What Came First: Reader’s Guide
READING GROUP QUESTIONS: What Came First by Carol Snow
1. What did you think of Laura, Wendy and Vanessa when they were first introduced? Did you sympathize with one character more than the others? Did your opinion of the women change as the novel progressed?
2. What was your reaction when Vanessa didn’t get an engagement ring for her birthday from Eric? Did you feel like her anger was justified? Were her expectations in the relationship reasonable? How would you have reacted in that situation if you were Vanessa?
3. On page 16 Wendy says that when she and Darren were trying to become pregnant the very idea of being childless sent her into a depression and she states, “How could I ever lead a full life without a house full of little people to call my own?” How do you feel about this statement? Do you think it is possible for a person to lead a full life without children of their own?
4. Discuss the differences between Laura and Wendy’s parenting style. Do you think one of them parents better than the other? If so, why? What sort of parenting style do you think is most effective?
5. After Eric learns that his sperm donation gave life to Laura’s son Ian he tells Vanessa, “He’s not my child. He was conceived with my sperm, but he’s not mine” (page 125). What do you think about this statement? Do you think that a sperm donor is only a donor and should not be called a “father?” What should a donor’s role be, if any, in that a child’s life?
6. When we are first introduced to Wendy’s children, Wendy is adamant about not wanting the school psychologist to label them with having behavioral issues. Yet throughout the novel, she desperately seeks to find a reason for their unruly actions. Why do you think this is? What sorts of labels do adults frequently place on children? How does this affect their childhood?
7. How did you feel when Eric decided to meet Laura and then re-donate his sperm? Did you understand his decision? Do you think Vanessa should have been given an opinion in the process?
8. During Wendy’s scrapbooking party, Wendy remembers Sherry saying that she thought Wendy was being selfish for using a sperm donor. Sherry goes on to state that to get pregnant by a stranger instead of adoption shows that “it’s all about you and your ego that you have to have a kid with your genes” (page 210). Do you agree with Sherry? If you were Wendy, what would you have said in response?
9. How did you react to Wendy’s confession that she slept with Lane? At that moment did you think there was a chance that Darren wasn’t the father of Harrison and Sydney?
10. Why do you think Eric chose to get back in touch with Laura and Ian? Do you think he wanted to donate again? Do you think his feelings for Laura and Ian were sincere?
11. Throughout the novel, the story moves between the perspectives of Laura, Wendy and Vanessa. What knowledge do you gain by the story being told in this format? Did you find that this style provides you with a better understanding of the characters?
12. What did you know about IUI and IVF prior to reading this novel? Have your thoughts about the process changed after reading about these women?
13. Discuss the title of this novel. In what ways does it relate to the story and its characters?
14. Imagine what the lives of these characters are like after the novel. What role will Eric play in Ian’s life? What will become of Vanessa and Eric’s relationship? How about Wendy and Darren’s relationship?