1. Chapter 1 introduces Marva with this description: “Marva loved living life by hand.” What do you think this means? How does this phrase become more relevant and accurate as the story plays out?
2. In chapter 7, we read, “Sometimes crying and praying are the same thing.” How do crying and praying relate to each other?
3. In chapter 10, Marva realizes she has not put out the gumdrops for Thanksgiving dinner, which she usually does in memory of her son. Is there something unusual that you include in your holiday traditions? Why do you do it?
4. Chapter 11 takes place on Black Friday. What is the connection between what the day is called and the symbolism of what happens in the story? Have you ever had a day like this? Did it happen on a “black Friday”?
5. Aprons are such a part of Marva’s life that wearing one is almost second nature to her. Yet when she briefly returns home from the hospital, “She rinsed but did not wash the dishes. She swept up the strange mix of shattered glass and gumdrops before she realized she had not bothered to put on an apron.” Has something ever happened in your life that has made you skip a behavior that was second nature to you? Describe.
6. Rusty’s article in chapter 15 refers to Marva wondering where the finish line is and at what speed she will cross it. What does this refer to? Later in the book, there is a reference to Marva’s mind not being so much on the finish line but on the race itself. What does this refer to? Why the shift from one to the other?
7. As Thomas is driving through town in chapter 17, he spots the office where he picked up the keys to his new life. He wishes could turn the keys back in and “drive in reverse back to their former lives.” Has there ever been a time in your life when you wanted to go back in time? Explain.
8. In chapter 21, Marva looks out her window at Charlee’s trailer, sees a light, and imagines Thomas sitting at the table “wondering how he and his family would make it through another day without Charlee’s spirit replacing the sadness in their small home.” Discuss a time in your life when a child’s smile, laugh, or sprit replaced sadness in your life.
9. At the end of chapter 21, Marva says to Emily, “At my age, there is no worry, there is only waiting.” What does this mean?
10. In chapter 22, Thomas receives an apron with a quote on it that talks about imagination and the importance of stories. Why would this message specifically apply to Thomas?
11. In chapter 29, Charliee’s mom tells her, “Hair doesn’t make you beautiful, Charlee. You make you beautiful.” What is it that makes the person you love beautiful?