Book Lovers Unite Week 1 Discussion Questions: The Life List


It’s time! It’s here! All October long we will be discussing The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman- a fantastic debut novel that is heartwarming and made of wonderful!

This is Week 1 of the discussion- here is the Reading Schedule! Need to know more about Lori Nelson Spielman? Read the  interview and author spotlight that was featured on Traveling With T over the summer!

Questions for Week 1:

1. Did you ever make a “life list” for yourself? If so (and if you feel like sharing) what were some of the things on the list?

2. When The Life List begins, we know that Brett has lost her mother. Brett is filled with grief and sadness- but does have to smile a bit that her mother has taken some steps to make this day easier (the champagne and the journal for later). Would you read the journal today or wait?

3. “Who’s going to boost my confidence now that my mom’s gone?”- Brett, pg 7. Is this a normal mother-daughter relationship? Or an extra-special relationship?

4. Is it cruel or loving what Elizabeth has in mind for Brett to receive her inheritance?

5. Brett’s friends try to think of ways that Brett can technically complete the list- is this what Elizabeth was thinking when she stipulated the list in her will?

6. Why is Brett so hesitant to contact Carrie?

7. Elizabeth asks “Where did she go, that fearless, self-assured girl who loved to entertain?” Why is Elizabeth so worried about this? People change- so why can’t Elizabeth accept this is not part of Brett’s personality anymore?

8. Elizabeth gives Brett a deadline as to when to finish the goals. Why? Should the deadline be negotiable? Shouldn’t Brett have time to grieve?

9. Brett loves Andrew.  Can she cross the “falling in love” off her life list?


* These are just some questions to get you thinking- feel free to answer all or just some! If you have a question ask- just don’t ask about anything that did not happen between pages 1-96 #nospoilersplease!


16 thoughts on “Book Lovers Unite Week 1 Discussion Questions: The Life List

  1. k2reader says:

    #1. I have not made a life list, but kind of want to now!!!

    #2. I don’t know that I would be able to wait to read the journal…although I do understand that it might be a bit too much at that moment.

    #3. When I first started reading this and saw how close the two were, it made me think of the relationship I have with my mom…she never interferes with my life, but always gives me things to think about when she believes I need a push in a certain direction.

    #4. I think Elizabeth is trying to get Brett to open her eyes and realize she’s not as happy as she thinks she is.

    #7. I think Brett believes she’s changed, but I don’t think Elizabeth thinks Brett changed much. I also think that Brett has just stopped being herself in some ways and Elizabeth is trying to change this.

    #9. I don’t think she really loves Andrew – I think she loves the idea of being in a relationship and Elizabeth has seen through this, wanting Brett to take a look at what else is out there.

    I can’t wait to see how things play out. I have some hunches and want to see if I’m right!

    Good pick T!!!

    • 1. I have a sort-of life list that I’m going to share at the end of the month!

      2. I don’t think I could wait either. But, I think I would need to try b/c already my life is falling apart- and maybe wait for a day when I have more strength to read.

      3. I have a pretty close relationship with my mom. She’s still my best friend- but sometimes- things are tough w/us. She sometimes has things to say that really do not need to be said. And sometimes, esp in the last couple or 3 years, I feel that she doesn’t always listen to my concerns about things. Which makes me want to scream!

      4. I do think that Elizabeth is trying to show Brett how different her life is from the life that she deserves.

      7. Life takes swings at us- we learn how to tuck parts of ourselves away- to try and conform to expectations. When we are truly authentic and someone hurts us- it’s a pain that really can’t be overlooked- and instead of being able to write it off- we alter ourselves. Maybe we never really get rid of the true self- but we do change, at least a bit. Poor Brett for learning that lesson at a tender age.

      9. Exactly! Andrew is fine- for someone else. But for Brett, he’s just the ideal man- who’s really not right for her. Ole Elizabeth was pretty smart!

      Thank you, K! 🙂 I’m so glad you are enjoying this read!

      • lorispielman says:

        I completely agree, T–we learn how to tuck parts of ourselves away. Brett has tucked away her true self and is trying to convince herself that she’s happy, that she loves Andrew, that she doesn’t want children. Like many women, she’s settling for a life far less than she once dreamed, simply because she’s afraid.

    • lorispielman says:

      You’re right on target, K2Reader! You nailed it when you said Brett stopped being herself. I’m so glad you’re making your own life list now. Never underestimate the power of intention! Thanks so much for joining the discussion!

  2. I’ve already finished reading the book, because once I started I couldn’t stop. I will try to answer some of these questions without spoilers.

    I did write a “life list” of sorts as a teenager. Mostly, it’s not that different from the life I am currently living–with the exception of having my own horse ranch. I’ll just keep living vicariously through my dad. It’s cheaper and easier.

    I wondered why Elizabeth didn’t try to help Brett see what she was missing while she was alive. They obviously had a close relationship, yet not close enough that Elizabeth was willing to rock the boat too much during life. Possibly she just got introspective as her life was ending and realized she didn’t have time to make effective changes or risked alienating Brett while she was still alive. It just seemed odd to me that even though they were so close (co-dependent, if you will) they didn’t seem to have the relationship that could openly address some of these concerns. That was weird to me.

    • lol- I love the living vicariously through my dad thing! 🙂

      Before you brought this up- I’d never really thought much about their relationship and why Elizabeth couldn’t bring this stuff up with Brett.
      Now, I’m thinking- my take is a couple of things- 1. I think that Elizabeth always wanted to be a soft place to land for Brett- a place to come when hurt, confused, etc. Maybe even seeing some of the people that Brett was choosing to surround herself with made E feel uncomfortable about bringing any of this up- for fear she would be drawing a line in the sand.
      Possibly, Elizabeth felt she had time to work on these things with Brett- and at the end when time was running out- did not want to ruin the memories/last few days/weeks.

      I’ll be interested in hearing what others think!

      • lorispielman says:

        Hi Cindi. I really appreciate you reading the book and joining the discussion. You pose a great question: Why didn’t Elizabeth help Brett while she was alive? You’re right, and so is Tamara–when Elizabeth realized she was dying, suddenly everything seemed clearer to her. She fully recognized Brett’s unhappiness, but didn’t want to spend her final weeks in a conflict with her daughter. Also, I cut a section of the book where Brett alluded to the fact that Elizabeth did try to give her some direction while she was alive, but Brett didn’t listen. (I wish now that I’d kept that in the book!) And though it seemed heavy handed for Elizabeth to cut her daughter out of her will, Elizabeth knew that she could have given Brett all the money in the world and she would never be happy. Brett would only find her joy by making huge lifestyle changes, and at some point along the journey of self-discovery, money would no longer be the motivating factor for Brett.

        Something else to think about is that although Brett didn’t get an inheritance at the onset, she was still a very lucky gal: she had a college education with no debt, 10+ years making a six-figure salary, stock options for the rest of her life, a BMW, Rolex, etc. She could have decided to ignore her mother’s wishes. She could have led a very comfy life even if she’d walked away from her inheritance, but deep down Brett knew her mother was right. When her old dreams were presented to her in black and white, Brett realized she really did want them. Elizabeth gave her the push she needed.

      • lorispielman says:

        P.S. Thank you again for your great comments and insight! And congrats on achieving almost all of your goals. So funny that the older, wiser you realizes that your dad’s horse ranch is much easier and cheaper! How lucky you are!

  3. I am going to write a Life List after reading this book. It had me thinking of things that would be important to me, and most of them are centered around my family, and books. It’s funny, now that I think about it.

    I don’t think it s cruel that Elizabeth has made Brett work hard for her inheritance. In fact, I know she wouldn’t have accomplished all she has had Elizabeth not pushed her!

    Brett’s loss saddens me, and I feel terrible thinking about the pain she felt upon her mother’s death.

    • Melody-

      Love that you will be writing a life list! Do share- if you want!

      Agreed. On one hand, I do think it was slightly cruel (like a 1 on a scale of 1-10) because Brett is suffering so much. However, without the push- Brett could *and would have easily let 5 or more years pass.

      I cried and cried about Brett and losing her mother- I was a hot mess while reading this book!

      • lorispielman says:

        Thank you, Melody. I love that you’re going to write a life list now. As I said to K2Reader above, the power of intention is huge. When we write something down and really commit to it, it very often happens. I hope you achieve each and every dream your heart desires.

        And Melody and T, I wrote that opening scene with tears streaming down my face. We all know that the mother-daughter bond is so special. Brett and Elizabeth were such a duo, as Elizabeth said. To lose the one person who loved her unconditionally was devastating to Brett.

        Thanks so much for chiming in here!

  4. Heather C says:

    Did you ever make a “life list” for yourself? If so (and if you feel like sharing) what were some of the things on the list?

    I didn’t make an actual list when I was younger, but I had big dreams and exciting visions for the future. Many of which, like Brett, slid away over the years until I was so far removed from them I forgot what many of them were. Sadly, I don’t think that’s uncommon. Since reading The Life List I have put together a life list for myself – I’ve gone back through childhood journals, talked to family and friends that knew me when I was young and invincible and idealistic and have tried to compile what I believe my life list would have looked like had I written one when I was 14. Now, the fun part is to try to reach all of those goals! I am making way on both big and small items and I am so happy because of it, but change is difficult especially with bigger things like careers, parenting, etc.

  5. Heather C says:

    I would read the journal right away probably if I were Brett! I would just be too curious to wait and probably searching for something to heal the hole in her heart. I think it’s great that her mother left her something behind and that her ultimate goal was for Brett to be happy.

  6. lorispielman says:

    Thanks so much for your comments, Heather. I would have a hard time waiting to open the journal, too!

    I absolutely love that you’ve reconstructed a list of what you think your 14 y/o self would have dreamed of. You’re right, change is so difficult, but you’ve started the ball rolling with the list. There’s something so powerful about writing our dreams down, and I believe you’ll accomplish each and every one of them. And not only have you written down your dreams, you’ve created a Tumblr page as well! (Want to share it here??)

    Thanks again for your comments, Heather. YOU inspire me!

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