1. If you have read Ward’s previous novels, How to Be Lost and Sleep Toward Heaven, did you find similarities between them and Forgive Me? How would you describe Ward’s writing style? To which other writers would you compare her work?
2. Was the depiction of apartheid in Forgive Me consistent with what you have heard or read, or did it change your sense of the conditions? Was the South Africa of the novel familiar or new to you?
3. Ward says she was compelled by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s model, “the concept of telling the truth and being set free.” What were your impressions of the TRC? Can you imagine how hearing a perpetrator’s story in his or her own words might influence your judgment of a crime?
4. How does forgiveness figure into the novel? Who seeks forgiveness? Who is able to forgive? Did the novel make you think about forgiveness in your own life?
5. What did you think of the Irvings? Could you forgive someone who killed a loved one?
6. After finishing the novel, did your reading of the epigraph change?
7. Did your feelings about Nadine change over the course of the novel? What parts of her character do you relate to the most? Does she do anything you found morally questionable?
8. One reviewer wrote that upon finishing Forgive Me, “readers will want to start all over again, looking for the clues they missed the first time around when Ward, like a cunning magician, so deftly led them astray.” Did you reread sections of the novel morethan once, uncovering clues? How did the journal entries affect the unfolding story for you? What about them did you find most poignant? Misleading? Illuminating?
9. There are many ambitions in this novel—from Nadine and Maxim’s commitment to capturing the ravages of war, to Thola’s dancing career, to the aspirations charted in the “Nantucket to Stardom” entries. How does ambition define the characters in Forgive Me? How does it disappoint them?
10. In many ways motherhood is at the heart of this book. What do the mothers in the novel—Ann, Fikile, Sophia, Lily, and ultimately Nadine—have in common? How do their circumstances and choices distinguish them from one another?
11. How does growing up without a mother affect Nadine? In what ways does she seem to reconsider the role of a mother? Did you find the path she chooses unexpected or inevitable? Does it resonate with your own experience of reconciling work and family life?
12. Do you think Thola loved George? What struck you most about their story?