I am glad that I had the opportunity to read this entire book because the hints of problems in paradise had been intriguing from the very start. If - like me- you are not immediately drawn in to the story on the first four pages, keep reading. The description of the geographical features of the island might seem stilted, but then the plot kicks in! It wasn't until the family member were introduced that I started to pay attention. I am glad that I had the opportunity to read the entire book because the hints of problems in paradise were intriguing. Alison, home from her first four months of college, is sort of a stereotypical young adult who would rather be with friends than her parents, even when it's an exotic and seemingly quite expensive island. Yet, Alison's interactions with much younger sister Claire seem contradictory. Readers no sooner start to think that perhaps they've judged Alison too harshly when her sudden sitting up from her beach towel and flirtatious patting of her hair to the resort's beach attendant again hint at trouble. There are troublesome descriptions of other family members as well. For example, why is the father so disenchanted just because a sand sifting machine is used on the beach to tidy it up each morning? This book is more than just a trouble-with-college-age-daughter tale, and book clubs will have plenty of social commentary material.
Here are some of the reading guide questions that came to my mind as I read. WARNING-- some of these questions may need a SPOILER ALERT:
1. What was your reaction when you learned the origin of Clive's nickname of "Gogo" ?
2. Were you bothered by the reaction of Alison and Claire's father when he learned that seaweed and other debris had to be cleaned off the sand each morning? What is it about his reaction that bothers the reader -or does it?
3. Were there any points in the book that seemed like turning points in the action or even the climax which turned out to just be rising action/ increasing tension? What were they? If you are unsure, what about the last page right before the chpater titled "Gogo" ?
4. Discuss the significance of Mr. Conti's high school memories as one of Alison's teachers.
5. What thoughts did you have on page 178, the chapter titled "Voices," when Alison makes an observation on her mother and their gardener?
6. There seem to be many passages in this book that relate to or are a commentary on friendship. Did you note any pages? Whether yes or no, ,look at the following pages and discuss: 86, 91, 126
7. What is your opinion of Thanatourism/ Homicide Tourism?
8. What is it that Claire is falling under the grip of, as she mentions at the end of page 146 (the last page in the chapter titled "Evidence")?
9. What are some of the differences between an ideal vacation destination and a place to live permanently, as mentioned on age 263.
10. Did you expect more intervention or action from the woman who cooked the pepper pot stew? What were some of the things you thought might happen? Why is she important to the story?