The Choices We Make


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The book is set in San Francisco.  It focuses on two couples:  Hannah (a recipe tester) and Ben (a Jamaican who works for his father) and Kate (a stay-at-home mom) and David (a paramedic).  Hannah and Kate have been best friends since grade-school.  All four adults get along really well and are very fond of each other.  Hannah is closer to Kate than she is to her own sister (Claire).  Both couples seem to have rather strong marriages.

The book keeps a good pace.  I read it in less than two weeks.  You could probably finish the book in six hours of dedicated reading.

On a scale of 1 - 5 (5 being a lot of examples/instances):

Sex: 2

Religion: 2

Gruesome: 1

Suspense: 3

Morality: 3

Traditional: 4

Sex - p. 67 married couple locks door, removes clothes and retrieves toys from locked box under the bed.  
Ch. 20 married couple has rather non-descript relations on the floor.

Religion - deals with infertility / in-vitro fertilization which may challenge some religious beliefs

Gruesome - references to medical procedures and general accidents

Suspense - some about the baby, would it work and would it live

Morality - characters behave with general morality towards each other, they are thoughtful and considerate

Traditional - fertility issues (which are becoming more and more common), an interracial marriage which is handled very casually 

This book has nice character development at a good pace.  The dust jacket is important reading.  I kept trying to turn back to a Prologue to review details but what I would expect in a Prologue was really all on the dust jacket since there is no Prologue in this book.  Chapter 1 gives us a glimpse of tragedy and then we jump 14 months earlier and continue gradually catching up to current day Chapter 1 and then ultimately passing it.  
The end of Chapter 30 builds on the foreshadowing from Chapter 1.

The book alternates viewpoints between the two main characters so that chapters bounce back and forth between Hannah's view and Kate's view until one of the characters becomes unavailable beginning with
Chapter 40.  The characters are relate-able, like Kate hastily painting her toe nails because they are ugly when bare. (p. 85)

On page 73 Hannah thinks she is being punished "for that time, long ago, when [she'd] wished motherhood away."  I was confused until eight pages late (p. 81) we get the flashback to that time.  On page 239 Brown writes, "Also, Ben is bringing a whack of food from his mom."  I got the context of the word and confirmed that it means "several or many" according to the Online Slang dictionary.  I just thought it was an unusual word choice and wondered if it was meant as a reference to a Jamaican diction.

The book was somewhat emotional at times, especially towards the end (beginning with Ch. 53).  I read the last few chapters at work and had to hide my tears.

Discussion Questions

What hobbies would you pursue if you didn't spend time at your children's activities? (Ch. 12)

If you were thinking about surrogacy, who would you talk to first:  husband / doctor / friend?  Do you agree with Hannah's decision to talk to a doctor first?

At the end of Chapter 17, one character is pregnant who didn't want to be and one who wants to be can't get pregnant.  Is this a twist of fate or wanting what we can't have (human nature)?

Is it foreshadowing that Kate goes to the ER right after the positive pregnancy test?

Would you tell your neighbors anything if you were a surrogate?

Should Kate have been so opposed to her father?  Were you surprised about the change in Kate's relationship with her dad?  Why do you think she accepted him?  In Ch. 57 we find out why Kate made up with her dad.  How did you feel about it?

Do you agree with David's logic that, if not for the pregnancy, they would have discovered the aneurysm?

At the end of Chapter 42, Hannah realizes she would choose the baby over Kate.  Is that the right choice?  
How would it affect David and the girls?

What is the significance of dropping the Hannah/Kate alternating title headers beginning with Chapter 40?

Kate and David had a cute story about how they met.  Do you have a cute story about how you met your spouse? (Ch. 49)

Theme Ideas

FOOD:
Serve BBQ legs with carrot and cucumber sticks, Peanut Butter and Honey sandwiches with no crust, wine and beer like in Chapter 2.
Have a taco bar and margaritas  like Kate and David served Hannah and Ben in Chapter 4.  Include Chocolate Peanut Butter cupcakes like Hannah brought.
Serve goat-cheese stuffed dates and mini-bocconcini, tomato and basil on skewers with balsamic glaze swirls like Hannah and Claire's mom's 60th birthday party. (Ch. 17)  Include red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.
Serve Mexican Chocolate Bread Pudding (p. 101), guacamole and chips (p. 102) and margaritas. (Ch. 18)
Serve Jamaican food (p. 111) like Hannah and Ben served Ben's parents every month.
Serve cinnamon buns and coffee like in Chapter 20.
Serve ice cream because Kate and David's girls get ice cream several times.  Serve puffed rice and marshmallow treats and tea (spiked or not).  
Serve Morning Glory muffins like Hannah's grandma used to make. (Ch. 22)  Also serve oatmeal raisin cookies.
Serve clam chowder from sourdough bowls and Pineapple Upside-Down cake like in Chapter 24 from "The Laura Secord Canadian Cook Book".  Or serve Sausage and Pepper Lasagna with fontina cheese and syrah (red wine).
Serve Cherry Vanilla Bourbon bars like Hannah brought to Kate's after the twin vanished. (Ch. 33)
Serve lemon cupcakes iced with vanilla buttercream with gold fondant polka-dots like Hannah took to Claire's shower. (Ch. 35)
Serve blueberries (Ch. 53 & 54) in memory of Kate and Hannah's time at camp, even though Kate hates them now.

DECOR:
Decorate with a bouquet of yellow tulips, Hannah's favorite. (p. 23)
Burn an orange sherbet candle. (Ch. 22)


Give your guests a tube of vanilla scented cream like Hannah rubbed on Kate, or Pinking of You nail polish. (Ch. 46)

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