Etched on Me

Etched on Me

A Novel

  • reading group guide
On the surface, sixteen-year-old Lesley Holloway is just another bright new student at Hawthorn Hill, a posh all-girls’ prep school north of London. Little do her classmates know that she recently ran away from home, where her father had spent years sexually abusing her. Nor does anyone know that she’s secretly cutting herself as a coping mechanism...until the day she goes too far and ends up in the hospital.

Lesley spends the next two years in and out of psychiatric facilities, where she overcomes her traumatic memories and finds the support of a surrogate family. Eventually completing university and earning her degree, she is a social services success story—until she becomes unexpectedly pregnant in her early twenties. Despite the overwhelming odds she has overcome, the same team that saved her as an adolescent will now question whether Lesley is fit to be a mother. And so she embarks upon her biggest battle yet: the fight for her unborn daughter.
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  • Washington Square Press | 
  • 336 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476739069 | 
  • February 2014
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Read an Excerpt

Etched On Me 1
Have you ever wanted something so much, it’s not a desire so much as a beacon? Have you ever prayed for it so hard, your fingernails curl into your palms and your eyes squinch shut and your whole body just hums?

My daughter is that simple, shining thing. Taken from me under bright lights in a white room, my stitches still raw. I fought so much they put me in hard restraints. I screamed so loudly they shot me up with sedative.

When I resurfaced, the blood had soaked through my hospital gown. I... see more
Etched On Me 2
Whenever I talked to the press or went on telly, back when I was pregnant, the journalists and program hosts would always lean forward with an expectant, awed posture and ask, with an attentiveness so studied it would have made me laugh if I hadn’t been scared shitless, “So, Miss Holloway, how did this all begin?”

Behind their solicitous open-ended act, of course, they just wanted the lurid basics. And so, like Clare tending to one of her famous French reduction sauces, I had to boil the... see more

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Etched on Me includes discussion questions and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.



Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. How does Crowell use visual imagery to give the reader greater access into Lesley’s psyche? For example, how did you understand the “ceiling” metaphor?

2. Discuss the importance of music to Lesley. How does its role in her life evolve as the novel progresses? You might also consider the role of music in your own life, and how your taste or relationship to it has evolved. Have certain types of music (or certain artists or playlists) been influential to you at specific moments in time?

3. How does the trip to Russia change Lesley’s relationship with the Kremskys?

4. A poster that catches Lesley’s eye in the social services office asserts “You CAN break the cycle of violence.” What do you think this means for her—and what do you think the novel is saying about the possibility for second chances? How is the past shown to reverberate into the present within the narrative? Is this necessarily a bad thing?

5. Lesley acutely experiences both dissociation and embodiment throu see more

About the Author

Jenn Crowell
Photo by Hedy Bartleson

Jenn Crowell

Jenn Crowell is the critically acclaimed author of the novels Necessary Madness and Letting the Body Lead. She holds an MFA in creative writing and lives near Portland, Oregon, with her husband and daughter.

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