THINGS I WANT MY DAUGHTERS TO KNOW

Elizabeth Noble

 How do you cope in a world without your mother?

When Barbara realizes time is running out, she writes letters to her four daughters, aware that they’ll be facing the trials and triumphs of life without her at their side. But how can she leave them when they still have so much growing up to do?

Take Lisa, in her midthirties but incapable of making a commitment; or Jennifer, trapped in a stale marriage and buttoned up so tight she could burst. Twentysomething Amanda, the traveler, has always distanced herself from the rest of the family;

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 How do you cope in a world without your mother?

When Barbara realizes time is running out, she writes letters to her four daughters, aware that they’ll be facing the trials and triumphs of life without her at their side. But how can she leave them when they still have so much growing up to do?

Take Lisa, in her midthirties but incapable of making a commitment; or Jennifer, trapped in a stale marriage and buttoned up so tight she could burst. Twentysomething Amanda, the traveler, has always distanced herself from the rest of the family; and then there’s Hannah, a teenage girl on the verge of womanhood about to be parted from the mother she adores. But by drawing on the wisdom in Barbara’s letters, the girls might just find a way to cope with their loss. And in coming to terms with their bereavement, can they also set themselves free to enjoy their lives with all the passion and love each deserves?

This heartfelt novel by bestselling author Elizabeth Noble celebrates family, friends . . . and the glorious, endless possibilities of life.

Excerpt of Things I Want My Daughters to Know

Dear All of You,
Despite my controlling streak, there aren’t too many rules, as far as the funeral goes. Do it as soon as you can, won’t you? Good to get it over with. Lisa knows about the music, if you can bear to go with what I’ve chosen. We’ve talked about the committal—you know I only want you lot there, and you know which coffin, and which fabulous outfit. . . . no crying please, if you can manage it. Oh, and no black. Wear the brightest thing you can find in your wardrobe. Both are clichés, I know, but better the colorful one than the somber. And try and make the sun shine (although I recognize this last one may be out of your control). I’m not saying anything mushy in this letter—strictly business—but I daresay there will be other letters. I have other things to say—she says ominously—if I last long enough to write them . . . (don’t you love terminal illness humor?)
So, never-ending love, as always . . .
Mum

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  • Harper Paperbacks
  • Paperback
  • January 2009
  • 400 Pages
  • 9780061686597

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About Elizabeth Noble

 Elizabeth Noble is the author of the internationally bestselling novels The Reading Group, The Friendship Test, and Alphabet Weekends. She lives with her husband and their two daughters in New York City.

Praise

“Noble is a supple storyteller who moves easily through time and among many points of view. Her characters are familiar and sympathetic, flaws and all. Barbara’s smart, funny, sensible voice rescues this story from cliche and sentimentality.” —Boston Globe

“It’s an absorbing tale that you won’t want to end.” —Hallmark Magazine

“Noble’s fourth novel (after Alphabet Weekends) is a bittersweet yet ultimately uplifting story of love, family, and the bonds between mothers and daughters and among sisters. Letters and journal entries are sprinkled throughout the narrative, expanding the novel’s focus to include the family’s history from the very beginning and making for a sweeping, engaging, and comfortable women’s fiction choice. Highly recommended for all public libraries.” —Library Journal

“This is an intense, magical, gripping, heartrending novel that will reduce you to sobs if you let your guard down. But there’s no schmaltz, no manipulating, no pretense — just straightforward writing that captures perfectly the very emotions you imagine you would have in the same situation…I suggest you read this on a day off, or over a weekend when you won’t have to explain your red eyes to anyone. Whew … what a book.” —Roanoke Times

Discussion Questions

What would you say in a letter to your daughter? What advice would you give?

How does the author succeed in portraying a main character who never actually appears in the novel?

Is it selfless or selfish for Barbara to reveal what she does?

What does each character learn about herself and what do they learn from Barbara?

How does each character handle grief?

What does it mean to have a “good death?”

How is each sister’s relationship with her mother different?

Do you think it is important to keep a journal? Why or why not?

Is it ok to read another person’s diary, letters, journal after they die? Why or why not? If you found someone’s diary, would you read it?

What is the best advice your mother gave to you or what do you wish she’d told you?

Does birth order play a role in family dynamics and did the sister’s here display characteristics that you’d expect from the eldest, middle, and youngest? Why or why not?

How do you think Barbara’s daughters have been affected by their mother’s romantic/marital history, and what role may her divorce have played in their own development and attitudes?

How do you view the author’s portrayal of men within the narrative? In particular, how does Mark’s reaction to his wife’s death, in the context of his role as father and stepfather, affect you?