THE BEST OF TIMES

By Penny Vincenzi
Anchor BooksJune 2010
www.readinggroupcenter.com
www.pennyvincenzi.com

Trade Paperback608 pages, $15.00, ISBN: 978-0767930857
Subject: Relationships / Women's Lives / Identity

  1. The role of chance in our lives is a major theme in this novel. Given the outcomes of the accident for the main characters, how do you interpret the difference between chance and fate in the book? Do you believe in fate?

  2. There are many depictions of women in the novel, both young and old. Did you find the female characters true to life? Who did you relate to most? 

  3. The accident is the pivotal moment in the plot when the characters' lives collide and are changed forever for better or worse. In that moment, which character did you find yourself sympathizing with most and why? Do you have any real anecdotes about traumatic life-altering moments that you'd like to share?

  4. In the beginning, many of the characters such as Jonathan, Toby, and Abi are portrayed as morally ambiguous. Which characters did you find most difficult to categorize and why? Did anyone surprise you by how they changed in the aftermath of the crash? 

  5. In many ways, the accident is just as traumatic for those characters who were not on the M4. Did you sympathize with any of them more than with the crash victims? 

  6. Penny Vincenzi is known for creating large casts of characters and alternating quickly between them. Did you like the continuously shifting narration? Did you find that this style successfully contributed to the tension and suspense in the novel?

  7. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, and terrible mistakes play a large role in this novel. When Daisy gets hit by a car, did you agree with how Jonathan responds to his son Charlie's guilty confession? Do you think it is fair to blame a person for something he/she could never have predicted? Do you think the treatment of the issue of blame is handled well in the novel?

  8. Were you surprised that Georgia fled the scene of the accident? Did this storyline successfully add an element of mystery to the plot for you?

  9. It's often said that love is a fickle thing. In the case of Barney and Amanda, for instance, how much did chance have to do with their ultimate break-up? Do you think they would have stayed together, if Barney hadn't met Emma at the hospital?

  10. An allusion to the famous first line of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, the title of this novel could be interpreted as ironic. Do you think some of the characters' lives were ultimately changed for the better? Was this realistic to you? Do you believe that something good always comes out of something bad?

  11. The final part of the novel is entitled "Moving On". Were you convinced that each character successfully moved on? Were you unsure how any of the relationships would fare in the future? If so, which one?

  12. The Best of Times is Penny Vincenzi's sixth novel published in the United States. Have you read any of Penny's previous books? If so, how does this one compare?

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