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1 Is there one character you relate to 6 What do you think kept Phoebe and

more than any other in this story? George together for six years?
If so, why?
7 Did you empathize with the way each
2 How well do you think Francesca Hornak character reacted to Jesses surprise
captures the family dynamic of a week arrival? Did you empathize with Jesse?
in quarantine over the holidays?
8 Is there a moral lesson that each
3 Do you think it was better/right for character takes away with them
Andrew to conceal his one-off infidelity at the end of the story? If so, what
with Jesses mother? Or should he have is that lesson?
spoken up and told Emma at the time?
9 What are the main themes in the story?
4 Why did Olivia stay away from her
family for so long? Have you ever 10 Do you like the way the story is told
experienced the feeling of not being from multiple points of view?
able to be yourself with your family?
11 The end is tinged with tragedy and
5 Discuss the sibling rivalry between hope. How did the ending affect you?
Olivia and Phoebe. Why do you
think we, as adults, fall into old roles 12 What do you imagine or hope would
when home with family? Have you happen next for each of the members of
experienced this? the Birch family after the closing pages
of the book?
A Conversation with

Author of

What compelled you to write SEVEN DAYS OF US?

In 2014 my oldest friend went to treat Ebola in Sierra Leone, and afterwards, she and her family
had to spend December in quarantine. When she told me, I couldnt stop thinking about the idea
of a quarantine intensifying the familiar Christmas set-up and how that pressure cooker could
make a neat start to a novel. On a more prosaic level, I found out I was pregnant soon after I
began writingso after that it was a race to birth the novel before the baby. I was editing when I
went into labor.
Which of the BirchesOlivia, Phoebe, into intensively potty training my son. We
Emma or Andrewdo you relate to the barely left my parents holiday home for a
most? Warning: spoiler alert! week. Im ashamed to say that I struggled
with my fathers insistence on hoarding
On paper Im sorry to say that Im most like moldy condiments (whenever I try to bin
the bratty, blinkered Phoebe but I felt for mustard with a 2010 date stamp I get
them all in different ways. I relate to Emma accused of being the fridge police), and my
as a mother and an inveterate worrier, and mothers tendency to launch into very in-
her impulse to uphold family traditions. And depth conversations at breakfast. I should
Andrews rage at his words being edited is be mature enough to find these things
annoyingly familiar to me as a journalist. I endearing, but family makes you regress!
found earnest Olivias head hardest to get The most rewarding thing about being at
into, though I think we can all identify with home is always watching my parents and my
resenting your family and wanting to be the children together. Seeing your mum and dad
adult you are at work, at home. Plus, we were as besotted grandparents is very specialit
both pregnant so we had that in common. softens everyone and breathes new life into
the house.

Were any of the characters based on


someone youve met before? Share your funniest (or most cringe-
worthy) family holiday story or tradition.
Not consciously! But my older brother is
definitely more intrepid and aloof than me When my brother and I were little, we
so the dynamic between the siblings has used to get so hyperactive that we were
some basis in my own experience. And at allowed to open one present under the tree
university in Oxford, I met lots of men like on Christmas Eve. It became tradition to
George Marsham-Smith . . . I only had myself deliberately pick a present that was likely to
to blame, as I chose an athletic college be a bit rubbish so you got it out of the way
thinking there would be less academic work, and werent disappointed on Christmas Day.
which wasnt even true. We had certain relations who could be relied
on to send a terrible giftsome of our top
Christmas Eve openings were a 1,000-piece
If you were forced into quarantine with jigsaw of baked beans, a negligee (when I
your family, what would you find most was seven . . . ) and a huge empty box.
challenging? Most rewarding?
I wasnt aware of our traditions being
We practically were in quarantine last cringey until my husband started spending
Christmas because I roped my poor family
Christmas with us and was slightly aghast What do you hope readers take away from
that we still all make stockings for each SEVEN DAYS OF US?
other when my brother and I are well into
our thirties. We also persist with real candles That family dynamics arent set in stone and

on the tree, even though it once caught fire that its never too late for relationships to

and my grandmother had to throw the whole turn around. I loosely based the plot on the

thing out of the front door. parable of The Prodigal Son, as Ive always
been drawn to the idea of second chances.

The uncommunicative Birches are in stark


contrast to the novels sunny Californian,
Jesse. What is your take on the cultural
differences between the U.S. and the UK
is that intentional?

From the start I felt Andrews son should


be foreign but English speaking, so I chose
to have him from the U.S. It was only
when I started to write in Jesses voice
that I realized his Californian positivity
and emotional fluency was a good foil to
Andrews cynicism and the Birch familys
stiff upper lip. So it wasnt deliberate,
but I was probably unconsciously drawn
to portraying those cultural differences
as Im a natural sceptic myself (much as
Id love not to be), and I really envy the
enthusiasm and straightforwardness that
seems to be the norm in the states. The
British embarrassment threshold can be A Novel by
painfully low! That said I think theres a new
generation of Brits who are already more
Berkley Hardcover
like Jesse than the Birch family because of
all the motivational mottos floating around
On Sale: October 17, 2017
Instagram . . .
ISBN: 978-0-451-48875-6
Price: $26.00
Holiday Icebreakers
Cut out these slips of paper and stick them in a hat or bag.
Take turns pulling them out and sharing your holiday stories.

Share a time a holiday recipe or meal went wrong.

What is the ugliest holiday sweater youve ever seen?

Share a time a family secret was revealed.

Share a beloved holiday tradition.

If you could eat as much of one holiday food as you like (with no regrets!) what would it be?

Tell everyone the plot of your favorite holiday movie or TV special.

What is the worst gift youve ever received?

What is the best gift youve ever received?

What would you put in your holiday survival kit?

Sing two lines from your favorite holiday song.

What do the holidays smell like to you?

Would you be able to make it through a seven-day quarantine with your family?

What is the name of an exotic location you would like to go to for the holiday?

If you could do the past seven days over again, what would you do differently?