The Fifth Letter
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1. The book’s narrator, Joni, is disappointed to learn that her childhood friends don’t share everything like they used to. Do you think she’s being dramatic? How many of your secrets do you share with your friends?

2. Do you believe Joni as a narrator, or do you think her point of view is skewed?

3. Even in her letter, Joni didn’t share what was happening in her quest for a child. Why do you think she held that back, even as she was hoping for greater connection with her girlfriends?

4. One of the secrets revealed is that someone has a crush on another woman’s husband. Is this sort of feeling better kept private or discussed openly? Would you have shared such a secret?

5. It was Joni who pulled Deb, Trina and Eden into a friendship on that first day of school, and her who brings them together in the cottage years later. Does everyone have a role in a friendship group? Discuss the consequences of this and how these roles change over time.

6. For years Eden kept what really happened in Adelaide a secret from her friends. Even when given the opportunity to share her secret in the letter she backed out of spilling the truth. What did you think when you learned her truth? Were you surprised?

7. Drinking is a recurring topic in the novel, from Deb’s drunken escapade at school to Eden’s horrific attack in Adelaide to Trina’s behaviour at Eden’s dinner party. Do you think the story would be different if these women hadn’t overindulged?

8. Are friendships with those you meet in childhood different to ones formed later in life? How does meeting at a young age change your relationship?

9. Joni and Eden are both desperate to win the Dirty Thirty Challenge. Is competitiveness healthy within friendships? When does it become too much?

10. In one of the letters the woman reveals worries over being a bad mother while her husband is ready for a second child. Reading the examples given in the letter, are the concerns legitimate? Why do you think that these pressures still concern women more than men?

11. Were you surprised when you learned who wrote the fifth letter? Who did you think wrote it while you were reading? Discuss the ways in which the author toys with the reader.

* Some questions from Reading Group Guides