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1. The book is set in the 1990s, before social media and smartphones. How would modern technology have affected the plot and Duncan’s plan? Would Duncan still have been able to escape with Gina? Why or why not?
2. The author, who studied philosophy and psychology, wrote: “If Duncan’s childhood was shaped by isolation and restriction, Gina’s had been shaped by plentitude and loss.” Consider how the author’s background in psychology can be seen in Gina and Duncan’s portrayals. In what ways throughout the book are their individual childhood traumas revealed? How do their parents affect their decisions and actions as adults?
3. The book alternates point of view between Duncan and Gina. Did you root for one over the other? Did your position change as the novel progressed? Do you find one to be more trustworthy than the other?
4. When considering his friendship with Blake, Duncan thinks, “Blake’s glibness about the truth came as a relief.” In what other ways did Blake’s attitude impact Duncan’s outlook and actions? Do you consider Blake to be a good friend?
5. Memories may not be absolute truth because we view them through the lens of our own experiences. How do Gina’s memories evolve throughout the book? Have you ever reconsidered a memory based on new information? How does memory play into Gina’s character and her motivations?
6. Have you ever had a moment where you were presented with an opportunity to start over? How did it come about, and what choice did you make? Is it possible to ever start over completely?
7. Gina tells Duncan early in their dating: “I’m sorry also, for my mother. But for me, I don’t know, there was something that her accident taught me. It forced me to wake up and realize, there’s no guarantee of a tomorrow, and no such thing as a safe choice . . . You can lose it all in a minute. So why wait? Why compromise? If you want something, you grab it!” Do you think there’s such a thing as a safe choice? How did each of the characters “grab” what they wanted? Do you think they were right in doing so?
8. At one point, Blake says to Duncan about Gina: “In school, you know, she had a reputation as a liar . . . It was so bad, the school shrink had to see her.” Do you consider Gina to be a liar? How do you define that label?
9. The topic of money comes up frequently throughout the book. How does access to wealth impact Duncan and Gina’s relationship? Is it possible to have a relationship in which money doesn’t play a role?
10. How did you feel when Gina’s secret near the end was revealed? Do you think she manipulated Duncan?
11. Do you think Gina and Duncan are meant to be together? Will they have a happy marriage? What elements do you find make for a healthy relationship? Do you see those elements in Gina and Duncan’s relationship?
12. Why did the author choose Europe as a setting for most of the story? How did travel and being in unfamiliar environments play into the plot and impetuses for each character?Enhance Your Book Club
1. The majority of the book takes place in various European countries. If you’ve ever visited Europe, share your experiences with the group. If you haven’t, what countries would you like to visit and why?
2. Letters, postcards, and phone calls are all used as ways to connect the characters while they travel. If you have a friend or family member who lives far away, write them a letter or postcard and strike up a regular pen pal correspondence.
3. Consider the title and first line of the novel, “It was the end of getting lost—a moment when travel could still feel like taking leave of the familiar, before there were ten different means for a person to be reached in almost any corner of the world.” If you could “get lost” somewhere in the world, where would it be? Have you ever gone off the grid or lived without modern-day technological contacts? Imagine a scenario in which you could do so, or imagine traveling back to 1996 and living without modern technology. Share what would be the most difficult and most rewarding aspects of doing so with the group.Author Questions
1. Q: The first line of the novel evokes both nostalgia for a past time and recognition of today’s modern conveniences. How did the balance of these two perspectives come to you, and did you always know you would begin the novel this way?
A: Practical considerations about plot necessitated that the novel be set in the past, before we had access to the sort of technologies that make it impossible to vanish into a foreign landscape like Gina and Duncan do. Once that decision was made, though, I couldn’t help but have thoughts and feelings about that time, which just slightly precedes my own post-college years. The nineties were a period of comparative innocence, it strikes me now: after the Berlin Wall had fallen, when Eastern Europe was opening up and so inexpensive that plenty of young, creative people I knew were heading there in an often romantic and utopian spirit. I wanted that spirit to infuse the book and Gina and Duncan’s romance, and I wanted us to recall, too, what being present to circumstances and passions felt like when we could really leave our ordinary lives behind us. True, we’ve gained many conveniences and are able to maintain connections from afar, but communication technology has its costs. It’s not only altered how we travel and experience the unknown, but also how we fall in love, and the extent to which we can get lost in a place or in somebody else.
2. Q: The book alternates points of view between Duncan and Gina. Did you always know the structure would play out between their two viewpoints? Why was it important to share both of their narratives?
A: The decision to alternate perspectives must have been made early because it’s central to my mission in this book: to create conflicted and shifting sympathies for each character. That’s something I seek to do in all my writing: to unsteady our faith in first assumptions and create characters that are both more wonderful, and sometimes more terrible, than we’ve judged them to be. I like to have nice characters find themselves doing not nice things, or to have ugly actions be tied to beautiful motives, and I also like to give characters a chance to have the floor and reveal themselves in unanticipated ways that provoke us to reconsider our previous reactions. To me, such choices are a means of honoring human complexity, something a novel is poised to accomplish with special depth.
3. Q: The End of Getting Lost
weaves in so many different yet corresponding themes about memory, truth, and trust. Was there one question that motivated all these themes, or which drove your writing?
A: I’ve always been drawn to questions about love and blindness, romantic fantasy and distortion. Some may read this novel—with justice—as a story about gaslighting, if a complicated one, where both characters take turns being duped. It is that, but it’s also an exploration of the ways in which we all construct romantic narratives within a relationship, some of which might prove toxic, but some of which are necessary to power our passion and maintain our connection. As lovers, we affirm each other’s uniqueness in ways that might not be objectively true. We make inevitability out of chance, or find beauty in details others might find mundane. And we forget, too, (or cast out of view) our disappointments and pains, our joys with other lovers, so we can avoid having our affections smothered under an accumulation of grievances. Gina and Duncan’s story, in its extremity, is intended to magnify and expose what occurs mostly unnoticed on a smaller scale in all our love stories.
4. Q: This novel could be categorized in many different genres. Did you have one in mind as you were writing? Do you consider this to be a love story?
A: I enjoy writing between genres, which is to say weaving elements of the romance novel, romantic thriller, and suspense novel into what is primarily literary fiction. Then again, all of those elements have always been present in literary fiction, with the distinction being, perhaps, that literary fiction prides itself on being morally complex and unsentimental. The End of Getting Lost
is unsentimental, I think, and yet I really do consider it a love story—if an odd one where its romantic tendencies are followed to their not merely “happily-ever-after” conclusion. My aim wasn’t to skewer romantic ideals, as other novels like Gone Girl
have done better than I could. I couldn’t skewer them, really, because I consider myself a romantic too, like Duncan and Gina, both of whom come to realize that this isn’t a wholly positive thing to be. To keep a great romance going involves some deluding of others and one’s self; it involves both great sacrifice and great selfishness and might, as the novel suggests, require a certain letting go of the world and even a descent into a mild form of madness. But who’s to say it’s not worth it?
5. Q: How did your background in psychology influence the plot and writing of the novel? Have you always wanted to become a novelist?
A: Actually I started writing novels long before I entered training to be an analyst and my writing on this novel coincided with my studies. That said, there’s no question that my interest in writing and psychoanalysis have informed one another and, I think, share a common root. I’ve always been someone who’s strongly felt the power of the unconscious and been moved to understand how so much of what we do and are lies out of reach of our rational understanding. I also think my ways of building character are premised on a psychoanalytic model of how upbringing impacts the pattern of our adult lives, and on how needs and fantasies implanted in us early drive us on with a hidden force it can take a lifetime to recognize, let alone manage.
6. Q: Could you say a little more about how your thinking about psychology shaped the depiction of your two main characters, Gina and Duncan?
A: I spent some time in the novel sketching Gina and Duncan’s childhoods because I wanted to create human beings who would plausibly do the rather implausible things they end up doing. Gina, for instance, lost her mother young, which has instilled in her a fear of dying and losing those she loves. To my mind, Gina has used art and love to escape the feelings of grief and fear that threatened to overwhelm her as a girl—and so she’ll go to great lengths to make her life larger than life (and death.) Then you think of her willingness to forgive what Duncan has done, which probably most women wouldn’t. After all, he’s lied to her in the most egregious way, and taken wild risks to get her back. For Gina, though, who has suffered loss, Duncan’s willingness to hold on at all costs offers her the kind of reassurance she needs, and a partner for that large, artistic, somewhat unreal life she feels safest within.
As for Duncan, more briefly, this is a guy who has been forced to be cautious by his mother, and doesn’t, until Gina (and to some extent Blake) know how to risk enough to feel alive on his own. He’s also had to lie to gain his mother’s approval, which makes him just duplicitous enough, and just appeasing enough, for the role he’ll end up playing as a co-creator of Gina’s fantasy.
7. Q: What moment or scene was the most fun or the most challenging to write? What makes it stand out to you?
A: I do always love writing a twist ending, and this one, where Gina’s motives are revealed, afforded me the extra thrill of upending the view of her as Duncan’s victim and recasting her as the more dominant mastermind. Maybe it’s the feminist in me, but that was awfully fun.
8. Q: There are so many vivid locales throughout Gina and Duncan’s journey through Europe. Have you visited the cities described in the novel? Why did you choose Europe as the backdrop for their travels?
A: I’ve been lucky enough to visit all the locations in the book (aside from Lake Walensee) and roughly at the age Gina and Duncan do. I suspect it was my own travels as a young woman that influenced my choice of setting, which for me is linked to that period in world history. Europe served my story well, moreover, because this was the beginning of the European Union, when people could country-hop in a way that wasn’t possible before. It’s that freedom which allows for the continent-wide cat and mouse chase, full of momentum and the sense of a limitless landscape.
9. Q: At one point Duncan considers how both Blake and Gina “help[ed] him become braver and more alive.” Who inspired you to follow your dreams, or encouraged you to be “brave” in your life?
A: Because Gina and Duncan are both young adults, the novel is also a coming-of-age story where both characters learn to escape their pasts (and fail to escape them too.) In my own coming of age, there were different people along the way who served, like Blake does for Duncan, as antidotes to my upbringing, or exposed me to new ways of being. I can’t say all those relationships ended too well. In my experience, we don’t often learn the most from “good” role models; sometimes we find ourselves traveling with reckless people along reckless paths, only to find this has helped us sort out our own boundaries and rediscover our allegiances.
10. Q: What do you hope readers will take away after finishing The End of Getting Lost
A: I’d like readers to come away from the book with a sense of exhilaration, first—holy s—t, look what a crazy feat these two pulled off! After all, it’s a fun book, and part of the fun lies in watching these two lovers shape their destinies in grand ways most of us won’t dare. In the end, Duncan and Gina turn their backs on who and what they know and embark on a future that’s potentially gorgeous, but also fraught with risk. As our own doubts about their prospects for happiness sink in, that makes room for questions. I think the novel leaves readers with many. Is Duncan and Gina’s love mature enough to survive? Can it and should it make room for greater honesty and acceptance of their limitations and past misdeeds? How much is each of us, in our own romantic life, guilty of some of the same kind of wishful thinking and deceit? Is there something about a romantic ending that’s inherently unstable?