This reading group guide for Somebody Like You includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Beth K. Vogt. 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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Stephen and Sam Ames had big plans for their lives. Growing up as identical twins, they shared everything from toys to dreams of owning a Mustang. But the painful aftermath of their parents’ divorce and the reality of the war in Afghanistan set them on separate paths and changed their relationship forever. As Stephen begins a journey to make peace with his brother, he discovers one more thing they share, which will require him to step out in faith and trust God for the outcome. Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Based on the description in the prologue, how would you describe Stephen and Sam’s relationship when they were young boys? How would you describe Stephen? Sam?
2. What does Stephen’s conversation with his boss about the pending layoffs in chapter one reveal about his character?
3. How would you describe Haley Ames as she enters the story in chapter two? What did you feel toward her when you first met her?
4. What happened that created distance and tension in Stephen and Sam’s relationship? In what ways did each of them contribute to the rift in their relationship? Have you ever experienced a similar change in a close relationship? How did you respond?
5. Describe how Haley’s family of origin influenced the way she related to her femininity. What were the Jordan family rules (p. 83)? How do they compare with God’s design for Haley as his daughter?
6. What do you think Stephen was looking for when he went to visit Haley Ames after his brother’s death? Have you experienced the loss of a close family member or friend? What were some of the ways you expressed your grief?
7. In what ways did Stephen and Sam turn out to be identical? In what ways were they very different from each other?
8. What did Haley’s growing friendship with Stephen reveal about her marriage to Sam? How did she deal with her pain and disappointment during their marriage?
9. Do you think Stephen and Sam’s parents had any responsibility for the distance that developed in the brothers’ relationship? How might they have fostered a different outcome?
10. Why did Haley have her heart set on a baby boy? In what ways did baby Kit serve as a catalyst for change in Haley’s life?
11. How would you describe Haley’s relationship with God in the aftermath of Sam’s death? What shifted or changed as the story unfolded?
12. On p. 122, Haley says: “Praying feels like trickles of water coming out of a hose when someone has tied a big knot in it somewhere.” Have you ever related to this description of prayer? Explain.
13. What role did Lily, the childbirth instructor, play in Haley’s life?
14. What was the misunderstanding that created distance between Stephen and Haley before Sam’s memorial service? How could each of them have handled the situation differently? What got in the way of honest, direct communication?
15. What happened to Haley’s heart as she experienced Stephen’s consistent care? How is Stephen a Christ figure in this story? Describe Haley as the story finishes in contrast with the beginning.
16. How did you respond to Stephen and Haley’s developing relationship? Enhance Your Book Club
1. Spend some time reflecting on your family motto or a friend’s family motto. Connections to think about might include money, conflict, gender roles, etc. Consider how your motto either reflects or contradicts God’s design for us as His children. Discuss what you learned with your book club.
2. Read Psalm 32. Think about relationships in your life that may have ended abruptly or with an unresolved conflict. Ask God for guidance about how to process any remaining grief or anger.
3. Think about someone within your community who is a widow or a widower (potentially a military widow or widower). Discuss ways to serve and encourage them and consider using the time of your next book club meeting to provide tangible help and encouragement to them.
4. Invite someone who is an identical twin to talk to your book club. Explore the differences between someone who grows up as a twin and others who have non-twin siblings. A Conversation with Beth K. Vogt You have said that your first novel, Wish You Were Here, took three years to write and your second one, Catch a Falling Star, took three months. How about this one? Somebody Like You
was also written in a shorter time frame—about three months. However, I tore this novel apart in the editing process in a way I’ve never done with any of my other books. I was challenged by both my mentor and my editors—but even more, the issues within this novel demanded a whole new attention to detail and a willingness to delve into emotion. What was your inspiration for writing Somebody Like You?
The initial catalyst for this novel was the fact that I’m a twin. I took the basic twin storyline and turned it inside, outside, upside down and finally created the story of Haley, Sam, and Stephen. You’ve indicated that you like to distill your stories down to questions. What was the main question for Somebody Like You?
I started with the question: Can a young widow fall in love with her husband’s reflection?
Hidden within that is the novel’s story question, which is: Is it ever wrong to love someone? How did your experience of being a twin influence the story line? Are you an identical twin?
I understand the experience of being a twin in a very different way from Sam and Stephen because my sister and I are fraternal twins. Growing up, we had a difficult time convincing people we were sisters, much less twins. My sister and I were very different and yet we experienced the pressure of comparison from teachers and friends, which pushed us apart for a lot of years. And so, because of that, I can understand the separation Sam and Stephen experienced. Haley Ames struggles to open herself up to vulnerability and intimacy throughout the story. Why do you think this is such a common struggle for women today?
We each experience events in our lives that create wounds that tell us we aren’t good enough, we aren’t beautiful enough . . . we aren’t enough
. And then we compare ourselves to others, believing other women have it all together and we’re the only one who struggles. What message did you hope to speak through Haley’s gradual awakening?
Sometimes we let others tell us who we are. We forget who we really are. Love, unconditional love—the kind of love that is there, day in and day out—heals our wounds and allows us to be our true selves again. You’ve mentioned in other interviews that your husband spent twenty-four years in the military. How did your experiences during those years shape this story?
During our years in the military, several of our friends lost their husbands. Seeing that—and walking closely with one friend through that—changed me. How did those losses impact you?
I always said my husband was in the military and I was along for the ride. I have the greatest respect for military men and women, for the sacrifices they make—and for the families who love them and support them as they serve. What did you hope to give readers in the prologue—the brief story of Stephen and Sam’s relationship as young boys?
Oh, I debated the prologue with my mentor, Rachel Hauck. Writers are told not to begin a novel with a prologue. But this is one of those “exceptions to every rule” times. I believe readers needed to see Sam and Stephen as young boys—to see what they lost. What was uniquely enjoyable about this novel in contrast to your first two? Somebody Like You
was so challenging to write. Yes, it’s a romance, but it deals with issues of widowhood and estrangement. I believe I stood up to the challenge of writing this story honestly, in a believable way—with the support of my family, mentors, and “spiritual ground support.” Have you ever had a relationship end abruptly or with unresolved conflict? How did you respond?
I never imagined that as I wrote Somebody Like You
I would also wrestle with estrangement in my own life. It’s been painful—heartbreaking, truthfully. I’ve embraced the truth of the verse in Romans 12: As much as you are able, be at peace with all men
. I’ve done what I could . . . and I’ve had to let that be enough for now, trusting that God is working in my life, even when I don’t see anything happening. What was your inspiration for the tree house? Did you have a tree house as a child?
I think there’s something inherently hopeful in tree houses—they are the stuff of childhood, of dreams. And I saw a TV show about tree-house builders, which inspired me to weave the tree house more strongly through the story. I never had a tree house as a child, but I always wanted one. Do you have a family motto you hope your children remember?
Our family motto is: There’s always room for one more
. It grew out of our time as a military family, when we spent so many holidays away from relatives. We always tried to open our home to whoever needed a place to celebrate. What can we expect from you next?
I’m one of the authors in the A Year of Weddings series by HarperCollins—I’m the author of the “A November Bride” novella. I’m brainstorming several Colorado romance series . . . so we’ll see what doors God opens!