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Mating for Life

Mating for Life

A Novel

  • reading group guide
With pitch-perfect honesty and heartwarming humor, this captivating debut explores marriage, motherhood, identity, and what it takes to love someone—family members, friends, or spouses—for life.

Former folk singer Helen Sear was a feminist wild child who proudly disdained monogamy, raising three daughters—each by a different father—largely on her own. Now in her sixties, Helen has fallen in love with a traditional man who desperately wants to marry her. And while she fears losing him, she’s equally afraid of abandoning everything she’s ever stood for if she goes through with it.

Meanwhile, Helen’s youngest daughter, Liane, is in the heady early days of a relationship with her soul mate. But he has an ex-wife and two kids, and her new role as a “step-something” doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Ilsa, an artist, has put her bohemian past behind her and is fervently hoping her second marriage will stick. Yet her world feels like it is slowly shrinking, and her painting is suffering as a result—and she realizes she may need to break free again, even if it means disrupting the lives of her two young children. And then there’s Fiona, the eldest sister, who has worked tirelessly to make her world pristine, yet who still doesn’t feel at peace. When she discovers her husband has been harboring a huge secret, Fiona loses her tenuous grip on happiness and is forced to face some truths about herself that she’d rather keep buried.

Interweaving the alternating perspectives of Helen, her daughters, and the women surrounding them, “each new chapter brings a wise and tender look at single life, dating rituals, and marital unease” (New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Close). In this “absolute feat of storytelling” (bestselling author Grace O'Connell), Marissa Stapley celebrates the many roles modern women play, and shows that even though happy endings aren’t one-size-fits-all, some loves really can last for life.
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  • Washington Square Press | 
  • 336 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476762029 | 
  • July 2014
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Mating for Life 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. Consider the epigraphs of the novel. How do they work together? If you had to pick a character to match each with, who would you pick and why?

2. Discuss the chapter openers. How did they inform your experience of each chapter? Did the description of the animal mating patterns make you think differently about monogamy?

3. How are Fiona, Ilsa, and Liane each shaped by their fathers? In contrast, how do you see the influence of Helen illustrated in each of their personalities?

4. Is there a character you identify most with? Which characteristics do you most strongly identify with? Are these things you like about yourself or don’t like about yourself?

5. Turn to p. 119 and reread the scene in the faculty lounge, in which Grace and Tansy discuss marriage. Did any of the points raised here particularly resonate with you? Why do you think people get married? Stay married? Remarry, even if they had a disastrous first marriage?

6. How integral is motherhood to Helen’s overall identity, and does this c see more

About the Author

Marissa Stapley

Marissa Stapley is a writer and former magazine editor who contributes to Elle, The Globe and Mail, and The National Post, among others. She also teaches writing at the University of Toronto and editing at Centennial College. She lives in Toronto with her husband and two young children.

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