1. The First Day of Spring centers on Julia, a young mother who as a child committed an unspeakable act that she must now live with and atone for. In what ways are Julia’s adult decisions affected by Chrissie’s childhood experiences and actions?
2. The narration oscillates between Chrissie’s mischievous past and Julia’s cautious present. How did this color your read of Chrissie/Julia’s story and your ability to piece together the events of the novel?
3. Chrissie’s living conditions are squalid, and she is constantly left feeling ravenously hungry. Consider the two instances when her mother tries to be rid of her: the scene at the adoption agency and the scene with the Smarties. In what ways is Chrissie a product of her environment? Talk about how environment and community influence our upbringing. Would things be different if Chrissie’s dad were the one raising her? If the Beautiful Woman had adopted her after all? Could any child have done what Chrissie did, or were the circumstances unique?
4. Instead of meeting Sasha from Child Services for their check-in after Molly’s accident, Julia makes a rather bold decision to return to her childhood home. Would you do the same if you were in Julia’s shoes? Do you understand her reasoning for doing so? What does she discover from this visit?
5. Many of Chrissie’s misguided beliefs about the easy nature of life and death are rooted in her father’s sudden disappearance and reappearance in her life. Do you think her belief is genuine, or is she less naive than she seems? Would you call either Chrissie or Julia a reliable narrator?
6. There are very different mother-daughter relationships on display in the novel: Chrissie and her mum, the Beautiful Woman and Ruthie, Steven and Susan and their mum, and so on. What do these relationships tell us about the English town in which Chrissie lived? How have the various parenting styles contributed to Julia and Molly’s relationship, either consciously or subconsciously?
7. Throughout the novel Chrissie refers to Linda as her best friend despite calling her “thick” and otherwise treating her poorly. Discuss Chrissie and Linda’s friendship. What does each girl get from it? Discuss their reunion. Does it turn out as you expected?
8. Of her release from Haverleigh, Julia says, “The people in charge had hidden me away, then thrown me into a life I hadn’t expected to have to live, in a world I hadn’t expected to have to understand” (43–44). Discuss Chrissie’s time at Haverleigh. What lessons does she learn there, and why do you think she feels unprepared for her reentry into society? Was Chrissie truly reformed?
9. Do you think Julia will ever tell Molly about her past and her time at Haverleigh? Why or why not? What do you think the novel is saying about redemption? Is redemption earned or obligatory for all?