and unbreakable ties between two families that live worlds apart.

1. The introduction opens with “You may think I got no right to be here, no right at all.” What do you think was meant by these words and what significance did it have on the story?

2. The book begins with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. What did you think about how Morris’s life was saved by Robert, the young black sailor, and how this incident changed the course of Morris’s life?

3. What did you think about Morris and Bernard’s friendship, and the way the black soldiers were segregated from the white soldiers, and the impact it had on Morris and Bernard’s relationship?

4. When Morris first meets Beatrice, why do you think there was such a profound connection between them, especially given a time when interracial relationships were frowned upon?

5. What did you think about the letters between Morris and Beatrice and Morris and Agnes? Do you think they revealed what he felt about both women? Why do you think the author chose to use the letters?

6. How culpable was Beatrice in the pain that Morris caused Agnes? How much do you think she blamed herself for the hurt they caused Agnes and their daughters?

7. Why do you think Agnes was so enamored with portraying the perfect family? Do you think she knew about the love affair between Morris and Beatrice?

8. When Morris brings Sam and Sadie Mae to meet Agnes and Emma for the first time, do you think Agnes was right to throw them out of her home and heart?

9. What did you think about the relationship between Sam and Sadie Mae and how they viewed their differences, especially Sadie Mae?

10. Why do you think Beatrice agreed to help Morris take care of Agnes? Do you think that this was wrong for her to do?
11. What did you think about the friendship between Agnes and Beatrice? And the power of forgiveness?

12. Do you think you could forgive a person given the same circumstances?

13. Do you think Morris regretted his choices that ultimately hurt two families? If so, how did he portray his remorse?

14. How does the book portray interracial love affairs, which were taboo during that time? Were there any scenes in the book that resonated most with you?

15. How do you think blended families affect our society today? Do you think it’s more accepted today, then it was during that time?

RIFers are big fans of this novel! Read our Reader Spotlight review of A Life Apart.

  • thrillracer

    In response to #6, Beatrice was culpable in the pain that Morris caused Agnes, but she blamed herself for a higher level of culpability than she was responsible for. Morris is the one who lied, cheated, sneaked around, breached his marriage vows, allowed himself to be trapped by Agnes in the first place, marched off to war with his head in the clouds, failed to take precautions to avoid making babies outside of marriage as well as in a marriage he already turned his back on, and he is the one who pushed in on Beatrice after she had already rejected him. Sure, Beatrice should have resisted his seduction or at least insisted on taking precautions, but you really can’t blame her as much as you can blame Morris.