Suggested Book Club Questions: In Twenty Years and a Q/A with Allison Winn Scotch 

1. Do you have a time in your life that you look back on with rose-colored glasses or one that fills you with a particular sense of nostalgia?

2. Each of these characters has a very distinct personality. Who are you most likely to be friends with and who might you have been friends with when you were younger?

3. In college, mid-life was so far out of reach for these characters. When you were younger, did you contemplate forty (or older)?

4. Annie spends a lot of her energy on social media and putting up a false front to others. Do you see this on your own social media feeds? Do you think social media is helpful or harmful in our society? What would you change about it and what would you keep?

5. Lindy and Catherine have both achieved top-tier success in their public fields, yet each remains ungratified and unfulfilled (for different reasons) with these careers. You don’t have to be a rock star to understand this. Have you felt this way in your own life and/or career choices? How can someone rectify this lack of fulfillment

6. Catherine and Owen have been together so long that they have lost track of each other. If you were their best friend, how would you suggest they mend their marriage? Did you blame one of them more than the other for their problems? Annie and Baxter also struggle to find happy footing. At a certain juncture, is a marriage unfixable?

7. Colin bears the weight of a heavy secret – his involvement with Bea’s death. Do you think he finds a way to forgive himself by the end of the book? How would you react in the same circumstance in which he was placed?

8. Lindy struggles with aging in an industry that insists she remain alluring and young. Have you felt similar pressures as you have gotten older? Have you been able to embrace milestone birthdays with joy or do they give you pause?

9. These characters all struggle with being “happy enough.” In our society, so many of us are always looking for the next great thing – more money, more prestige, more everything. How do you define happiness and how do you define being “happy enough?”

10. If you could go back and offer your twenty-year old self a word of advice, what would it be?

Q/A with Allison Winn Scotch

**A note from the author: I have been chatting with a bunch of book clubs since the novel’s release, and time and again, a few recurring questions come up. So I thought I’d answer a few of them here, in case I can’t get on the phone with your club personally. Thank you so much for selecting the book and hope these answers give you a bit of insight into my frame of mind as I was writing! 

1. What was the inspiration behind the book?

I’ve long wanted to write a reunion book, as well as a book that explored getting older, approaching midlife, I guess. As I rounded the bend toward forty and toward my own college reunion, this book started weaving its way into my brain. It’s the story of now-estranged best friends who are called back to their college at the request of a friend who passed away. It’s not, I like to think, just about old friends reuniting, though: It’s really about who we thought we’d be in college or in our early years and who we become, and how vast or how close that divide is. It’s also about marriage and friendship and loyalty and failure, and all of the hard (and sometimes easy) lessons you learn along the way to turning 40. Also, I think most people have a particular time in their lives that they look back on with rose-colored glasses, and for me, college is it. So I suppose that was my starting point: returning to a place I feel very nostalgic about, but returning to it with the insight and maybe a bit of world-weariness that you’d have twenty years later.

2.  I know you went to Penn: how much of the book is true?

I’m asked this a lot, and my answer never changes because I swear it’s true: and that is that zero – none – of the characters are based on anyone I knew at Penn. I promise. There are cultural references and moments (like dancing to Prince at our local watering hole!) that are culled from my experience, but that’s it. To be honest, I find it much, much harder to write fiction based off of real life: my brain can’t separate the two, and thus the fiction aspect suffers, so pulling from my own college experience in that sense wasn’t even an option. In fact, about halfway through, I considered abandoning Penn as the setting altogether because it was getting too jumbled for me. But I sent it to another author who had also attended college with me, and she said to stick with it, so I did.

3. What’s the deal with Lindy? We hated her! ;)

It’s funny: I have heard from people who loved her and people who hated her. For me, personally, I have a real weak spot for her, and she might have been my favorite character to write, if only because I love, love, love writing bitchy, complicated women. (In fact, one of my first notes with nearly all of my books is to make the characters more likeable because I write “despicable” really well.) J That said, I had a lot of empathy for Lindy.  Of all of them, she has lost her way the most, and done so in a very public way, which doesn’t allow for her to express how lost she is. Here is someone who is so talented and has so much to offer, but can’t get out of her own way because she is so unhappy. I don’t personally relate to that, but at the same time, I get that – I can look around my life or in the pages of US Weekly and see that. She is self-destructive despite not wanting to be, and yet, she doesn’t know how to change. Also, she was carrying around this weight – her feelings for Annie – for so long that the heft nearly broke her. As I was writing her, I always envisioned that all she really needed was a metaphorical hug. Just some kindness. Which she is eventually shown. And that changes her…of all the characters, I think her arc and her shift is the strongest, and I loved her for it.

4. If you could write an epilogue for these characters, what would it be? Where did you envision their next steps? 

I have never been a writer who likes to wrap things up with a bow at the end because as a reader, I find that’s unrealistic to real life, and I like being left with a bit of a question mark that I get to solve on my own. That said, a bunch of book clubs have been asking for my thoughts, so here is what I’ll say: I couldn’t tell you where they will all be in another twenty years. But I do feel like they all left this weekend with the tools to improve and change their lives. I tried to drop hints of this in the final chapters – the way that Catherine reaches for Owen’s hand, the way that Annie and Baxter are finally honest with each other on that front step of Bruiser, the way that Colin forgives himself, the way that Lindy finds peace with her feelings for Annie.

So while I can’t say what the long-term outlook is, simply because that’s a whole other book (!), I can say, that in my mind, this is what happened when they returned home: Annie and Baxter shed their pretenses and lived a more honest marriage, which probably means they were each respectively more satisfied, and they made it work. Catherine and Owen also found their way back to each other, though with growing pains and adjustments. Colin returned home to Los Angeles with a clearer conscience and an open heart, which ideally, leads him to a more gratifying life, and Lindy gives it a go with Leon, who helps her shed her hardened exterior and tap into that vulnerability she long ago let go of. Incidentally, I think Lindy will make a kick-ass mom.

I like to believe that this weekend (and really, Bea) was the glue that stuck the shattered pieces of their friendship back together. Do I think they will ever be who they were back in college? No. Few of us are, really. But I think they stay in touch, they champion each other; maybe they gather for Lindy’s baby-naming or catch up when they are all in the same city. Maybe Colin settles down, and they attend his wedding. Mostly, I like to think, just as I like to think of my own friends, that they are happy. Something few of them were before Bea called them back to the place where they were once a six-armed star.