This reading group guide for After I Do includes discussion questions and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
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Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Read through Lauren’s flashbacks of her and Ryan’s relationship, leading up to the night of the Dodgers game. At what point did you notice a shift in their dynamic? Discuss with the group.
2. Early in the novel, Lauren playfully says of Ryan–“He always loved making me say the things he wanted to say.”
In what ways does this become a loaded assessment of their relationship?
3. Turn to page 135, when Lauren and her mother are discussing marriage. Lauren says that she doesn’t want to fail at her marriage, which her mother dismisses: “If you stay married for a number of years and you have a happy time together and then you decide you don’t want to be married anymore and you choose to go be happy with someone else or doing something else, that’s not a failure.”
Do you agree with her?
4. Even though the underlying question of the narrative is whether Lauren and Ryan’s marriage will survive, Ryan himself is not an active character for the majority of the novel, and we spend much of our time with other people in Lauren’s life. How does observing Lauren in these dynamics enhance our understanding of her? And did you have a favorite supporting character?
5. What do you think Lauren gets out of her relationship with David? Is the fact that he is separated from his wife integral to their dynamic?
6. Did Rachel’s revelation on page 241 surprise you? Do you have any relationships like hers and Lauren’s in your life–where the similarities are so clear that the differences can be ignored, sometimes to a fault?
7. Discuss the theme of communication within the novel. To what degree do these characters struggle to express themselves, and how do they find alternative ways of doing so when straight dialogue doesn’t suffice?
8. Turn to page 251 and re-read the conversation that Rachel and Lauren have with their mother about romance and long-term relationships. Do you understand Ms. Spencer’s perspective that, “I don’t need a life partner…I want love and romance.”
Can romance be kept alive by forestalling a greater commitment, or is it “the nature of love”
as Lauren suggests, for relationships to “become more about partnership and less about romance”
9. Discuss the role that sex plays in Lauren and Ryan’s relationship, and how it relates to the feelings of resentment that she describes on page 288. If romance is, in fact, destined to evolve into more of a partnership, what happens to sex in that equation? Is romance required for a mutually fulfilling sexual relationship?
10. Even though Lauren and Ryan don't have children, the potential demise of their relationship still has collateral damage. Turn to page 272, and the conversation that Lauren has with her brother about inviting Ryan to his wedding. Do you think Lauren has a right to an opinion here? Do you agree with her statement that, “I made him a part of this family…and he’s a part of this family on my terms”
11. Thinking about Ryan, Lauren says: “We have spent enough years together to know how to work in sync, even when we don’t want to.”
To what extent is a long-term relationship defined by whether the other person is someone that you know how to endure the tough moments of life with? Find examples within the novel to support your opinion.
12. Lauren gets relationship advice from a variety of people throughout the novel. Did any of it in particular resonate with you? Pick a favorite line and share why you connected to it with the group.
13. Speaking of advice: the Ask Allie
column plays a large role throughout the book. Was Lauren able to take any wisdom from Allie’s old columns that perhaps a closer friend or family member couldn’t have said to her directly? What did you think of her final letter to Lauren?
14. Consider the romantic partnerships that Lauren has to look to as models: her mother and Bill, Charlie and Natalie, Mila and Christina, even her grandmother and deceased grandfather. What does she take away from each of them?
15. Discuss the portrayal of compromise in the novel, and compare how it is depicted in romantic relationships versus within family dynamics. Do you think of compromise differently when it comes to family members, as opposed to romantic partners? Why or why not? Enhance Your Book Club
1. Read Taylor Jenkins Reid’s debut novel, Forever, Interrupted
as a group. How are these love stories different? Having now read two of Reid’s novels, what can you identify as distinct qualities of her writing style?
2. The emails that Ryan and Lauren write each other but never send prove to be very cathartic to both of them. If you could write to someone you’ve been romantically involved with (in the past or currently), knowing that they might read it but that they couldn’t confront you about it, what would you say?
3. The book makes the point that “marriage” is a word that has many different definitions. Whether you are married or unmarried, what does marriage mean to you?
4. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given, about marriage and family?