Alice at Heart Readers' Guide

1. One of the book's major themes is personal transformation. Aren't most of us secretly hoping for Cinderella moments in our lives?

2. What is the appeal of the story's major premise--that a secret society of extraordinary people might live among us? As with similar themes in books and film, is there a universal desire to believe that something or someone supernatural really does exist?

3. Sisterhood is a major plot element in ALICE AT HEART, and the bonds of women working together are emphasized. Does the modern world encourage women to form strong friendships? Considering the transient nature of modern families, is it still possible for most sisters to remain close and supportive of each other in the ways that were once common?

4. If you knew that your life span would typically reach 100 years or more, as the Bonavendiers claim, how would you live your life differently?

5. How do you envision mermaids, and what is the appeal of the mermaid myth? Do you see the mermaid as a symbol of powerful strength and allure in women, or as a frivolous emblem of female seduction?

6. In ALICE AT HEART, the title character is treated as an oddity and an outcast by her mother's family, the ordinary Rileys. In real life, don't both animals and humans tend to ostracize those who are different and perceived as weak? In some ways, cruel though they may be, isn't that Mother Nature's mechanism for weeding> out those who shouldn't reproduce?

7. The wooded barrier islands of the southeastern seaboard are unique and historic sites much different from the better-known tropical islands further south. What do you know about the history of famous barrier islands such as Cumberland and St. Simons (Georgia) and the famous islands of North Carolina's Outer Banks? What is the difference in the appeal of these islands compared to the stereotypical image of< life on tropical islands?

8. In the novel, psychic communication between the "Water People" is vivid and includes physical effects. Do you believe people are capable of psychic communication to any degree in real life?

9. The novel includes a fanciful collection of writings by one of the main characters, Lilith Bonavendier, in which she relates myths and legends to explain the origins of the Water People. Clearly, some of these tales are drawn from universal traditions such as the Great Flood and the story of Atlantis. Do such fables have any real meaning in modern life? As the basis for shared cultural touchstones in societies all over the world, they seem to have some grain of ancient truth in them. What fascinates you about the creation mythologies from around the world?

10. Lilith Bonavendier classifies all human beings as descendents of three mythological couples comprised of three "ordinary" men and three full-fledged mermaids. As such, most of us are either "Landers" or "Floaters," according to Lilith. Have you ever wanted to believe you're part of a secret tradition that might explain your most whimsical or unusual traits? Why do we try so hard to assign ourselves to a clan or "tribe" who share our view of the world?