Mating for Life

A Novel

Mating for Life

Maine meets Girls in White Dresses in this Globe and Mail bestseller about three very different sisters, their feminist mother, and what it takes to love someone—whether it be family, friends, or spouses—for life.

Former folk singer Helen Sear was a feminist wild child, raising three daughters, Liane, Ilsa and Fiona (each by different fathers) largely on her own. Now in her sixties, Helen has fallen in love with a traditional man who desperately wants to marry her—and while she’s fearful of losing him, she’s equally afraid she’ll betray everything she’s ever stood for if she goes through with it.

Her youngest daughter, Liane, is in the heady early days of a relationship with the love of her life. But he has an ex-wife and two daughters—and her new role as “step-something” doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Ilsa, an artist, is fervently hoping her second marriage will stick. Yet her world feels like it is slowly shrinking, and she realizes she may need to break free again, even if it means disrupting the lives of her two young children. And then there’s Fiona, the eldest sister, who discovers her husband has been harboring a huge secret, which makes her own past harder to ignore. To regain stability, she must face some hard truths, and alter her impossibly high expectations.

Through these alternating perspectives, and with pitch-perfect honesty and heartwarming humor, Stapley explores sex, marriage, and how the many roles that women play are often at odds with each other. Ultimately a celebration of the redemptive power of love in all its forms, Mating for Life is a stunning, memorable debut.
  • Atria Books | 
  • 336 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476797489 | 
  • June 2014
List Price $1.99 (price may vary by retailer)

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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Mating for Life includes 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.

Topics & Questions for Discussion 

1. Consider the epigraphs of the novel. How do they work together? If you had to pick a character to match each with, who would you pick and why?
2. Discuss the chapter openers. How did they inform your experience of each chapter? Did the description of the animal mating patterns make you think differently about monogamy?
3. How are Fiona, Ilsa, and Liane each shaped by their fathers? In contrast, how do you see the influence of Helen illustrated in each of their personalities?
4. Is there a character you identify most with? Which characteristics do you most strongly identify with? Are these things you like about yourself or don’t like about yourself?
5. Turn to p. 119 and reread the scene in the faculty lounge, in which Grace and Tansy discuss marriage. Did any of the points raised here particularly resonate with you? Why do you think people get married? Stay married? Remarry, even if they had a disastrous first marriage?
6. How integral is motherhood to H see more

About the Author

Marissa Stapley
(c) Eugene Choi

Marissa Stapley

Marissa Stapley, bestselling author of Mating for Life, is a newspaper journalist and a National Magazine Award–nominated magazine writer. Her book reviews appear regularly in the Toronto Star and she writes a commercial fiction review column, Shelf Love, for The Globe and Mail. She has also taught creative writing at the University of Toronto and editing at Centennial College. Her second novel, Things to Do When It's Raining, will be released in August 2017. She lives in Toronto with her family. Visit her at or follow her on Twitter @marissastapley.