This reading group guide for When She Was Good 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.
Join our mailing list!
Get our latest staff recommendations, award news and digital catalog links right to your inbox.
Who is Evie, the girl with no past, running from? She was discovered hiding in a secret room in the aftermath of a terrible crime. Her ability to tell when someone is lying helped criminal psychologist Cyrus Haven crack an impenetrable case in Good Girl, Bad Girl
. Now, the closer Cyrus gets to uncovering answers about Evie’s dark history, the more he exposes Evie to danger, giving her no choice but to run. Ultimately, both will have to decide if some secrets are better left buried and some monsters should never be named. . . .Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. The title When She Was Good
comes from a nursery rhyme written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (see the first epigraph). How is it a fitting title for this book? Assuming “she” is Evie, when would you say she is good and when is she horrid? Are there moments when she is both?
2. We finally learn the full story of Terry Boland, first introduced in Robotham’s previous book, Good Girl, Bad Girl
, as the man tortured to death in the house where Evie was discovered. Do you think Terry’s fate was in any way deserved or was he as much a victim as Evie?
3. Evie has a complicated relationship to the truth, to say the least. On one hand, she is a “truth wizard” with the rare ability to discern when someone is lying. On the other hand, she is a compulsive liar herself. Why does Evie say she doesn’t trust the truth? “I don’t trust the truth. The truth is a story. The truth is a habit. The truth is a compromise. The truth is a casualty. The truth died long ago” (page 26). If she doesn’t trust the truth, what does
4. Cyrus commissions his old friend Badger to draw tattoos in order to cover the scars from the harm he’s done to his body, but he insists that there is no symbolic meaning to the images he chooses. And yet, his choices are not completely arbitrary. Why do you think he’s chosen birds for all of his tattoos? What could they represent for him?
5. What do you think Evie means when she asks, “What’s the big deal about a number being divisible by one and itself? People can be like that and nobody cares”? Which characters in this novel do you think are like that, if any? Do you know people in your own life you’d consider “prime numbers”?
6. According to Evie, Cyrus is smart but not clever. “Smart means you know lots of shit. Clever means you can pretend you know it,” is how she defines the difference (page 198). Do you agree with her definitions and her assessment of Cyrus? Personally speaking, would you rather be smart or clever?
7. “What a great pair we make. The introvert and the hermit,” says Sacha of herself and Cyrus (page 135). In what other ways do they make a great pair? Is Cyrus a good romantic match for Sacha? Is Sacha a good match for Cyrus?
8. How did your own impressions of Evie Cormac, the girl with no past, change as you learned about her back story? Did you grow to like her character more or less by the end of this book? Does she remind you of characters you’ve encountered in other books or movies?
9. Near the beginning of the novel, Cyrus tells us that happiness is not an emotion he equates with Evie because she treats life “like a contest”; at the end of the novel, he again remarks that she’s “fighting like a demon and a caged lion.”
Do you believe happiness is possible for Evie? Were there points when she seemed happy? How about Cyrus?
10. Michael Robotham has been praised by critics as a master of suspense, a writer who builds nail-biting tension that keeps his readers turning pages. Which scene in When She Was Good
did you find to be the most tense and suspenseful?Enhance Your Book Club
1. When She Was Good
is the second book featuring Cyrus and Evie. If you haven’t already, read Good Girl, Bad Girl
and discuss how the dynamics of their relationship evolve from one book to the next. Where do you see them going from here?
2. Unfortunately, many women and children have endured the same trauma and hardships in real life that Evie has gone through. Research what you can about that topic and measures that organizations are taking to prevent it and share your findings with the group.