The story starts with bereavement and the inevitable feeling of regret at things left unsaid. Do you recognise Justine’s longing to set things straight? Should she have been honest with her parents in their later years? Or was she right to protect their contentment? Or was she protecting herself?
Studying in Spain was the catalyst that changed the direction of Justine’s life. Do you have experience of studying abroad or taking a gap year, or do your children? Is it better to study, or travel? And how would you react if your teenage child came home from a period abroad, to confess a life-changing event had happened?
Have you ever found yourself struggling without money, as Justine does in Málaga? How did you manage? Does Justine make the right choices? What could she have done differently?
Have you been to Spain? Where? Do you recognise the portrayal of Málaga, in the Eighties and when Justine returns in the 21st century? Have you seen flamenco performed live?
Rose asks Justine why she wants to find her lost daughter? “Do you really need to find her, to meet her, to be a part of her life? Is it a need like breathing and eating? Or is it enough to know how she is doing?” Where an adopted child has not sought contact with the missing birth parent, should that birth parent initiate contact? Or should all contact rights belong to the child?
Justine tells lies for twenty-eight years; about her time as a student in Spain, her poverty and her lost child. What is the longest time you have told a lie? How did it make you feel? Would you do it again?
When you look at a work of art, do you consider its truth? Or – like a film, play or novel – do you assume it is a work of fiction? Can you think of a piece of art where the presence of the real artist is obvious?
Justine is accused by the sculptor at the Royal Academy of being ‘emotionally-incontinent.’ Is that a fair observation about modern art, and modern society? Is the borderline between real emotion and fake emotion becoming blurred? And how can we help the younger generations analyse and question the truth of what they see?
Justine’s experience at the Aestrea Clinic is barbaric. If she had stayed rather than run away, how would her life have been different?
Do you believe in Nature or Nurture? How has your childhood informed your own approach to parenting? Are we who we are because of our family or because of our life experiences? Did a key event or memory in your life help make you who you are?
In her later years, Justine wishes she had been honest with her parents about her baby. Is honesty at all costs the best policy, or is it kinder to tell a white lie? Where is the line between a well-meant fib and a lie?
Have you experienced family secrets across the generations? How did it make you feel?
What are your memories of The Eighties? Is Justine’s instinct to protect her parents – and protect them from shame – familiar to you? How would you characterise your own childhood?
Have you, or a relative, researched your family tree? Did you find what you expected?
Adoption, and adoption reunion, and the focus it puts on family relationships, is a fascinating subject for discussion. But it can be sensitive and painful. Often today, adoption secrets are still hidden. So please bear this in mind when discussing these topics with your Reading Group.
Connectedness is the second novel in Sandra Danby’s ‘Identity Detective’ series.
For more information about the first, Ignoring Gravity, click here.
Read some of the reader reviews for Ignoring Gravity here.
‘Connectedness’ by Sandra Danby,#2 Identity Detective [UK: Beulah Press]