Best friends since childhood, the sexual tension between April and Oliver has always been palpable. Years after being completely inseparable, they become strangers, but the wildly different paths of their lives cross once again with the sudden death of April’s brother. Oliver, the responsible, newly engaged law student finds himself drawn more than ever to the reckless, mystifying April – and cracks begin to appear in his carefully constructed life. Even as Oliver attempts to “save” his childhood friend from her grief, her menacing boyfriend and herself, it soon becomes apparent that Oliver has some secrets of his own–secrets he hasn’t shared with anyone, even his fiancé. But April knows, and her reappearance in his life derails him. Is it really April’s life that is unraveling, or is it his own? The answer awaits at the end of a downward spiral…towards salvation.
The book had discussion questions in the back. So, instead of a review I’ve placed the questions below and answered them but it may spoil the book plots if you plan to read it. Read it for yourself and then come back here and discuss my responses with me and what you think the answers would be. I really liked the book and it was different from what I usually read. The characters seemed authentic and the author didn’t shun going into some dark places. The ending left some issues unclear for me and personally I like completion so that is why it isn’t 4 stars for me. I want to know what happened to them. Sequel?
1. “It’s normal for lives to drift apart; April expected it. Even back then, when she and Oliver used to take Buddy down to the creek to catch frogs and let them go, April understood it wouldn’t be forever” (page 18). Do you agree that it’s “normal” for lives to drift apart? Why might April have had such mature insight at a young age? What is the effect of April and Oliver spending so much time together after five years apart?
Of course, it is normal for lives to drift apart and for many reasons. It happens to all of us. I think April was mature beyond her years due to life circumstances. She was responsible for Buddy which means she had to grow up faster than others her age. Her life experiences also led her to have to deal with physical and emotional truths that someone her age shouldn’t have to go through. But, after 5 years apart, maybe they feel like they need to make up for lost time yet at the same time knowing that it could be dangerous.
2. Why did young Oliver give up the piano and the Juilliard scholarship? How would his life have been different if he hadn’t made that decision, and what would April have done in his position?
Hard question. Maybe it was too personal? He couldn’t handle the feelings that it evoked in him? Not yet enough emotional maturity? I think he needed to experience life before he could compose about it. He seems to deeply feel and that comes out in his music. Had it happened to April I don’t know that she would have gone either to Juilliard. She felt a lot of personal responsibility and I don’t think she could have put that to the side.
3. When they were young and again when they reunite, Oliver has helped and protected April. Why does he continue with what seems to be a futile task? Is April thankful for his presence, resentful, or neither? What would you do in Oliver’s position? April’s?
To him, it’s not a futile task. I think he wants to fix her. So he’ll expend any effort. Plus, he really loves her and doesn’t want to see her hurt. April doesn’t know what she wants and she sure doesn’t know whether to be thankful or resentful. Can she be both? I can’t say what I would do in Oliver’s or April’s position. It is so situational. There would probably be times I would tell Oliver to mind his own business and other times where I might want it but just not able to tell him so. I’m also a “fixer” so I’d for sure tell April what she should be doing but she probably wouldn’t want to hear it.
4. “Sometimes a lie is more like the truth,” Nana says. “The truth isn’t always the way it happens” (page 70). What could she be referring to here? What other situations might this statement apply to?
Sometimes you tell the truth but people don’t know you well so they think it’s a lie. Vice versa. Sometimes you tell a lie but deep inside it really is the truth. Maybe you just haven’t come to grips with it yet. The truth sometimes gets skewed by our opinions, therefore, making the truth really not the way it happens. Is that the difference between fact and opinions?
5. April believes, “But she could never defile Oliver. He was too good. Too pure” (page 83). Why does she have such an exalted opinion of Oliver?
Oliver doesn’t have the same life experiences as she does. He hasn’t suffered as she has. She thinks she would bring him down and her level isn’t a good one in her mind. Oliver is so good. He hasn’t been defiled as she has.
6. During an argument, Oliver experiences an instant in which “he understands how men can do her harm.” He then muses, “Wouldn’t she love it if he struck her? Wouldn’t it confirm everything she believes?” (page 90). Is there any truth to his thoughts, or are they merely the result of his anger? If he’s right, why would April invite such abuse?
I think there is truth to his thoughts and they are also the result of his anger. April pushes buttons. He understands why men who hit would hit her. She isn’t complacent but at the same time, she’s passive. She almost doesn’t care what happens to her. No self-respect. No self-confidence.
7. When April recalls her own mistakes, she realizes they don’t matter because “…it’s too late for her. It’s always been too late” (page 101). Is it really “too late” for her to make different decisions? Is it ever too late for anyone to do so? What would Oliver say to this, and how would April respond to him?
She’s an old soul and has had a lifetime of experiences in such a short time. She’s lost her innocence and hope. But it’s never too late, at least that’s what I think. She needs some good stuff to happen to provide her some hope. She has to get that back. Oliver can give her that.
8. April thinks about her relationship with T.J.: “What she felt was not so much love as relief, because finally someone appeared who was willing to be her rudder. Yes, that was it. She was far better at reacting to situations than creating them” (page 112). Does April fit the passive bill she’s given herself? Why does T.J. provide her with something that Oliver cannot?
April is not passive. She’s just acting passive so she doesn’t have to feel. T. J. gives her space to breathe. Meaning, if she doesn’t feel she doesn’t think. She just exists. If she’s just passively involved in the relationship then she won’t have to deal with her problems.
9. “By the age of seventeen, [April] had already determined that sex was just something to get through” (page 158). What function does sex have for April, if not pleasure? For Oliver?
For April, it’s just a means to an end. It makes the other man happy. It gets them off her back. But, she doesn’t feel it. It just happens to her. Like when people treat her badly. She just gets through it and then moves on. For Oliver, I feel like it’s normal until he moves back to town. Then he’s just pretending it’s April. He doesn’t mean to but he can’t help it.
10. “What Oliver doesn’t understand is that [April] doesn’t fear T.J. because he can’t hurt her. Only Oliver can do that…It hurts not because she is a failure, but because he finally sees so” (pages 182-3). Discuss how April and Oliver hurt one another. Why do no other slights or physical attacks affect either of them as powerfully as they wound one another?
Because they care for each other is why it hurts. T.J. can’t hurt her because she doesn’t care for him. Anything he does and says is meaningless to her. She begins to think she understands why T. J. is the way he is and that becomes the excuse she tells herself for why he does what he does. But, she is hardened to him. He bounces off her. But Oliver gets in even when she thinks she doesn’t want him to.
11. Why did Oliver’s mother give her journal to April?
She knew. She absolutely knew April and Oliver were meant to be together. She felt April was her daughter in her heart and knew the closeness of April and Oliver would someday lead them together.
12. Why does Oliver thinking his mother had an affair with April’s father lead him to want to sleep with April?
I can’t even unpack this answer. I have no idea.
13. Compare Oliver to his brother Al. Why are their relationships to April so different?
Al is surface. Oliver is deep. It’s that simple. Al exists to just have fun and be your buddy, probably even a fuck buddy. I don’t know that Oliver can even exist on that level.
14. In describing the symphony movement that he matches to April, Oliver describes, “It’s moving, exhilarating, transcendent. The harmony is always changing but the rhythm never does. It unfolds subtly, hypnotically, like a trance. It gives you a sense of something that was already there, like the recognition of something you always knew. It extinguishes time. It doesn’t matter what came before or what will come later; each note holds everything. The music unfurls in a necessary way, like the roll of the tide. It opens and lifts you away with it” (page 272). April disagrees, but is this an apt description of her? What does it reveal about Oliver’s feelings about April?
I think it is a completely apt description of her. It is how Oliver thinks of her. It reveals his feelings are deep and intense. The feelings for his fiance are true but on a lighter level. While she might have satisfied him for the rest of his life April completes him and makes him truly feel. Plus, that is a damn fine description of a musical symphony.
15. Why does Oliver confront Quincy the night before his wedding, and then April during it? Is he willfully sabotaging his own marriage, is there truly a need for him to clear these old issues up immediately, or is it something else?
I think deep down he knows April is the one for him and always has been. This isn’t hard to figure out. So, yes, I think it’s self-sabotage. Had he not moved back to town the wedding would have happened as planned. He would have just carried that flame forever.
16. Will April and Oliver ever finally get together?
Yes, I think they will. But they have to figure themselves out first. They are on the way but their inner conflict is still causing problems.0