This reading group guide forThe Baby Planner includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Acting as a consultant for new moms on the latest baby gadgets, the best play groups, and the most socially desirable mommy meet-ups, professional baby planner, Katie Johnson, is finding it difficult to ignore the ticking of her own biological clock. However, the success of her marriage to husband Alex means squelching her own maternal urges and living vicariously through her sister’s and her clients’ pregnancies, until, as Alex puts it, “the timing is right.”
When she finally realizes that Alex will never budge from his stance to remain childless, Katie takes fate into her own hands and plots an “accidental” pregnancy. But things don’t turn out exactly as she’d hoped, and Katie is taught an important life lesson: how we nurture is the true nature of love.
TOPICS & QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. The author uses quotations to introduce each chapter of The Baby Planner. Which quote, if any, resonated with you? Discuss how these quotations reflect the events or emotional undertones of the chapters? How did they contribute to the movement of the narrative?
2. Readers learn how badly Katie wants to become a mother. How does this shape her character and her interactions throughout the story? Do you think Katie’s longing to be a mother holds her back from living life to the fullest? Give examples from the book to illustrate your opinion.
3. In the opening scenes of The Baby Planner, the author illustrates how having children forces changes that parents might not expect. Discuss how children complicate, influence, and disrupt the relationships in this book. Consider romantic relationships as well as relationships with other children, friends, family members, and even business partners.
4. How might Katie’s life turned out differently if she had never lost her job?
5. Katie married Alex knowing he was resistant to wanting more children, but she hoped he might change his mind. Have you ever wrongly assumed someone would change their mind?
6. On the other hand, by the time we meet Katie and Alex, he clearly knows she wants a child, his child, more than anything. Yet he continues to withhold that opportunity from her. In fact he even leads her to believe he might change his mind. Why do you think he acts this way? Compare and contrast Alex’s behavior to Katie’s.
7. Does this discovery validate Katie’s covert actions to get pregnant? Does it influence your ability to sympathize with Katie?
8. One character, Lacie Channing, points out that Katie’s baby planning service encourages “conspicuous consumption,” and makes the early months of motherhood less enjoyable and more “sterile.” Do you agree with her? Why or why not? Discuss the pros and cons of industries like baby planning, which capitalize on consumer mindsets and stressful, life-changing events (think wedding planning, event planning, and even personal shopping services).
9. Katie displays her social conscience as she regularly recommends green products to her clients. Do Katie’s recommendations make you reconsider the types of products you buy and use? Why or why not? If you’re a parent, did having children influence the choices you make about the kinds of products and food you bring into your home?
10. Katie’s mother worries about her new career as a baby planner. How does Katie deal with the conflicting emotions she feels? Discuss the ways in which Katie’s exposure to moms-to-be influences the decisions she makes in her own life.
11. On page 112, Katie makes the decision to stop taking “the Pill” and starts “Operation Oops.” While Katie had hoped to help Alex overcome his previous parenting mistakes, her decision is ultimately a deceptive one. How did Katie’s choice to “accidently” get pregnant change or reinforce your ability to sympathize her character? With Alex’s character?
12. Throughout The Baby Planner, the author depicts motherhood from a variety of perspectives. Compare and contrast the mothers in this story. Are their desires and expectations similar, or do they view motherhood differently? Which characteristics of the mothers do you feel are most desirable? Which mother did you relate to most, and why?
13. Discuss the various insecurities that Katie’s clients feel. How do these insecurities influence their actions? What are the consequences, both positive and negative, of the choices the mothers in The Baby Planner make?
14. Seth’s single parenting has the added dimension of his grieving his wife’s death after childbirth, and his initial reticence for becoming a parent in the first place. Discuss how his relationship with his baby daughter may have been different, had his wife had lived.
15. Katie eventually discovers that she was adopted. How does this discovery change how she views motherhood? Identify and discuss the lessons she learns through the experience of seeking out her biological mother and, eventually, coming to terms with her own adoption.
ENHANCE YOUR BOOK CLUB
1. The theme of motherhood is the obvious core of this book. Consider the mothers you know and discuss how becoming a mother has changed their lives.
2. Explore the field of baby planning by visiting http://babyplannerinstitute.com. Go to the “Members” section and visit some baby planner websites. Write down your observations and feelings about the industry, its benefits (or detriments), and how baby planners market themselves. Compare what you find to how Josie Brown illustrated the profession in her novel. Discuss your findings with your book club. Have you, or would you, ever considered employing a baby planner?
3. On the whole, Americans purchase and bring into our homes a large number of consumer products each year. While Safe-California, the consumer product safety commission that Katie worked for, is fictional, there are several ways you can learn more about the products you bring into your home. Take some time to visit the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website (http://www.cpsc.gov) to check out current recalls, read the “On Safety” blog, or watch some of the videos and webcasts. Share some of what you find with your book club and then make a commitment as a group to be more conscious of product safety before you buy.
4. To learn more about Josie Brown, visit her website at www.josiebrown.com. You can also read her blog and interviews to gain more insight into her writing process and influences. Discuss with your book club how much (or how little) Josie’s personality and background seems to have found its way into The Baby Planner.