cover_9780553398908
If Not for You

1. What are the main themes of the novel? Which do you find most thought provoking?

2. While Beth is deciding whether to meet Sam for dinner in Chapter 1, Sunshine urges her, “Let go of your inhibitions, live free, fall in love; make the most of this opportunity.” In addition to meeting Sam, in what other situations does Beth embrace Sunshine’s advice? How does it transform her by the end of the book?

3. Compare and contrast the atmosphere of Beth and Sam’s first blind date with the atmosphere in Beth’s hospital room during their private conversation while she’s recovering from the accident. How did the accident act as a catalyst for their relationship? Even though it brought them together, did it create any hurdles for Beth and Sam?

4. Loyalty is a running theme throughout the novel. Discuss how loyalty, and the occasional lack thereof, affects the relationships between Beth, Sam, Ellie, and Sunshine.

5. How would the story have been different if Sam had a 9-5 office job instead of being a mechanic? Do you think Beth would have fallen for him just the same? How does the difference in their careers make the end of the story even more satisfying?

6. So much of this book is about control: taking charge of it where possible, and letting go when necessary. How is that different for each character? Who are the best examples of each?

7. Discuss how Ellie tends to misconstrue situations because of her falling out with Sunshine. How does her negative outlook create a ripple effect into other areas of her life? What is the author trying to tell us about perspective?

8. The title of this book seems to gain significance as the story progresses. How did your understanding of it grow and change between the first and last chapters of the book?

9. In many ways, it seems like Beth’s and Sam’s differences are what ultimately bring them together. This is in stark contrast to how the differences between Ellie and Sunshine drive them apart. Compare and contrast these relationships. What can be learned from each?

10. Discuss how Sam’s relationships with Trish and Luci impacts how he interacts with Beth. Do you think Sam’s reaction was appropriate when Beth took him to Luci’s piano recital? Why or why not?

11. How did you feel about Sunshine’s reunion with Peter? What events set the stage for them getting back together?

12. The closing line of the novel reads, “Warning label or not, she was lost.” This passage refers to Beth being lost in love with Sam, but what other areas of her life could it also speak to?

13. Discuss the role of art, both visual and audible, for each character. How does it change your perception of them?

14. Have you ever taken a big risk, like Beth did in moving to Portland? How did you grow from that experience? What would you do differently?

15. Which character did you most easily relate to? How are you similar? Different?

16. Who would you cast to play each character in a movie adaptation of If Not for You? Why?