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A Cup of Light Reader’s Guide

By Nicole Mones

A Cup of Light by Nicole Mones


The questions, topics, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Nicole Mones’ A Cup of Light. We hope they will enrich your experience of this richly imaginative novel.


Lia Frank, an American appraiser of fine Chinese porcelain, is sent to Beijing to authenticate a collection of rare pieces. As she evaluates each fragile pot, she must answer questions that will reverberate through dozens of lives: Where did these works of art come from? Are they truly authentic? Or are they possibly forgeries—part of the perilous underworld of Chinese art? As Lia examines her treasure, a breathtaking mystery unravels around her and she is drawn into another, more personal drama—a love affair that could alter the course of her life forever.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Lia chooses to wear hearing aids instead of getting more discreet implants. What does this say about her personality and her interaction with the outside world? Is there something she is seeking to escape?

2. How did growing up with hearing aids shape Lia into the person she has become? Has it had an effect on her success as an appraiser?

3. Unlike most ah chans, Bai does not smuggle porcelain purely for the money or the element of risk. What does Bai hope to achieve in his craft? What sort of fulfillment could it offer?

4. Why is Lia so interested in finding the Master of the Ruffled Feather? Is she disappointed or delighted with what she finds?

5. Would you say that Gao Yideng is more of a tycoon or a connoisseur? And what about Jack? Why do you think this?

6. When Lia’s partner is unable to accompany her in Beijing, she is afraid that she will be unable to do the job on her own. Why is this fear so prominent? Is she able to overcome it?

7. In China, it is common for experts to also make pots themselves. However, Lia only likes to look at and touch them. Why do you think that is?

8. What did the plane crash make Lia realize about her knowledge of China’s history and her place as an American citizen on foreign soil? Do you think that it has a lasting impact on her?

9. Lia is only able to catch a fleeting glimpse of something beautiful about herself before she goes back to focusing on her imperfections, inside and out. Do you think that her relationship with Michael changed that? What are some of the symbols of that change?

10. Why is Lia so interested in obtaining the Chenghua chicken cup even though she knows it is a fake? What does it represent to her?

11. Do you think that Bai learns a lasting lesson from the fate of Hu and Sun? Does it affect his outlook on his family and his own future? What do you think happens to him after the book?

12. Lia has mastered the art of memory, while Michael seeks to master the science of forgetting. What does this say about them as individuals and as a couple? Do you see them reversing roles by the end of the book?

About this Author

Nicole Mones has traveled and worked extensively in China since 1977. She lives with her family in Portland, Oregon. She is also the author of Lost in Translation.

From the Hardcover edition.
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