The Crossroads Cafe Readers' Guide

1. If you could be any beautiful woman in the world, who would you be? Why?

2. Do you feel that your looks--good, bad or ordinary--have played a major part in shaping your life? How?

3. Our obsession with physical beauty is a focus of the book. Do you feel that society places unfair expectations on women in regard to their personal appearance?

4. Even in today's supposedly enlightened world, are women still judged primarily on their youthfulness and looks?

5. Does it concern you when notable women in business, academics and politics are critiqued for their appearance? Do you feel that men receive similar critiques in public?

6. Is it still true that "Men get character lines but women get wrinkles?"

7. Do you feel that beautiful celebrities, like the book's Cathryn Deen, represent unrealistic and even destructive ideals for physical appearance?

8. Studies indicate that men enjoy looking at pretty young women more than women enjoy looking at pretty young men. In other words, that men rank physical appearance higher than women do. Do you agree?

9. Food--and all it represents in terms of family, comfort and heritage--plays a thematic role in The Crossroads Café. What part does food play in your own family memories and reunions?

10. Thomas Mitternich is consumed with grief for his wife and son even four years after their deaths. At what point do you think grief becomes self-destructive?

11. Thomas's ability to see past Cathryn's scars is one of his most endearing traits. Despite Hollywood images of beauty and perfection, many people in "real life" lead happy, fulfilling love lives regardless of severe physical imperfections. Discuss true anecdotes from your own circle of family and friends.

12. Have you ever made--or seen others make--negative assumptions about strangers who are physically unattractive? Studies show that pretty people are assumed to be smarter, more successful and more likable.