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Leaving November

Eight years ago, Vienne Kenney moved away from Clayburn and all its gossip to pursue a law degree in California. But now she has failed the bar exam again. Is she destined to be stuck forever, a failure -- just like her father -- in this two-horse Kansas town?

Nine months ago, Jackson Linder left Clayburn with no explanation to anybody. Now he, too, is back. He isn't sure he's ready to face the rumors and well-meaning questions of the town's busybodies. Yet he's determined, once more, to make his art gallery a success -- in spite of the secret that haunts him every day....

Discussion Questions
1. In Leaving November, Vienne Kenney has escaped the hometown where she always felt second-class because of her father's alcoholism. She's sought to become "somebody" by getting a law degree.
Have you ever sought validation by striving for outward things to make you feel worthy? A degree or title? A bigger home or fancier car? A prestigious address or a lucrative occupation? If so, have these things accomplished what you hoped they would, and given you a sense of worthiness? If not, why do you think that is? What happens to the temporary sense of worth such things can give when they are suddenly taken away from us, the way Vienne's future in the legal profession was when she failed the bar exam for the second time?
2. Jackson Linder comes home from nine months in rehab, still struggling with his desire for a drink. Have you ever suffered from an addiction that held you in its grip for months or years after you stopped the addictive behavior? Maybe you're struggling with an addiction or a bad habit right now. How do you continue to have hope in the face of ongoing temptation? What have you found that helps you in your struggle? If you've overcome a past addiction or bad habit, what secrets can you share with those still struggling?
3. While she felt humiliated about failing the bar two times, Vienne comes to realize that she really isn't cut out to be a lawyer. Her reasons for seeking a law degree had nothing to do with the way God had gifted her or with God's leading in her life. Instead it was all about trying to find self-worth.
How do you feel about Vienne "wasting" her law degree? Have you ever sought after something, only to realize once you attained it, that it wasn't what you wanted after all? How did you deal with that realization? Is it possible Vienne's education wasn't wasted after all, in spite of the fact that she's now running a coffee shop? Explain.
4. As Vienne becomes friends with Jack, she almost doesn't realize that she is falling in love with him. Have you had a similar experience? If so, what did you find to be the pros and cons of falling in love with someone who was a friend before they were a romantic interest? How did your story end?
5. The downside of Vienne's falling in love with Jack is that when she discovers Jack has struggled with an addiction to alcohol, she realizes he has the one fault she promised never to abide in a man (because of her father's alcoholism).
If you were in Vienne's shoes, how would you handle the situation? Would you break off all contact with Jack? Would you do as Vienne grudgingly did and try to remain friends, while putting aside thoughts of romance? Or are there other possibilities? Read Colossians 3:1-15 and 1 Peter 4:8 and discuss how these commands might apply to Jack and Vienne's situation.
6. Forgiveness is a large theme woven throughout Leaving November. Vienne is faced with forgiving her father (who never repented). Then she must forgive Jack's past. Jack has been forgiven of a great mistake (even though it was unintentional). Now, he must forgive his birth father, as well as forgiving Vienne for her judgment of him.
Forgiveness is difficult, especially when there is no remorse. Have you struggled to forgive someone in your life? In what situation(s)? What do you think it means to "forgive and forget"? Read Psalm 103:8-14. Is it possible to ever truly forget a wrong that was done to us? Why or why not?
7. Like Jack, Wren has to deal with events from her past that color her present life. How do you feel about the way Wren handled Marcus Tremaine's reentrance into her life? Do you think Wren gave Jack enough information about his father? Why or why not?
8. Jack's confrontation with his birth father left him feeling conflicted about what his response should be. What do you think about the way Jack handled his father's attempt to be a part of his life? How could Jack have handled it differently?
9. Jack's addiction to alcohol began as an escape from his shame and sorrow over the accident he inadvertently caused. Do you view Jack's addiction any differently knowing this? How do you think the circumstances might have changed the methods counselors used to help Jack recover?
Discuss some of the recovery techniques Jack used to remain sober. How did you feel about the way his recovery was portrayed in the book? Did you trust that Jack had his addictions under control by the end of the book? Why or why not? If Vienne were your daughter, would you be comfortable with her having a romantic relationship with Jack? Why or why not?
10. Vienne felt quite a bit of animosity toward Pete Truesdell. What reasons did she give for this, and did you think her feelings were justified? Is it possible there were other reasons Pete irritated Vienne that she wasn't willing to admit? What might those reasons have been?
11. Pete reveals to Jack that, for thirty-two years, he's struggled with the same addiction Jack is struggling with. How did that make Jack feel? When you're in the midst of a trial or temptation, is it helpful to know that others have the same struggle? Why or why not?
Read Romans 5:1-5 and Romans 12:15. In what ways can you find something positive in your own trials, knowing that someday you may be able to offer comfort to those who are walking in your shoes?
Ken Raney

Deborah Raney’s first novel, A Vow to Cherish, was awarded a Silver Angel from Excellence in Media and inspired the acclaimed World Wide Pictures film of the same title. Since then her books have won the RITA Award, the HOLT Medallion, and the National Readers’ Choice Award. Raney was also a finalist for the Christy Award. She and her husband, artist Ken Raney, make their home in their native Kansas.

  • Publisher: Howard Books (March 4, 2008)
  • Length: 384 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781416558293

"Faith and love triumph in this small-town story of overcoming the past and finding hope for the future. Leaving November gently plays the heartstrings and embraces the spirit in the name of love." -- Linda Windsor, author of Wedding Bell Blues and For Pete's Sake

"Deb Raney's books have been an enjoyment and inspiration for me since her first, A Vow to Cherish. She has again touched my life with Leaving November. A gifted storyteller, she also has a way of having her characters learn to lean on God that causes me as a reader to relearn that same lesson. I highly recommend Leaving November." -- Yvonne Lehman, author of 46 novels and director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference

"I loved Leaving November by Deborah Raney! Raney's books always touch the heart in deep ways that keep me thinking about the undercurrents long after I turn the last page. The Clayburn series is a keeper!" -- Colleen Coble, author of Anathema

More books from this author: Deborah Raney

More books in this series: A Clayburn Novel