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Chasing Windmills Reader’s Guide

By Catherine Ryan Hyde

Chasing Windmills by Catherine Ryan Hyde


"Simple and captivating. It is [the characters’] voices—at once utterly credible and heartbreakingly naïve—that make the book."
Publishers Weekly

The introduction, questions, and suggestions for further reading that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Catherine Ryan Hyde’s Chasing Windmills.


From the bestselling author of Pay It Forward comes a provocative and unlikely love story that starts on a New York subway car and blossoms under the windmills of the Mojave Desert.

Both Sebastian and Maria live in worlds ruled by fear. Sebastian, a lonely seventeen-year-old, is suffocating under his dominant father’s control; Maria, a young mother of two, is trying to keep peace at home despite her boyfriend’s abuse. When their eyes meet across a subway car one night, these two strangers find a connection that neither can explain or ignore. They dream of a new future and agree to run away together, only to find that each has kept a major secret from the other. In this tremendously moving novel, Catherine Ryan Hyde shows us how two people trapped by life’s circumstances can break free and find a place in the world where love is genuine and selfless.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Do you think it is a coincidence or a pattern that Maria, who had an abusive father, then found a man who abused her?

2. This leads us to consider the next generation: might Natalie’s life turn out differently through having known Sebastian?

3. Do you think Maria could have found her way out of her abusive relationship without the support of her sister? Does breaking free from abusive control rely heavily on the support of others, and from having someone mirror back a different reality?

4. Similarly, how differently do you think Sebastian’s life would have turned out without the support of Delilah?

5. Do you understand the decisions Sebastian’s mother made when he was young? Do you forgive her for her actions?

6. In what ways do the themes of this novel match those of West Side Story? Did the novel’s nod to this famous story effect your reading of it, and if so, how?

7. In your experience, is there a fine line between love and possession? Can the two be easily confused? What different kinds of love are illustrated in the novel?

8. How are Sebastian and Maria alike and how are they different? If they had met under happier circumstances, do you think they would still have fallen in love?

9. How important are your childhood memories to you? Is there a single memory you feel defines who you are?

10. How did you feel about the way the novel ended? Was it as you expected? Would you have preferred a different outcome?

About this Author

Catherine Ryan Hyde, an acclaimed novelist and award-winning short-story writer, is the author of the story collection Earthquake Weather and of the novels Love in the Present Tense, Walter’s Purple Heart, Funerals for Horses, Electric God, and Pay It Forward, which was named an ALA Book of the Year and made into a feature film. She lives in Cambria, California. Her website is

Suggested Reading

Amy Bloom, Love Invents Us; Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao; Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time; Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees; Ann Packer, The Dive From Clausen’s Pier; Jodi Picoult, Nineteen Minutes; Elizabeth Strout, Amy and Isabelle; David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
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