Appearances gets to the heart of what happens when illness interrupts the good life of a seemingly close Jewish family. Samantha Freeman, the fashionable wife of a successful Boston businessman, loves her husband and her sister, but the two of them can barely exist in the same room. When her sister is diagnosed with cancer in her early 40’s, her marriage and her family are tipped into crisis. Getting strength from her Rabbi and her religion, Samantha accompanies her sister to her oncology, chemotherapy and radiation appointments until her sister loses her battle with the disease. After a year of mourning, Samantha immerses in a mikveh to help find solace in the midst of profound loss. She discovers powers and skills she never knew she had. A story of love, loss, grief, forgiveness and healing, Appearances reminds us that no amount of privilege can protect us from marital difficulty, family conflicts or mortality.
Appearances: A Novel
January 1, 2013
Courtesy of Sondra Helene Levenson
- Why do you think Elizabeth’s husband, Jake, accepted her close relationship with Samantha and Samantha’s husband Richard could not?
- What was Samantha’s part in the love triangle between her, Elizabeth and Richard?
- Do you feel Richard’s demands at the beginning were based on not wanting to lose Samantha? Did he want something from her that she and Elizabeth had?
- Do you think Samantha felt in some way responsible for Elizabeth’s illness?
- What do you think of Jake’s profound grief?
- What about Richard’s reaction to Elizabeth’s illness?
- How do you think Samantha’s and Elizabeth’s parents were treated by their son-in-laws?
- Could the family have managed their reactions to Elizabeth’s illness differently?
- Do you think Samantha is defined by her care taking role?
- Do you think Samantha and Richard will end up staying married? What would you do in a similar situation?
- What is the significance of the title, “Appearances”?
- Discuss the concept of having enough love in one’s heart for a husband and a sister.
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