The Swallow’s Nest – Reading Guide

1–Graham loved, or was strongly attracted, to two women. Lilia loved two different men, although she and Graham chose different ways of acting on their feelings. Do you believe in soulmates, or do you believe love is rarely cut and dried?

2–Three women in this book want custody and control over Toby’s life. Could you understand their feelings? Could you understand their actions?

3–What make a mother “real.” Is it a legal tie? An emotional one? A shared history? Is the swallow who lays her egg in another bird’s nest the fledgling’s real mother? Or is the real mother the one who feeds and raises the baby bird?

4–The temperament of a baby can influence the unfolding relationship between a parent and child. If you look at parent-child relationships that you’re familiar with, can you detect a difference between the way parents treat children who were hard to manage as infants and those who were not?

5–After Toby’s birth Marina may have suffered from post-partum depression, but no one diagnosed it or helped her cope. Were you angry at her solution, or could you empathize with what she did, even if you couldn’t empathize with the way she did it?

6–Lilia grew up in Hawaii where family (ohana) includes many people who others might not regard that way. Did this help her welcome Toby into her life and heart? Do you think it will help in the future with the challenges she accepts at book’s end?

7–After so much time apart Marina doesn’t expect to bond with her son, but she does. Do you remember a time when you bonded with a child? Was it gradual or sudden? Was it stronger for being one or the other?

8–Ellen wants to make up for the indifferent parenting of her son by focusing on her grandson, but she doesn’t understand the mistakes she made and continues to make. Do you think she can eventually be an important part of his life? How important are grandparents?

9–Do you read home and lifestyle blogs? Do you tune in regularly to see what your new “friends” are up to? Do you try new recipes or crafts because the blogs you like suggest them?

10–The similarity between a parasitic cliff swallow, who lays an egg in another bird’s nest, and Marina’s initial abandonment of Toby is obvious. Have you known situations like this one that have ended happily? Do you think that open or “cooperative” adoption can be a success?