Between the Lines Book Club: Oona Out of Order Discussion Questions

Our book club discusses Oona Out of Order on February 27, 2021 at 10:30 AM. Ready for discussion questions? These come from and from the publisher with a few thrown in by myself.

If you could write a letter to yourself in a past year, what year would you pick and what would you say?

If you could jump back (or forward) into any era of your life, when would it be?

Was this a good book club book?

How old are you on the inside and on the outside? How does this, if any, dissonance, affect your attitude and decisions?

1. Discuss the novel’s epigraph: “Time heals all. But what if time itself is the disease?” How do you interpret that question? How does the novel seek to answer it?

2. In the prologue, Oona reflects that her condition is the closest thing she could imagine to immortality. What do you think she means? Do you agree?

3. Oona has a “no spoiler” approach to time travel and takes precautions to reveal certain things about her future but keep others secret via her annual letters. Do you agree with her approach? If you were to switch places with Oona, how much of your future would you reveal. and what would you add/remove from the letters?

4. To counteract living her life out of sequence, Oona spends much of the novel searching for constancy. Who/what are some of the constants she manages to establish throughout her leaps?

5. There are moments when Oona laments mistakes she’s made in her life and considers trying to fix them. What mistakes do you think she has made? Do you think she was better off trying to prevent them or learn from them?

6. Oona and the people closest to her often describe her life as “bittersweet.” Do you agree that her time travel makes her life feel more bittersweet than it would if she were living “in order”? Why or why not?

7. Discuss the evolving role of music in the novel and in Oona’s life.

8. How much of Oona’s destiny do you think is predetermined? Do you think she’s capable of changing her future? What do you think this book ultimately says about fate vs. free will? Do you agree or disagree?

9. Did you have a favorite section in the novel? Why?

10. Let’s dissect this book by each of its parts. Starting with Part I in 1982 were 18-year-old Oona is in love with her boyfriend Dale and she deciding whether to tour with him or go to economics school in London. What were your initial impressions of Oona in this section?

11. Part II comes quickly and Oona is transported to 2015 and she’s age 51. Let’s talk about Oona’s jump to her future. What would you have done if you were Oona and went from being 19 to 51?

12. Oona says she’s never been susceptible to nostalgia and wonders: is this what it means to get older, replaying happy memories because the best times are behind you? Do you agree with this? Why or why not?

13. Oona goes from an unhappy and confusing year at age 51 to back being in her 20s again in 1991. What did you think about Oona partying in this era? Why was it important for her to let loose? 

14. After the ’90s, Oona is 40 and in 2004. And she’s married to a Brit named Edward. In this section, she never really falls for Edward and instead has feelings for her guitar instructor Peter. Let’s talk about Oona’s relationship with Edward and Peter in this section. 

15. And, in a twist, the next section is when Oona is 39 and in 2003—right before she meets Edward. So she experiences the romance with Edward backward. Were you surprised when she did actually fall for him, even though she knows how it ended up? 

16. Oona is then back to her 30s and in 1995. She’s grieving over her failed marriage to Edward and a fight with her mother. But in this time period, she goes with her mother to Asia. Let’s talk about how Oona matured throughout this year. 

17. When Oona goes to 1999 at age 35 she learns that Kenzie is not just her assistant but also her son she had with Dale. Did you suspect that he was her son or were you surprised by this? Do you agree with her mother that Oona wasn’t fit to raise him in her condition?

18. In 2017, Oona is 53 and has a repaired relationship with Kenzie but her mother dies of cancer. Let’s talk about this chapter. 

19. The chapter ends with her running into Peter, her former guitar teacher, and they agree to meet up in 2018 for a dinner date. Do you think they will get together?

20. And it ends with Oona back in 1983 and at age 19 where she’s learned from all the different eras. How did it change Oona for good?

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