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The Swap

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“No list of thrillers is complete without Robyn Harding,” proclaims Real Simple. Now the USA TODAY bestselling author of The Party delivers a riveting tale about the toxic relationship between two couples after a night of sexual shenanigans, and the manipulative teenager with an explosive secret at the center of it all.

Low Morrison is not your average teen. You could blame her hippie parents or her looming height or her dreary, isolated hometown on an island in the Pacific Northwest. But whatever the reason, Low just doesn’t fit in—and neither does Freya, an ethereal beauty and once-famous social media influencer who now owns the local pottery studio.

After signing up for a class, Low quickly falls under Freya’s spell. And Freya, buoyed by Low’s adoration, is compelled to share her darkest secrets and deepest desires. Finally, both feel a sense of belonging...that is, until Jamie walks through the studio door. Desperate for a baby, she and her husband have moved to the island hoping that the healthy environment will result in a pregnancy. Freya and Jamie become fast friends, as do their husbands, leaving Low alone once again.

Then one night, after a boozy dinner party, Freya suggests swapping partners. It should have been a harmless fling between consenting adults, one night of debauchery that they would put behind them, but instead, it upends their lives. And provides Low the perfect opportunity to unleash her growing resentment.

Robyn Harding brings her acclaimed storytelling, lauded as “fast-paced, thrilling, gut-wrenching” by Taylor Jenkins Reid, New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Jones & The Six, to this dark and suspenseful thriller for fans of Megan Miranda and Lisa Jewell.

This reading group guide for THE SWAP 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

Introduction

Low Morrison is not your average teen. You could blame her hippie parents or her looming height or her dreary, isolated hometown on an island in the Pacific Northwest. But whatever the reason, Low just doesn’t fit in—and neither does Freya, an ethereal beauty and once-famous social media influencer who now owns the local pottery studio.

After signing up for a class, Low quickly falls under Freya’s spell. And Freya, buoyed by Low’s adoration, is compelled to share her darkest secrets and deepest desires. Finally, both feel a sense of belonging . . . that is, until Jamie walks through the studio door. Desperate for a baby, she and her husband have moved to the island hoping that the healthy environment will result in a pregnancy. Freya and Jamie become fast friends, as do their husbands, leaving Low alone once again.

Then one night, after a boozy dinner party, Freya suggests swapping partners. It should have been a harmless fling between consenting adults, one night of debauchery that they would put behind them, but instead, it upends their lives. And provides Low the perfect opportunity to unleash her growing resentment.

Robyn Harding brings her acclaimed storytelling, lauded as “fast-paced, thrilling, gut-wrenching” by Taylor Jenkins Reid, New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Jones & The Six, to this dark and suspenseful thriller for fans of Megan Miranda and Lisa Jewell.

Topics and Questions for Discussion

1. When Low is first introduced to readers in chapter 1, what do we learn about her as a character through how she describes her classmates and her first impression of Freya?

2. In chapter 1, Low sees Freya for the first time in her school, posting an ad for pottery classes. Later on, Freya tells Low she posted it to earn money, but her home and lifestyle don’t indicate she’s financially unstable. Did Freya have other motives for posting the ad for pottery classes and, if so, what were they?

3. The book consistently juxtaposes obsession and jealousy with freedom and sharing. Discuss the idea of monogamy versus polyamory. Are people inherently one or the other? Do these concepts exist in black and white, or is there a grey area in between?

4. How does Low’s own perception of herself differ from how Jamie and Max describe her when they first meet?

5. At various points in the story, Max, Jamie, and Brian all allude to Freya’s persuasiveness and charm and how they were all ultimately deceived by her into thinking everything was going to be alright (end of chapters 18, 15, and 5). Could this mean Freya was a sociopath?

6. In chapter 8, Low describes the meaning of her full name—Swallow, a highly adaptable, small bird—and the shame it caused her growing up. Freya is the name of a Norse goddess who is accused of infidelity and who incidentally is pictured with birds of prey. How do these names represent the evolution of these two characters throughout the book?

7. In chapter 39, Brian says to Jamie, “You’re the one trying to hang onto a sick, toxic friendship . . .” with Freya. This is the first time a character in the book explicitly names the nature of Freya’s relationships with others. Discuss why you think this revelation came from Brian.

8. In chapter 66, Thompson says of Low’s relationship to Freya, “You worship her and adore her and do everything for her. But she doesn’t care about you at all. That’s not love, Low. That’s obsession.” Does Thompson’s relationship with Low mirror her relationship with Freya?

9. In chapter 49, Brian asks, “Had Freya wanted to get pregnant . . . this pregnancy had reignited her Instagram career.” Do you think that Freya was trying to get pregnant or that it was unplanned, as she claimed?

10. Do you think that Brian and Jamie would have “swapped” with Freya and Max if they weren’t under the influence of drugs?

11. Discuss why Low became so attached to Maggie that she was able to overcome her obsession with Freya, even momentarily, to save the baby’s life.

12. In chapter 65, after Low’s parents called CPS on Freya, Low explodes at them. “I’m what matters! Me!’ I shrieked, ‘You never cared about me! You’ve never put me first!’” Discuss how Low’s upbringing affected her relationship with the other adult women in the book (Jamie and Freya).

13. In chapter 68, Low only turned on Freya when she heard Maggie’s cry and realized Freya was going to kill her own baby. Where did the mothering instinct come from? Did she kill Freya because she knew she could never have her to herself or because she was trying to protect Maggie?

14. Discuss the relationship between couples Jamie and Brian and Freya and Max. Are the dynamics in one better than the other, or do both exhibit unhealthy ones? Did Max and Freya influence Brian and Jamie?

15. Low describes Freya and Max’s relationship as, “locked in some kind of sick, codependent partnership full of lies and abuse and emotional distance, and yet . . . they had each other’s backs.” Do you agree with that assessment?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Max and Freya’s life is turned upside down when Max inadvertently kills another hockey player during a game. Discuss how you would deal with this kind of life-altering event. How would it affect your relationship to the loved one responsible?

2. Throughout the book, each character exhibits pathological behavior. Do you think mental illness played a role in the story? If and when you’ve experienced similar behavior in real life, has mental illness played a role? Does it make any of the characters more sympathetic when looking at their choices and actions through the lens of mental illness?

3. Low’s attachment to baby Maggie was the catalyst to finally break Freya’s psychological hold on her. Do you believe in the power of a mothering instinct that strong? Have you ever experienced that in your own life?

4. Low discusses her ambiguous sexuality throughout the book. When she talks about her relationship with her childhood friend Topaz and, later, Freya, she says multiple times that she isn’t attracted to them “in that way.” But at the end of chapter 38, Freya kisses Low and she feels her first pull of attraction. Did this sexual awakening impact Low’s obsession with Freya? Do you think the book would have ended so violently if Low’s feelings for Freya had remained platonic?

5. Are any of the characters unreliable narrators? Did you see examples in the book where they gave conflicting opinions or hypocritical advice to others?
Photograph by Tallulah

Robyn Harding is the author of several books, including the international bestseller, The Party, and wrote and executive produced an independent film. She lives in Vancouver, BC, with her husband and children. Visit her at RobynHarding.com or follow her on Instagram @RHardingRriter or Facebook @AuthorRobynHarding.

  • Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press (June 23, 2020)
  • Length: 336 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982141783

Praise for The Swap

“Two young couples. One remote island. And a night that goes too far. What could possibly go wrong? Robyn Harding’s The Swap is everything I’ve come to love about her books—provocative, sexy, and full of surprises!”
 

– Wendy Walker, nationally bestselling author of The Night Before

“Robyn Harding has upped her game with the page-turning and completely riveting The Swap. Harding deftly explores toxic friendship, desire, and obsession in this engrossing novel, in which two couples—one a glittering pair of former celebrities, the other stalwart high school sweethearts—become entangled in a web of secrets and jealousy. This is a clear-your-night-and-read-in-one-sitting book!”

– Kathleen Barber, author of Are You Sleeping and Follow Me

"Robyn Harding is an expert at slowly building creeping dread and The Swap was no exception. In what is undoubtedly her best book yet, Harding explores toxic friendships, obsession, and swinging, bringing a lonely, slightly sociopathic teenager into center of it all. The outcome is explosive, sexy, and completely absorbing. The Swap is guaranteed to be a must read this summer!"

– Kate Moretti, New York Times bestselling author of The Vanishing Year and In Her Bones

"Gripping from the first line, The Swap is a wickedly delicious, addictive, utterly compelling read about obsession, toxic relationships, and dangerous secrets. I devoured every dark, twisted word until the last explosive scene. An absolute must-read, this suspense will shock and rivet readers through each masterful page."

– Samantha M. Bailey, bestselling author of Woman on the Edge

Praise for The Arrangement

“An insider's look into the world of sugar daddies . . . full of shocking revelations, volatile characters, and vice. Look out: The Arrangement will blow your mind.”

– Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author of The Good Girl

"A nightmarish deep dive into the underbelly of a secret world. Rivetingly dark, The Arrangement delivers on every level - a shocking premise, a forbidden obsession, and a plot that builds slowly and masterfully escalates to a chilling end. Prepare to be blindsided."  

– Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times bestselling author of The Weight of Silence and Not a Sound

Praise for Her Pretty Face

“A fast-paced, thrilling, gut-wrenching novel with sharp teeth and daring observations about the inner lives of women. I flew through the pages, desperate to get hold of what was going on beneath the surface but Robyn Harding was always one step ahead. Positively exhilarating.”

– Taylor Jenkins Reid, New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Jones & The Six

“The tony setting and the slowly revealed secrets make this a good read-alike for Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies.”

– Booklist

"Robyn Harding spins a masterful tale of the disintegration of a seemingly perfect family in the aftermath of a disastrous sweet sixteen party. Engrossing and unflinching in its portrayal of the dark side of human nature, The Party takes the concept of 'mean girls' to a whole new level."

– A. J. Banner, #1 bestselling author of The Good Neighbor and The Twilight Wife

Praise for The Party

"A tense and riveting story about one night gone horribly wrong, and the fallout within a family and a group of friends. Secrets, desires, choice and consequence, The Party reveals that what lies inside a family—and each person—is not always as it seems. I was hooked from the opening scene and could not look away until I reached the very last page."

– Megan Miranda, New York Times bestselling author of All the Missing Girls

More books from this author: Robyn Harding