The Longings of Wayward Girls
Read an Excerpt
SADIE WASN’T A BAD GIRL. When she was little she played church, flattening soft bread into disks, singing the hymns from stolen paper missals: Our Fathers chained in prisons dark, were still in heart and conscience free, how sweet would be their children’s fate, if they like them, could die for Thee. She set up carnivals and lemonade stands, collected pennies for UNICEF on Halloween. She bought a tree to be planted in her name in a forest purged by fire. She included everyone... see more
SADIE FIRST SEES HIM ON a wet September evening, not long after she lost her baby—a stillborn girl. She has a cold, and the damp and the falling leaves all compound her sorrow. He is a boy she knows from childhood, now a man filling his truck at the local gas station. The few streets of their old neighborhood that wound together were built on his family’s farmland. He lived in a midcentury modern house at the top of Sadie’s road. It was fieldstone and glass, built... see more
Reading Group Guide
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Read the epigraph of the novel aloud. How does it serve to frame the narrative that follows it?
2. Consider the mother-daughter dynamics that are depicted within the novel. How do you think Sadie’s experience of being mothered by Clare impacts how she mothers Sylvia?
3. What do you make of Sadie and Craig’s relationship? Why do you think Sadie is drawn to Ray to begin with, and why does she ultimately return to Craig? Do you believe Ray when he writes to Sadie, “I knew who I had. I knew who you were” (p. 308)?
4. The weight of history—and the sense that it can repeat itself—is felt throughout the novel. As a group, can you brainstorm moments within the novel in which it appears (as Faulkner once famously said) that “the past isn’t dead—it isn’t even past”?
5. Consider the theme of female companionship in the novel. In what ways is it shown to be sustaining—and in what ways can it turn sinister?
6. Both Sadie and Cla see more