Some suggested questions for group discussion:

  1. How does the opening scene — the descent into Scotland — set the stage for the rest of the novel? What do you learn about Velva Jean from the way she handles herself while flying the bomber? Do you see these traits in her throughout the book?

  2. How do Velva Jean's plans change after landing in Scotland? How does she come to terms with the idea that it may not be possible for her to find Johnny Clay? Does she accept it? Does she give up?

  3. Why does Velva Jean follow the agents to Rouen instead of remaining with the elderly couple? Did you expect this from her, as Emile did? When she meets him in Cambremer, she says, "please don't send me back there to strangers." She has only known the agents for just a bit longer than the couple they left her with — why does she identify with them?

  4. There are many examples of female camaraderie in this novel — between Velva Jean and Helen, Delphine, Gossie, Annika, and Millie, among others. What do these friendships mean to these women? How do they allow Velva Jean to survive?

  5. How does Velva Jean convince the agents to allow her to continue to accompany them? Why are they so reluctant to accept her assistance, even after she delivers the message to the professor in Rouen and brings them a radio?

  6. What did you make of Emile and Velva Jean's relationship? What brings them together? Did you expect it to last?

  7. What does it mean to Velva Jean to be able to reunite with Gossie at Cleo's? How does being able to drop her new persona — if only briefly — rejuvenate her and allow her to heal? What toll does Velva Jean's new identity take on her?

  8. At Cleo's party, Velva Jean meets a woman who says to her, "At times such as this, it becomes more important for art to survive. If it can outlast a war, it means that beauty can triumph over horror, that the stories in these paintings and sculptures live on, and that life can be created from them again." What comfort does this give to Velva Jean?

  9. What is life like for the women at Prison de Fresnes? How do they cope? How does Velva Jean manage to withstand the Germans' questioning?

  10. Velva Jean's lipstick is a recurring motif. Do you think it's symbolic? How so?

  11. What do you make of Eleanor, "Swan?" Why does she treat Velva Jean the way she does? Velva Jean notes how many men died to save her, and says she wasn't sure it was worth it. What do you think?

  12. Consider Velva Jean and Johnny Clay's reunion. Were you surprised to see them reunited after all that they'd both been through? After Johnny Clay is injured, how does Velva Jean attempt to keep his spirits up? Many people are emotionally broken by this war - but are Velva Jean and Johnny Clay? What sustained them?

  13. How does Velva Jean reconcile all of her past lives and dreams? How is being a singer and WASP still a part of her even when she's Clementine Roux? Do you think Clementine Roux will remain a part of her even after the war ends? In what ways?

  14. Consider the close of the novel. How is Velva Jean feeling about what she's doing and about the WASP program? Is the end of the book hopeful? Why or why not?