How can you make someone love you when they won’t?
And what if that person happens to be your mother?
Sayre Bellavia grew up knowing she was a mistake: unplanned and unwanted. At five months shy of eighteen, she’s become an expert in loneliness, heartache, and neglect. Her whole life she’s been cursed, used, and left behind. Swallowed a thousand tears and ignored a thousand deliberate cruelties. Sayre’s stuck by her mother through hell, tried to help her, be near her, be important to her even as her mother slipped away into a violent haze of addiction, destroying the only chance Sayre ever had for a real family.
Now her mother is lying in a hospital bed, near death, ravaged by her own destructive behavior. And as Sayre fights her way to her mother’s bedside, she is terrified but determined to get the answer to a question no one should ever have to ask: Did my mother ever really love me? And what will Sayre do if the answer is yes?
Reading Group Guide
Seven years ago, Sayre Bellavia had everything she could ever want. But when her mother’s relapse meets with unexpected tragedy, Sayre’s life is consumed by her mother’s addiction and neglect. When fate lands Sayre in the truck of a wounded stranger with an out-of-service phone, she finds herself reliving some of the best and worst memories of her upbringing, including the year that changed everything. And time is running out—not just for Sayre’s mother, but for Sayre’s chance to finally speak her piece.
TOPICS & QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. One of the overarching themes in Ordinary Beauty is identity. How would Sayre describe herself? What does she think of her last name, Bellavia? How do other characters in the book struggle with identity?
2. Why is Sayre so intent on feeding the kitten in the beginning of the story, especially when she barely has enough food for herself? What kind of symbolism do animals represent throughout Ordinary Beauty?
3. When Evan swerves into a ditch to avoi see more