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3. Why do you think there's friction between Maeve and Anna? What kinds of issues complicate relationships between mothers and grown daughters? Why do you think there's friction between Maeve and Anna? What kinds of issues complicate relationships between mothers and grown daughters?

4. Anna and Beck feel drawn to each other after years apart, and Maeve still pines for her estranged husband, Robert. Do you think old romances can ever come back to life? Anna and Beck feel drawn to each other after years apart, and Maeve still pines for her estranged husband, Robert. Do you think old romances can ever come back to life?

5. In continuation of the previous question, do you think old romances In continuation of the previous question, do you think old romances should should ever be revived? Why or why not? ever be revived? Why or why not?

6. How does the absence of Anna's father during her childhood affect her adult life? Did his absence have any positive effects on Anna? What were they? How does the absence of Anna's father during her childhood affect her adult life? Did his absence have any positive effects on Anna? What were they?

7. Does a person's past irrevocably color her future? Does a person's past irrevocably color her future?



8. Why do you think Cami comes back to her dad's house despite their history? Why do you think Cami comes back to her dad's house despite their history?

9. Have you ever known anyone to remain in a dangerous, abusive situation though it seems obvious he or she should leave? Why do you think this happens? Have you ever known anyone to remain in a dangerous, abusive situation though it seems obvious he or she should leave? Why do you think this happens?

10. Amy always strives to control every aspect of her life. Think about this personality trait in terms of her dramatic weight loss: Are the two related in some way? What other ways does she try to exact control? Are these actions to her benefit or detriment? Amy always strives to control every aspect of her life. Think about this personality trait in terms of her dramatic weight loss: Are the two related in some way? What other ways does she try to exact control? Are these actions to her benefit or detriment?

11. Have you ever made a dramatic yet positive change to your life, such as Amy made? Were there unexpected downsides to this transition? Why did they arise, do you think? Have you ever made a dramatic yet positive change to your life, such as Amy made? Were there unexpected downsides to this transition? Why did they arise, do you think?

12. Anna decides to remain open to the idea of contacting her estranged father. What would you do if you were in Anna's shoes? Anna decides to remain open to the idea of contacting her estranged father. What would you do if you were in Anna's shoes?

13. How did you imagine your life when you were younger? How much is it similar to what you predicted, and is this good or bad? How did you imagine your life when you were younger? How much is it similar to what you predicted, and is this good or bad?

14. If your life has not turned out the way you wanted, is it defeatist-or realistic-to accept that? If your life has not turned out the way you wanted, is it defeatist-or realistic-to accept that?

15. The author chose a quote from Th.o.r.eau as an epigraph for the novel: "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined." Why do you think she chose this particular quote? What does it mean to you, in light of what happens in the novel? The author chose a quote from Th.o.r.eau as an epigraph for the novel: "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined." Why do you think she chose this particular quote? What does it mean to you, in light of what happens in the novel?

16. Consider the novel's four main female characters. Is there one that you particularly identify with? Which one, and why? Consider the novel's four main female characters. Is there one that you particularly identify with? Which one, and why?

17. When you first read the novel's title, what did you think the story was going to be about? What does the phrase "the life you've imagined" mean to you? When you first read the novel's title, what did you think the story was going to be about? What does the phrase "the life you've imagined" mean to you?

A Conversation with the Author What inspired this book?

This book has been through many drafts and was once known by another title, and I actually started it before I wrote my debut Real Life & Liars. Real Life & Liars. I was sifting through my life to find material weighty enough for a novel, zooming in on times when I was most upset and scattered. A moment of disillusionment stood out to me. It was a time when I realized that doing your best, working your hardest, and being a nice person wouldn't guarantee success. It was a painful newsflash to realize the real world is not always merit-based! This brought me to the character of Anna, the attorney who is poised for the career success she thought she wanted, only to find it doesn't bring her the satisfaction she'd expected. Anna's mother, Maeve, was the next character. At first, she existed mainly to support Anna's story, but she emerged with a powerful tale of her own. Cami was simply "the friend," and Amy was a plot device, but their stories became more important as the novel went through its many drafts. I love the fact that it's an ensemble story now. Also, I loved the idea of using Geneva for a last name, if only for the "Geneva Convention" joke made by Aunt Sally. I was sifting through my life to find material weighty enough for a novel, zooming in on times when I was most upset and scattered. A moment of disillusionment stood out to me. It was a time when I realized that doing your best, working your hardest, and being a nice person wouldn't guarantee success. It was a painful newsflash to realize the real world is not always merit-based! This brought me to the character of Anna, the attorney who is poised for the career success she thought she wanted, only to find it doesn't bring her the satisfaction she'd expected. Anna's mother, Maeve, was the next character. At first, she existed mainly to support Anna's story, but she emerged with a powerful tale of her own. Cami was simply "the friend," and Amy was a plot device, but their stories became more important as the novel went through its many drafts. I love the fact that it's an ensemble story now. Also, I loved the idea of using Geneva for a last name, if only for the "Geneva Convention" joke made by Aunt Sally.

You mentioned many drafts of this novel. Why so many?

I am ruthless about abandoning projects that aren't working, and this was especially true before I ever had a book deal and thus a contract to fulfill. So, ordinarily I would have just filed this one away as a learning experience. But I always loved the ending chapter. Indeed, the existing ending is not much different than my earliest drafts. I was determined to write a book that earned earned that ending. I'm happy with the result. It was worth every bit of the work. that ending. I'm happy with the result. It was worth every bit of the work.

What inspired your fictional Haven, Michigan?

I had set Real Life & Liars Real Life & Liars in a real city that is very special to me, but this time I wanted total flexibility in the setting so I just made up a town. Originally I'd called the town North Haven, then I decided to drop the "North" entirely because "Haven" alone is so evocative and, for some of my characters, ironic. Haven is loosely based on Grand Haven, South Haven, and similar small towns on the southern sh.o.r.e of Lake Michigan. I worked for a couple of years at the in a real city that is very special to me, but this time I wanted total flexibility in the setting so I just made up a town. Originally I'd called the town North Haven, then I decided to drop the "North" entirely because "Haven" alone is so evocative and, for some of my characters, ironic. Haven is loosely based on Grand Haven, South Haven, and similar small towns on the southern sh.o.r.e of Lake Michigan. I worked for a couple of years at the Grand Haven Tribune Grand Haven Tribune as a reporter. It was my first real job, with a desk and business cards and everything. I was so proud of my own desk! The Tip-a-Few bar in the book is based on the real thing in Grand Haven. It's such an excellent name for a bar, I couldn't help but use it. as a reporter. It was my first real job, with a desk and business cards and everything. I was so proud of my own desk! The Tip-a-Few bar in the book is based on the real thing in Grand Haven. It's such an excellent name for a bar, I couldn't help but use it.

The Nee Nance Store is based on various small convenience stores near places I've lived. I love little family-run places-and their whimsical names-and had always thought a family business would make a great jumping-off point for a novel.

How did you come up with the title?

At first, "the life you've imagined" only came into play as a bit of scenery: the magazine clipping Anna had taped to her mirror as a girl and later tears down in a fit of disgust as a cynical adult. As the novel evolved into an ensemble story, I gave each of the girlhood friends the clipping and imagined how they reacted to it. The quote (which is actually a misquote-the real Th.o.r.eau excerpt isn't quite so modern and pithy) seemed evocative of this story about adults grappling with the contrast between their actual lives and what they thought they'd have.

Are you living the life you imagined?

No! And I'm glad. I imagined myself by this point sailing along in my career as a newspaper reporter, well on my way to becoming editor of a large urban daily. Novel writing was a vague aspiration for some undefined "someday" point. I always envisioned myself a hardcore career woman who would "do it all." I'm still a career woman, but the career is different, and my definition of success more fluid and flexible. I no longer try to predict my life many years ahead, and when I do imagine the future, it's more in terms of family and home rather than jobs and money. Also, the older I get the more aware I am that it's all so fragile. I'm happy that my family and I are healthy right now, today. And I'm awfully glad that my "someday novel" came sooner rather than later, because who knows what later will bring?

About the Author.

KRISTINA RIGGLE lives and writes in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with her husband, two kids, and dog. She's a freelance journalist, published short story writer, and coeditor for fiction at the e-zine lives and writes in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with her husband, two kids, and dog. She's a freelance journalist, published short story writer, and coeditor for fiction at the e-zine Literary Mama Literary Mama. Her debut novel, Real Life & Liars Real Life & Liars, was named a Great Lakes, Great Reads selection by the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers association. Though she doesn't live at the sh.o.r.e, Lake Michigan makes her heart happy whenever she can get there.

Praise Praise for The Life You've Imagined The Life You've Imagined "Unpredictable, touching, and true, The Life You've Imagined The Life You've Imagined is a stand-out story; I devoured it and wanted more." is a stand-out story; I devoured it and wanted more."

-Therese Fowler, author of Reunion Reunion "A richly woven story laced with unforgettable characters. Cami, Maeve, Anna, and Amy will snag your heart as they explore the sometimes-wide chasm between hope and reality. A beautiful book."

-Therese Walsh, author of The Last Will of Moira Leahy The Last Will of Moira Leahy "Backed by Riggle's trademark unflinching honesty and imbued with heart and hope, The Life You've Imagined The Life You've Imagined is a terrific novel about love and loss, letting go and holding on. A book to share with family and friends-I loved it." is a terrific novel about love and loss, letting go and holding on. A book to share with family and friends-I loved it."

-Melissa Senate, author of The Secret of Joy The Secret of Joy Praise for Real Life & Liars Real Life & Liars "This book is a must-read for anyone who has ever been both grateful and driven mad by the people they love most: their family."

-Allison Winn Scotch, author of the New York Times New York Times bestselling bestselling Time of My Life Time of My Life "With ease and grace, Riggle walks the fine line between sentimentality and comedy, and she has a sure hand in creating fun, quirky characters."

-Publishers Weekly "Funny, sad, and utterly believable. ... Kristina Riggle is poised to become the Luanne Rice of the Great Lakes."

-Elizabeth Letts, author of Family Planning Family Planning

Also by Kristina Riggle

Real Life & Liars





CHAPTER DISCUSSION