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What We've Lost Is Nothing

What We've Lost Is Nothing

A Novel

  • reading group guide

One of Vogue.com’s "Ten Best Suspense Books"

In her striking debut novel, Rachel Louise Snyder chronicles the twenty-four hours following a mass burglary in a Chicago suburb and the suspicions, secrets, and prejudices that surface in its wake.

Nestled on the edge of Chicago’s gritty west side, Oak Park is a suburb in flux. To the west, theaters and shops frame posh houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. To the east lies a neighborhood still recovering from urban decline. In the center of the community sits Ilios Lane, a pristine cul-de-sac dotted with quiet homes that bridge the surrounding extremes of wealth and poverty.

On the first warm day in April, Mary Elizabeth McPherson, a lifelong resident of Ilios Lane, skips school with her friend Sofia. As the two experiment with a heavy dose of ecstasy in Mary Elizabeth’s dining room, a series of home invasions rocks their neighborhood. At first the community is determined to band together, but rising suspicions soon threaten to destroy the world they were attempting to create. Filtered through a vibrant pinwheel of characters, Snyder’s tour de force evokes the heightened tension of a community on edge as it builds toward one of the most explosive conclusions in recent fiction. Incisive and panoramic, What We’ve Lost is Nothing illuminates the evolving relationship between American cities and their suburbs, the hidden prejudices that can threaten a way of life, and the redemptive power of tolerance in a community torn asunder.
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  • Scribner | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476725178 | 
  • January 2014
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for What We’ve Lost is Nothing includes an introduction, 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.


Introduction

On the first warm day in April, as Mary Elizabeth McPherson ditches high school, a series of break-ins rock her neighborhood; the burglars invade her house as she sits in her dining room, stoned with a friend. Mary Elizabeth’s community, Oak Park, is a suburb in flux. Nestled on the edge of Chicago’s gritty west side, Oak Park offers two stark lifestyles: to the west, theaters and shops frame posh homes and buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. To the east, adjacent to Chicago’s Austin Community Area, lies a neighborhood still reeling from urban decline. The community’s Diversity Assurance Program has curbed destructive racial housing practices, but cultural integration has been tenuous at best. In the center of the community sits Mary’s house on Ilios Lane, a pristine cul-de-sac dotted with quiet homes that bridge Oak Park’s extremes. As the aftermath of the burglaries unfolds over the course of twenty four hours, the residents of Ilios Lane must take stock of the world they believed they lived in, and the w see more

About the Author

Rachel Louise Snyder
Photograph by Jocelyn Augustino

Rachel Louise Snyder

Rachel Louise Snyder is a writer, radio commentator, and professor of creative writing at American University. The author of Fugitive Denim: A Moving Story of People and Pants in the Borderless World of Global Trade,she has contributed regularly to NPR’s All Things Considered and she hosted the public radio series, Global Guru and Latitudes. Her writing has appeared in TheNew Yorker, TheNew York Times Magazine, Slate, Salon, TheWashington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and the New Republic. Originally from Chicago, she has lived in Boston, London, and Phnom Penh, and currently lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and daughter. 

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