A Family of Strangers – Reading Guide

Reader Questions:

1–As the novel begins Wendy asks her younger sister Ryan for a surprising favor. While the two sisters aren’t particularly close, Ryan feels obligated because of her ties to Wendy and their parents. In Ryan’s situation would you have agreed to move back home and take care of Wendy’s young daughters? Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve had to drop everything and put the needs of your family first?

2–Ryan hardly knows her nieces and isn’t particularly fond of them. How well do you think she managed as their caretaker? Did you like or dislike her parenting style? Did Ryan develop a new relationship with Holly and Noelle as the book progressed?

3–Four years before the book begins Ryan fell in love with K9 officer Teo Santiago, until her stubborn miscalculation nearly ended both their lives. Did you believe they could surmount the trauma of their past and gradually find their way back to each other? Was time the healer? Did both of them grow enough in the interim to try again?

4–As a loyal younger sister with investigative skills, Ryan tries to help Wendy prove she’s innocent of murder. At what point in the novel did you begin to believe Ryan’s loyalty was going to be seriously tested? Did you think she accepted too many things about Wendy at face value? Could you understand why?

5–Imagine that a member of your own family came to you and asked for your help because they believed the police might soon suspect them of murder. Where would you draw the line? Would you be able to see that person clearly, despite a lifelong history of love and acceptance? Would you be able to question your mutual past and form new, logical conclusions?

6–All families keep secrets, some large, some small. Arlie, Dale and Wendy chose to keep the whole story of Ryan’s birth a secret. Could you empathize with their choice? Are lies always wrong, or are they sometimes appropriate? Once revealed did Wendy use this particular secret to try to form an even stronger bond with Ryan? What did that say about her?

7–Do you believe it’s possible for anyone to hide their true nature from the people they love? Have you experienced this in your own life? Have you discovered that someone you thought you knew was really someone entirely different? Do we ever see the people we love clearly? Do we choose not to see what we don’t want to face?

8–Ryan is torn by nearly impossible choices in this novel and chooses her love of family over her love of the law. Teo counsels her otherwise. Could you understand both their points of view? Did you believe they could find a way to still respect and love each other, despite their differences?

9–Did you believe that Holly and Noelle ended up exactly where they should be at the novel’s end?

10–After everything her family endures, do you think Ryan’s new episodes for Out of the Cold will be even more insightful, and more compassionate? Has she learned as much about herself as she’s learned about her family?