Questions for Discussion
1. The novel alternates between Pepper’s story in 1960s America and Annabelle’s story in 1930s Europe in the days leading up to World War II. Did one woman’s story resonate more strongly with you? Do you think each woman’s story has the depth to be told on its own? Why do you think the author chose to tell their stories together?
2. The novel is divided into movements, as if it were a piece of music. Do you think this was just an artistic choice made by the author, or is there a deeper meaning? What does Annabelle’s love of playing the cello reveal about her character?
3. Annabelle and Pepper meet over the sale of a 1936 Mercedes Special Roadster. What does the Mercedes represent for each woman? Why do you think Annabelle chooses to help Pepper? How would you characterize the relationship between Annabelle and Pepper over the course of the novel?
4. As young women, both Annabelle and Pepper find themselves hiding a pregnancy borne out of a relationship with a married man. Despite the differences in time and place, how are their situations similar? Each woman chooses to deal with her pregnancy in a different way. Why do you think Annabelle chooses to marry Johann? Why does Pepper plan to raise her child on her own? In what ways do their time periods impact their decisions?
5. Discuss Pepper’s relationship with her family in comparison to Annabelle’s relationship to her family. How do these familiar relationships impact each woman’s understanding of romantic love?
6. Annabelle and Pepper are both forced to make difficult decisions for the safety of their children, and in these decisions we see the strength of a mother’s love. How does this compare to the way a father’s love is presented throughout the book? Do Johann, Stefan, and the senator face difficult decisions as fathers?
7. Annabelle, Stefan, and Johann are a compelling love triangle with no easy resolution. Did you find either Stefan or Johann to be a better match for Annabelle? Were you tempted to characterize Stefan positively because of his role in the Resistance and Johann negatively because of his allegiance to the Nazi party? Did your opinion of each man change over the course of the book? Despite their differences, in what ways are Stefan and Johann similar men?
8. Each character in Along the Infinite Sea
hides a major secret. Discuss how the presence of a secret radically shifts each character’s life. In your opinion, which secrets should have been revealed? Which should remain hidden?
9. Throughout the novel, the author keeps her own secret—the identity of the man with whom Annabelle escaped to America. Were you surprised by the reveal? Why do you think the coda is told from Stefan’s point of view?
10. How does Annabelle’s character change over the course of the novel? How does her evolution compare to Pepper’s? What role do you think Annabelle will continue to play in Pepper’s life?