Book Club Kit — Somewhere In-Between

Perfect for fans of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, or Donna Milner’s previous bestselling novels, Somewhere In-Between is a lyrically written story of the power of universal family, of tragedy, forgiveness, and hope.

 

 

Following tragic events, from which Julie O’Dale believes she and her husband, Ian, will never recover, Julie buys into Ian’s dream to give up their comfortable city lives and retreat to the Chilcotin area of British Columbia. Along with a team of draft horses, four cow ponies, and the range cattle, which are included in the purchase of the remote six-hundred-acre ranch, they reluctantly inherit the reclusive tenant who lives in an old trapper’s cabin on the property. As both Julie and Ian wrestle with their deteriorating marriage, and the individual guilt and sorrow that drove them to try to run away from reality, they have to contend with the wilderness at their doorstep—and the mysterious tenant, Virgil Blue. Against his will and theirs, he slowly becomes drawn into their lives and has an impact in ways that none of them could have foreseen.

 

Hosting a book club?

  • Somewhere In-Between discussion questions (below)
  • Pinterest board of images inspired by the novel
  • Get writing tips and other news from Donna on Facebook.
  • Recommended reading from Donna Milner on 49th Shelf
  • More on Donna Milner

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Compare your thoughts about the book with what reviewers are saying!

 

Discussion Questions

1. When we are first introduced to Levi on page 47, he is labeled as the one who killed Julie and Ian’s daughter. How did this shape your immediate opinion of him?

2. On page 75, Darla first discusses the notion of time in the place between Earth and the after life. Darla states, “It doesn’t matter; Mr. Emerson promises that in time I’ll get it. Time. It isn’t the same here. There’s no possible way to explain that in earth terms. Just as there is no way I can influence what happens there.” How would you describe time in this in-between place, based on what Darla’s description?

3. On page 152, Julie goes over her many reasons for not wanting to keep Pup. Why do you think she acted so reluctantly at first?

4. When Julie and Virgil keep meeting for silent coffee breaks in the clearing, Julie wonders whether it is his shyness or his politeness that keeps him coming back. What do you think? (Page 156)

5. The O’Dales do not appear to be religious in any way. On page 177, Darla says, “Remembering [Levi’s] story, I think he takes this spirit guide thing way too seriously now. But, hey, what do I know? I’m just a dead white girl.” What do you think Milner is saying here about tradition and religion?

6. On page 187, Darla talks about Gram and Julie’s relationship. Discuss how this book can be framed as a story about the guilt of two mothers.

7. How does Milner explore the different ways in which people cope with grief, and how this impacts their relationships?

8. On page 252, Darla states, “And Levi is so stuck in what he believes about my ‘spirit life’ that he’s stoped living his.” What do you think she meant by this?

9. The lake where the O’Dales live is certainly melodic: the ice sings, Virgil’s sorrowful violin is often heard from across the water, and Julie muses over the loon’s mournful wail. What is the role of this place in Ian and Julie’s process of healing?

10. When Virgil announces that he is leaving the property, Ian and Julie react differently. How would you describe their relationships with Virgil?

11. Although Darla’s main focus is her mother during her time spent somewhere in-between, how does she help others before she moves on?

12. What does Julie discover about her own relationship with racism, and how does Milner explore this through the characters Levi and Virgil?

13. Although Julie is the protagonist, how does the author use Virgil to thread the narrative together?