1. Why do you think Anne Tyler began the story where she did? What do we learn about Willa by first meeting her as a little girl?
2. What do you make of the stranger on the plane? How would you respond in Willa’s position? In Derek’s? Have you ever had an experience that felt like this one? How did you want your family and friends to react?
3. Why do you think the cactus is so important to Willa? Are there symbols or landmarks in your own life that give you such powerful feelings?
4. If the book were instead focused on the life of another main character or Baltimore neighbor, which one would you most like to read about? What would their personal journey be?
5. Compare Willa’s two marriages, as well as her feelings towards her sons. How has caring for different men shaped her life? How do you think these relationships affect the choices she makes in the second half of the book?
6. Now that you’ve finished, why do you think the author chose these particular moments in Willa’s life to highlight? How do they make her the person she becomes, and where do you think she ends up?