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Leaving the World

Leaving the World

A Novel

  • reading group guide
On the night of her thirteenth birthday, Jane Howard made a vow to her warring parents: she would never get married, and she would never have children.

But life, as Jane comes to discover, is a profoundly random business. Many years and many lives later, she is a professor in Boston, in love with a brilliant, erratic man named Theo. And then Jane becomes pregnant. Motherhood turns out to be a great welcome surprise—but when a devastating turn of events tears her existence apart she has no choice but to flee all she knows and leave the world.

Just when she has renounced life itself, the disappearance of a young girl pulls her back from the edge and into an obsessive search for some sort of personal redemption. Convinced that she knows more about the case than the police do, she is forced to make a decision—stay hidden or bring to light a shattering truth.

Leaving the World is a riveting portrait of a brilliant woman that reflects the way we live now, of the many routes we follow in the course of a single life, and of the arbitrary nature of destiny. A critically acclaimed international bestseller, it is also a compulsive read and one that speaks volumes about the dilemmas we face in trying to navigate our way through all that fate throws in our path.
Choose a format:
  • Atria Books | 
  • 512 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439180785 | 
  • June 2010
List Price $29.99
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Video

Douglas Kennedy on his novel LEAVING THE WORLD

A literary professor decides to leave her privileged world behind when personal tragedy strikes, and she is drawn into a young girl's disappearance.

Read an Excerpt

ONE

WHERE TO START? Where to begin? That’s the big question looming over all narrative structures, and something we analyzed ceaselessly in graduate school. What is the point of departure for a story? Unless you’re writing a big cradle-to-grave saga—“To begin my life at the beginning of my life”—a story usually commences at a moment well into the life of the central character. As such, from the outset you’re traveling forward with this individual through his tale, yet you are simultaneously discovering, bit by bit, the forces and events that shaped him in the past. As David Henry, my... see more

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Leaving the World includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Douglas Kennedy. 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.



Summary

After another tension-filled dinner with her parents on her thirteenth birthday, only child Jane Howard makes an announcement: she vows never to marry or have children. The next day, her father leaves the family—something her mother attributes directly to Jane’s declaration. This guilt and abandonment forever impacts Jane and her interactions with other people. After years of academic study, she falls into a clandestine affair with her much-older and married professor. When he dies suddenly, she is bereft and drifts into a relationship and eventually has a child with a film anthologist. Soon after the birth of her child, reality sets in hard and despite her careful planning, her life is thrown into merciless tumult and she is tested in ways she could have never imagined.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. After a particularly tense birthday dinner, thirteen-year-old Jane Howard announces to her parents that she will never marry nor have children. After her fathe see more

About the Author

Douglas Kennedy
Photograph by Paul Stuart

Douglas Kennedy

Douglas Kennedy is the author of ten previous novels, including the international bestseller The Moment. His work has been translated into twenty-two languages, and in 2007 he received the French decoration of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Find out more at DouglaslKennedyNovelist.com.

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