Reading guide for The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

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The Garden of Small Beginnings

by Abbi Waxman

The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman
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    May 2017, 368 pages

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Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. The Anaïs Nin quote at the start of the book expresses the challenge facing Lilian. Have you experienced a situation where staying in place was as painful a choice as moving forward?
  2. As the story begins, Lilian is deeply sad, but comfortable in her sadness. She resists people's encouragements to move on, and is quite verbal about it. What impact does her position have on the other people in her life?
  3. Lilian's children experienced the loss of their father differently. How have you seen your own family or friends deal differently with grief, or other losses? Is there a "right" way?
  4. Does Lilian find her work as a textbook illustrator fulfilling? Is she as stuck in that job as she is in her personal life?
  5. What are the similarities and differences between the way Lilian and her sister, Rachel, process emotions? How did their childhood impact their approach? Both have a tendency to use humor to diffuse stress, or make light of personal struggles. What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of that approach?
  6. Are the differences between Lilian and Rachel similar to the differences between Annabel and Clare—how does each pair of sisters relate to each other?
  7. Lilian takes the gardening class because her boss asks her to, but it ends up being a transformative experience for her. Has that ever happened to you, where something that started out as a chore instead became something wonderful?
  8. Gardening turns out to be relaxing for Lilian, despite the hard physical work involved. What do you enjoy about gardening, and why do you think it's so helpful for Lili?
  9. Lilian is often surprised by the distance between her first impressions of people and what she subsequently learns about them. Do you think that's a common experience? Do you think the first impression you give people is an accurate expression of who you really are? Is that even desirable?
  10. A theme in the book is unexpected events and their consequences—how have unexpected events affected your life?
  11. Do you think Edward and Lilian will end up together? Is Lili ready for a new relationship?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Berkley Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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