BOOK DISCUSSION GUIDE
BY JULIE TETEL ANDRESEN
Gather your friends, pour your beverage of choice, and enjoy a fun discussion of Julie Tetel Andresen's Love After All, as two wary 50ish singles wonder if a spontaneous and panicky business proposition has the potential to become something more.
IN THIS GUIDE
Spoiler Alert! The following discussion questions may contain spoilers for the book.
- Becca's text sparks Laurel's decision to tell a concerned stranger she needs a date for her reunion. Why is Laurel so dismayed by Becca's announcement, and why does she ignore her inner warning system? Do you think it was a "quick executive decision," as Laurel calls it, or a total impulse?
- Your Turn: Where do you rank on the 'caution vs. impulsivity' scale? In what situations are you more likely to be cautious, and when do you enjoy spontaneity? Have you ever given in to an impulse, even though all your instincts told you not do it? if you're comfortable sharing the story, how did it turn out for you?
- "I read a smart blogger once who theorized vampires as the narrative correlative to captains of industry sucking as much blood out of the economy as they can, while werewolves are more like rock stars howling their beautiful rage at the moon."
How do you feel about this analogy, and about paranormal fiction in general? What are your favorite paranormal novels? Note: paranormal fans might like to check out Julie's own paranormal books Here
- Chapter One jumps right into the action, as Laurel blurts out her date dilemma to Gino. What were your early impressions of Laurel, particularly her career self and her private self?
- In Chapter Two, Laurel and Gino make plans to be each other's dates at upcoming social events. What do you think of their reasons for needing a date at their respective gatherings?
- Laurel's penchant for making guesses appears throughout the book. Why do you think she uses this conversational gambit as often as she does?
- What does Gino (and what do you) think of Laurel's social skills and intuition? How do you enjoy social situations like a college reunion or fundraising event, particularly when you don't know many people?
- Both Laurel and Gino are successful professionals in their respective fields. Think of your own experiences with educators and your own observations of restaurants you love: what traits do you think a successful academic and a successful restaurateur would have in common, and what unique abilities would each need to possess?
- Food and family are the bedrock of Gino's life, and from the beginning, he is disbelieving and even a little suspicious of Laurel, whose experience and priorities are so different. "Where's her appetite for food? Where's her appetite for life?" he asks. Later, he compares Laurel to a "five course meal."
Are you a Laurel or a Gino when it comes to the importance of family and food memories and traditions? What memories stand out to you?
- Laurel enjoys improv, and in Love After All, we learn more about this special performance skill. What draws her to improv? Have you ever participated in or watched a performance? Would you ever try it? For more information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Improvisational_theatre
- Laurel’s feelings about self-worth contrast sharply with her professional poise and confidence. How do her insecurities and unsatisfactory dating experiences resonate with you, or with others you know who have moved on following the end of a relationship?
- What personality traits would you use to describe Laurel? Gino? In Love After All, we get to know them, as they get to know each other. Imagine that you know them in real life. What would you give their chances of getting together as a couple?
- Gino sees Laurel as a fox: why? How do you feel about that comparison? If Laurel is a fox, what does that make Gino?
- As mature adults, both Laurel and Gino bring with them grown children, successful careers, prior relationships, and other life experiences. At first, Gino isn’t particularly attracted to Laurel, and she’s not sure about him. What eventually attracts each of them to the other, and what convinces each of them, particularly Gino, to decide they are ready for a relationship, as opposed to a fling?
- In a pinch, Laurel often figuratively puts on her “Dean’s cap” in order to deal with tricky situations – for instance, her first encounter with her ex, Thomas, in the WA Duke bar. How does that visualization help her through tough encounters? What did you learn about Laurel’s and Thomas’s marriage, its ending, and the years that followed?
- During the weekend in Durham, Gino is sure: “I’m also over the idea that if she’d give me the least hint she was interested, my sexual interest would shift from theory to practice. She’s shown me her interest in her way. I want her naked and in my bed. It seems right, and I’m ready.” Gino knows his own mind – is he right about Laurel? How would you describe Laurel’s feelings for Gino, and, in general, the sexual chemistry between the two of them during the weekend in Durham?
- How do you feel about Laurel’s idea that she should ‘trade dates’ with Becca?
- During the Duke weekend, Laurel is unexpectedly recruited for an improv scene. How is the entire experience of a couple getting to know and fall for each other a little like all the elements of improv theater, as Laurel explains it to Gino?
- Why does Laurel react so strongly when Gino witnesses and gets involved in her second encounter with Thomas? Even a session with Becca doesn’t help. “I can’t quite convince myself Gino doesn’t find something lacking in me, something in me he feels falls short. I’ve felt it from the beginning, and I don’t think I’m wrong to have picked it up.”
- Laurel’s heartfelt “Why am I not worthy of love the way I am?” leads her to once again push Gino away and “keep herself to herself.” What is behind this insecurity in an otherwise successful woman, and do you know real-life women who remind you of Laurel in this way?
- After his epiphany regarding Laurel’s character (“clear and soft and strong,”) Gino takes matters into his own hands. He ambushes Laurel in the lobby, asks about the flowers, invites her to museum-hop, and then says they will discuss the events of the previous Saturday “when we’re naked.” Laurel is flat-out stunned. From then on, things progress quickly! What do you think of Gino’s courtship of Laurel, and the revelations and understanding that grow between them during their time at the Plaza Hotel?
- How do you feel about Laurel’s decision to prioritize a date with Gino over a conference she had been planning for a year? Can you imagine making a similar decision? Why did she not simply ask Gino to reschedule?
- In the days that follow, Laurel and Gino establish their patterns as a new couple. What stands out to you about their fledgling relationship, its future potential, and their individual comments on it? How did you feel about Josie’s unexpected visit?
- Love After All explores the male-female dynamic, allowing readers to experience events from both Laurel’s and Gino’s viewpoints. How do you feel about the use and authenticity of dual points of view in Love After All, as opposed to a book written from only Laurel’s or Gino’s perspective? Why do they always seem to have opposing views on the success (or not) of their various encounters?
- As Julie says in her blog post “Story Ideas: Mix and Match” Laurel and Gino must “transform and find something new in themselves that will allow them to connect.” How did Laurel and Gino change, and let their connection grow?
- Near the beginning of the book, Laurel says she fantasizes about being a full-figured opera singer. Does Gino’s unabashed art preference for lots of naked female flesh, and his preference for Laurel to be naked whenever possible somehow fulfill her fantasy?
- As you experienced this story from both Laurel’s and Gino’s points of view, did you find you enjoyed or felt drawn to both characters equally, or to one more than the other? Why?
- Love After All is a love letter to both New York City and Durham, NC as well as a story of two 50ish professionals taking a chance on each other. If you have lived in or visited either city, how did you feel about the twin settings as depicted in the novel? What impressions of either city would you share?
- Does Love After All remind you of any other books or movies that explore second-chance mature romance?
- If you were a casting director, who would play the roles of Laurel and Gino in a movie version of Love After All? Who would play Laurel’s ex, Thomas, and Gino’s deceased wife, Rosie?
- If you were discussing this book with Julie, what feedback would you have for her?
BOOK CLUB MENU IDEAS
Food figures prominently in Love After All!
While you are ‘chewing’ on the discussion questions, chew on some of the treats you might find at one of Gino’s New York City restaurants or at one of Laurel’s beloved Durham dining establishments!
ASK THE AUTHOR:
A CONVERSATION WITH JULIE TETEL ANDRESEN
Love After All's main character, Laurel, has a lot in common with Julie herself! Here's what Julie has to say in her blog post "Cameos":
"So, she's not me, but she's close, and her character was not a stretch. She's divorced which I am not (my husband died), but she lives alone, as do I. She loves her research, does yoga, and likes to go out to eat with friends. If she thinks something, it's usually because I've already thought of it or would think of it and, in fact, did think of it as I was writing the story."
Read on to learn more about Julie and the world of "Love After All"!
As far as Duke/Durham goes, I wanted to convey the vibrancy of both the town and the campus. Also, the beauty.
Two people go on a date. She thinks it's going okay. He doesn't. Next time it's the other way around. What's it like to write about these same encounters? Tons of fun!
The years I spent in academics -- from giving what amounted to my job talk at Duke, to getting tenure then getting promoted to full professor -- were a non-stop pressure cooker. Making it to full professor let the pressure off a bit. The politics, the publishing, the need to keep your head on straight and focus on producing original research (and not succumbing to trends), raising children, while also retaining some sense of womanhood is quite the balancing act. Laurel cracked one way, I cracked another. (Side note: romance writing has been a very adaptive activity for me in a very stressful environment.)
The reasons Laurel gave for signing up are exactly the ones I had. Improv is great for limbering up, being responsive to situations without trying to control them, having fun, creating something out of nothing.
I have no idea if improv is a metaphor for anything in the book. In my head Laurel + NYC + being a dean + doing improv go together.
Then, of course, it turns out she didn't have to make the choice. She could have asked Gino to move the date to Sunday. I'm still glad she made the choice she did. She knows the cold comfort of a brilliant career.
THE WORLD OF LOVE AFTER ALL
New York City
Laurel and Gino unabashedly love all that New York City has to offer! As the city returns to life after the long, dark months of the pandemic, New Yorkers and visitors are busy rediscovering all that they love about the city as well. Here are just a few of the people, places, and sights of NYC as mentioned in Love After All to help you kindle (or rekindle) your own love for the Big Apple!
Laurel and Gino are both art lovers, although when it comes to art, as well as with their many other interests and preferences, they have their distinct tastes and have to figure out compromises!
Enjoy browsing these art museums and art works referenced in Love After All.
Titian’s painting of Venus and the Lute Player defines Gino’s view of sensuality. If you are in New York, check it out at The Met.
Laurel’s takedown of her ex-husband Thomas reminds Gino of the terrible, yet magnificent anger on display in this disturbing, ruthless Biblical image of the Jewish woman Judith slaying the Assyrian general Holofernes. To see the painting in real life, you’ll need to visit the Uffizi in Florence.
Just in case Laurel needed a sensual nudge in the right direction, Gino was ready to suggest a visit to the Neue Galerie Museum for German and Austrian Art, and an exhibition of erotica.
Laurel and Gino never quite make it to the Museum of Modern Art to see an example of Laurel’s favorite art style - abstract impressionism. Here’s a summary of what they might see when they do go – or when you do!
They do, however, make it to the famed Plaza Hotel!
Big Apple Destinations
Laurel and Gino both live in The Brevoort East, a real-life co-op in Central Greenwich Village. Want to take a look? Here’s the link: http://www.20east9.com/v2/
Have you ever lived in or visited Greenwich Village? What impressions would you share with your group?
If you rock games like Charades where you must act out a word, phrase, or scenario for others to guess, maybe you are ready for improv! Here’s an introduction to Peoples Improv Theater, where Laurel takes her improv classes.
Laurel serves as Dean of the Humanities at NYU. If you’re living in or visiting New York City, check out the university and iconic Washington Square Park in the heart of campus.
Following the attack on the World Trade Center towers, St. Paul’s Chapel (the ‘sacred space' near Gino’s restaurant, All American) played an essential role in comforting, supporting, and serving rescue and recovery workers. Read this inspiring story of hope and help.
The High Line, where Laurel walks out her blues, is a popular elevated 1.45-mile rail trail and greenway located on the west side of Manhattan. It’s always a happening place, in every season!
From her Brevoort East condo, Laurel can see the lights of the Empire State Building and the firefly-like flashes from tourists taking photos.
Gino is a diehard Yankees fan, and organizes work obligations around home games at Yankee Stadium!
Laurel is amazed and impressed at the renaissance of Durham, NC in recent years, and there is no better time to see it than in spring. Enjoy every kind of dining experience – and you might especially want to try the Carolina pulled pork and barbecue for which the area is so famous.
Laurel wins major foodie points and wows Gino’s golf foursome when she sends over lunch from Durham’s longest continuously-operating restaurant, Bullock’s!
For those looking for a first-class golf experience right on the Duke University campus, Gino can vouch for the Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club. Unfortunately for Laurel, her ex-husband ruins what would have been a very comfortable read in the bar.
Laurel takes pride in Duke University, her alma mater, and enjoys showing Gino its beautiful campus. Read more about the university and its history, and plan to visit if you are ever in the Durham area.
Laurel and Gino can’t help but warm up to each other during a romantic spring walk in Duke’s magnificent 55-acre botanical gardens, found right in the heart of the campus. Learn more about the gardens – they are a Durham must-see, especially in the spring!