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The Shark Club Reader’s Guide

By Ann Kidd Taylor

The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor

READERS GUIDE

Introduction

An Introduction to The Shark Club

“A thirteen-inch scar, thirty-three stitches, and an obsession with sharks” (The Shark Club, p. 7).

On Maeve’s thirtieth birthday, she is exactly where she wants to be: swimming with sharks. For the past six months, the young marine biologist has been researching lemon sharks at the Marine Field Lab in Bimini. The following day, Maeve is scheduled to return home to Florida and her regular life. While she is excited to see her twin brother, Robin, and their grandmother Perri, Maeve is conflicted about leaving the lemons—and parting ways with Nicholas, a handsome colleague who shares her passion for the ocean and its creatures.
 
Except for college and the occasional research trip, Maeve has lived in Palermo since she and Robin were orphaned at the age of six. After their parents died in a plane crash, their grandmother Perri brought them to live at the Hotel of the Muses, her popular literary-themed hotel on the Florida coast. There, soon after they arrive, Robin and Maeve meet Daniel, a boy who—like them—grapples with the loss of a parent.
 
In this largely idyllic setting, the three grow up the best of friends. Then, just after her twelfth birthday, Maeve’s life changes course. It’s midsummer and she’s close to shore when a blacktip shark wraps its powerful jaws around her leg and pulls her beneath the waves. Almost immediately, it lets her go and glides away. Thanks to Daniel’s quick thinking, Maeve survives the potentially fatal attack. But while the incident leaves her brother, Robin, with a profound fear of sharks, Maeve becomes smitten with the mysterious animals.
 
Around the same time, Maeve’s heart is awakened in other ways. Just before the attack, Maeve confessed her love to Daniel. As they grow to adulthood, it’s clear that he feels the same and they become engaged. Yet Daniel is devastated and lashes out when she chooses to join a research expedition in Fiji just before their wedding date. Robin, who loves them both, stands by helplessly as their relationship breaks apart.
 
For years, Maeve has struggled to mend her broken heart and keep Daniel out of her thoughts. So she’s shocked to discover that Daniel—and his precocious young daughter, Hazel—are back living in Palermo. To complicate matters further, Robin, an aspiring novelist, has sold his first book, and the love story at its heart seems to be based on her relationship with Daniel.
 
Maeve’s trip home is only meant to be a pit stop before she travels to Mozambique on another research trip—one she’s invited Nicholas to join her on— but Daniel makes it clear he’d like to rekindle their relationship. Maeve is thrown even further off balance when she learns that an illegal shark-finning outfit has been slaughtering hundreds of innocent animals in the waters near Palermo. As she takes it upon herself to stop the poachers, Maeve discovers that her heart—and her beloved sharks—will lead her to the place she’s truly meant to be. 

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. What are your feelings about sharks? Do you think they have been maligned? Do you feel differently about them since reading The Shark Club? Would you like to swim alongside them? 

2. Despite being twins, Robin and Maeve have few interests or personality traits in common. In what ways was each of them shaped by their parents’ deaths? In what ways do they compensate for each other? 

3. Turning thirty is an important threshold for Maeve. What cultural expectations and personal feelings does this birthday conjure in her? Do women today face challenges when crossing into their thirties? What about turning forty, or fifty, or other turn-of-the-decade birthdays? 

4. Can you empathize with Maeve for calling off the wedding after Daniel betrayed her? How might you have reacted? Did you feel sympathy for Daniel when Maeve decided to take the research trip to Fiji? Have you ever been involved with someone whose career felt like a rival? 

5. If Maeve had forgiven Daniel and continued with their engagement, what do you imagine their marriage would have been like? 

6. Before reading The Shark Club, were you aware of the practice of catching and finning sharks? Is there anything ordinary citizens can do to help stem this barbaric practice? What is the appropriate punishment for poachers? 

7. Maeve has an intimate, almost spiritual relationship with oceans. Do you feel a connection with nature? Did Maeve inspire you to create or deepen your relationship with the natural world? 

8. Did Robin’s involvement with the poachers come as a surprise? Why or why not? 

9. What do you think the future holds for Robin? How did his novel foreshadow his actions regarding the sharks? 

10. On some level, both Daniel and Robin seem to feel that Maeve loves sharks more than she loves them. If their gender roles were reversed, and Maeve was a globe-trotting male scientist and they were women, would they have felt as resentful? 

11. Was Perri a good role model for her twin grandchildren? After years of refusal, why does she finally agree to marry Marco? 

12. What does it say when Maeve—who always attends the Book Bash as George Sand—impulsively decides to instead dress up as Her Deepness, Sylvia Earle? 

13. Why is Maeve so drawn to Hazel? Would she have become entangled with Daniel again if Hazel had not been in the picture? 

14. Maeve grapples with her choice to pursue a research opportunity in Mozambique. How did it create conflict in her relationship with Daniel? What are the challenges of making time for family and career? What kind of fallout happens when women choose to put themselves first? 

15. In the end, Maeve followed her heart and chose Nicholas. Why was Maeve drawn to Nicholas? How do you feel about Nicholas as Maeve’s choice? 

16. Who is your favorite character in the novel? Why? 

17. Is there something you feel as passionately about as Maeve feels about sharks? 

 
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