Release Date, October 28, 2014
Sample Excerpt Discussion Questions
CHANGING FACES is a witty, laugh-out-loud/gasp-out-loud, deeply affecting novel that probes the limits of friendship, following three devoted friends into a maelstrom of unexpected troubles. Together since high school, Whitney, Taylor and Charisse have each built significant lives for themselves, with the one constant being the support network they have provided to one another for years.
Whitney is a plus-sized telecommunications executive at the top of her game; but she just can’t turn down a box of Krispy Kremes or find a man who will stay put. When yet another painful break-up threatens to tear away her veneer of self-esteem, can she trust in her own wavering willpower, her new weight-loss plan, the unexpected love of a good man, and the encouragement of her best friends to help her start a new page in life?
Taylor has a long-term boyfriend who is absolutely allergic to commitment; but her problems run deeper than that. This skilled divorce attorney is at an industry conference halfway across the country when she’s forced to admit that a serious health problem is laying her low – these are the times that make or break even the best of relationships.
On the surface, Charisse has it all – a devoted husband, two adorable children, a challenging job. But she can’t make herself connect with her daughter; and her husband, who has been the object of her domineering wrath for all these years, has finally developed a backbone. Charisse is poised on the brink of a self-destructive path of rage – the only thing holding her back is the threat of a slew of damaging secrets about her shady personal dealings (past and present) being let loose…
My name is Whitney and while it shames me to say it, I’m a compulsive overeater. I don’t want to be, but that’s just what I’ve been since I was a child and I can’t seem to change it. Of course, I’ve tried changing my eating habits a great number of times, specifically over the last fifteen years, but none of my yo-yo dieting has ever worked—at least not for long. And believe me when I say that I’ve tried the very best of them, one right after another. Jenny Craig, Ornish, The Zone, Fit for Life, Slim-Fast, Herbalife, Atkins and every other low-carb, no-carb, low-calorie, weight reduction fad on the planet. I’ve even gone as far as starving myself completely, which was actually working until that night I passed out in the middle of aerobics class. Good God, I must have been completely out of my mind.
But insanity is not uncommon for women like me who are at least one hundred pounds heavier than they should be—women like me who spend every waking moment, planning their next delicious meal and then promising themselves that they really will restart their diet this coming Monday. Sure, there are many overweight women who love themselves just the way they are and who walk around proudly with their heads held high, but most of us are not happy with the way we look. More importantly, we are not happy with the way we feel or the way some of us tend to be treated. Like the other day, when I was sitting at the mall in the food court section, wolfing down a colossal meal from Taco Bell, and the couple sitting a few feet away looked over at me in disgust. They never said a word, but I knew immediately what they were thinking. They were wondering why I had the nerve to be eating anything at all, let alone two large burritos, a salad and a large drink. I could read their minds as clear as day and while I wanted to beg for their understanding, I never looked in their direction again. Instead, I pretended that they didn’t even exist.
But actually, this was a huge part of my problem. I’ve always searched for acceptance from others and I have my “wonderfully loving” mother to thank for it. From the time I was eight, she was already criticizing the way I looked, the way I walked, the way I did anything. Nothing was ever good enough. She demanded perfection, but I never gave it to her. Tina, my younger sister, on the other hand, did whatever it took to make Mother happy and Mother has always loved her more because of it. Mother had even slipped and told me so a few years back during an argument we were having, but now she denies ever saying it. Still, I know what I heard and it is the reason our relationship has been terribly strained ever since.
I drove my SUV onto I-94 West and immediately came to a complete stop. Traffic was bumper-to-bumper the same as always, and I couldn’t help wondering why I did this every day. Obviously, I needed to work for a living, but why I drove all the way to downtown Chicago from Covington Park, the south suburb where I lived, didn’t make much sense. Not when I could have easily taken the Metra train roundtrip. But to be frank, I just didn’t feel comfortable doing it. The Metra was nice enough, but for some reason I’d always had this weird phobia about traveling on anything relating to the rail system. Of course, no one understood it, but it was just who I was.
I continued on my journey and realized that I was barely a few miles from the exit that would take me to my favorite Krispy Kreme location. Each day I fought tooth and nail, trying hard not to go there and sometimes I actually didn’t. Sometimes, I drove past the exit and even felt good about it, but it was always a major struggle.
I slowed my acceleration and waited for the flow of traffic to start up again. When I did, my phone rang.
I rolled my eyes toward the ceiling when I saw that it was my sister.
“Hello?” I said.
“Where are you?”
“In traffic, on my way to work. What’s up with you?”
“Why on earth do you keep doing that?” she said. ignoring my question.
“Doing what, Tina?”
“Driving all the way downtown.”
“I do it because this is a free country and because I want to.”
“Whatever is right. Now, did you want something in particular or were you just calling to harass me?”
“I’m calling for two reasons. Well, actually, three. First, I wanted to tell you that I got promoted yesterday to purchasing manager.”
“Well, good for you. I know you’ve been wanting that to happen.”
“I have and it’s going to pay me fifteen thousand more dollars a year. Then, on top of that, Riley Jackson asked me out. You know, that fine-as-wine anchorman on Channel Eight.”
“Nice? It’s fabulous. He’s a huge local celebrity and that means I’ll be going to the best parties that Chicago has to offer.”
I couldn’t believe how shallow Tina was. She was so, so my mother and every bit as appalling.
“What’s the third thing you wanted to tell me?” I hurried to say because I didn’t want to hear any more of my sister’s bragging.
“That I’m planning a surprise birthday party for Mother.”
“Oh really? When?”
“Duh. On her birthday.”
“I know, Tina. But on her birthday, near her birthday, when?”
“Her birthday falls on a Saturday this year, so that’s when I’d like to do it.”
“Actually, my 20-year high school reunion is in November, but I didn’t pay much attention to the date. I’ll have to make sure it’s not the same day.”
“Well, it’s not like some reunion is more important than Mother’s birthday, now is it?”
“And it’s not like we can’t have Mother’s party on a different date, now couldn’t we?”
“You are so selfish,” she said.
“No, I’m not. I’ve never been selfish when it comes to you and Mother. I’ve always gone along with the program and made my own life secondary. And anyway, the reunion date is already set and it’s not like I can make the committee change it.”
“Well, maybe it’s not on Mother’s birthday after all.”
“But if it is, we need to have Mother’s party that Friday or Sunday.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Then, I won’t be there.”
“You heard me.”
“You are so pathetic, Whitney. And it’s not like you should really want to go to some class reunion anyhow—not unless you’re planning to lose some of that weight you’re walking around with.”
I didn’t know whether to cry or curse Tina out. I wanted to do both. I wanted to tell her how much I hated her and how I honestly didn’t want anything to do with giving Mother a party in the first place. I wanted to tell Tina to…
“Tina, you know what? Go straight to hell!”
I pressed the off button and tossed my phone on the seat. I was fuming. I was as angry as ever, the same as every other time I finished a conversation with my sister. The only time I became more irritated was when I, on rare occasion, spoke to my mother. They both made me cringe. In a word, they made me sick.
I just couldn’t understand why they treated me as if I didn’t matter, but I knew it was mainly because they were ashamed of the way I looked. It didn’t matter that I wore the best clothing a plus-size woman could buy, that most men swore I had a beautiful face or that my hair was never out of place. They didn’t care about any of that. All they cared about was that I didn’t look like them: thin. They despised the fact that I didn’t act uppity the way they did or that I didn’t care that much about status. They despised me for caring a great deal about food.
Traffic picked up a bit, and while I tried to forget about my sister, I thought about Jarrett, the gorgeous man who’d dumped me just eight weeks ago—which wouldn’t have been so bad had I not fallen in love with him. He’d seemed so into me the first three months, but it hadn’t been long before his daily calls began to lessen and he began wanting to see me only at my apartment. I soon realized that this was all because he didn’t want to be seen with me in public. You see, I was good enough to give him sex and a well-cooked meal, but I wasn’t the person he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. I know this because he’d told me exactly that, word for word. I remember crying for two days straight over a weekend, all the while eating two whole pizzas, two twelve-packs of soda and three-fourths of a German chocolate cake.
Now, here I was all depressed but still had at least thirty minutes left of my downtown commute. What was a girl to do? The only thing that would certainly make me feel better for the moment—exiting the highway and heading toward Krispy Kreme. As I drove closer, I could already see the bright red light illuminated inside the window and that meant that the “originals” were warm and fresh. So, I rushed inside and purchased one full dozen. I ate two of them in the car before starting the ignition. I ate four more during the rest of my drive to work and took the remaining six up to my office. I wasn’t proud of it, but I knew I would indulge in the rest of those before lunchtime. And why not, because it wasn’t like I had anything else to comfort me. Food was a very necessary part of my life and right now, I just couldn’t see a reason to go without it.
Truthfully, I simply didn’t have the willpower.
1. Do you believe Whitney’s low self-esteem was a result of her relationship with her mother?
2. Have you or anyone you know struggled with the problem of being overweight? Do you think overweight issues in America are worse than ever before?
3. Did you realize that Taylor’s boyfriend was hiding such a huge secret from her in terms of why he wasn’t ready for marriage?
4. Do you think Taylor’s choice to ignore her symptoms of an illness is typical of many women today? Specifically, when the symptoms might mean a possible hysterectomy?
5. Do you know someone who has the same controlling personality as Charisse?
6. Do you think Charisse’s life might have turned out differently had her mother been more loving to her as a child? Or do you think Charisse was born mentally unstable?
7. Were you happy to know that Marvin finally decided that he was going to stand up to Charisse?
8. Which of the three characters could you most identify with, Whitney, Taylor or Charisse and why?
9. In the end, do you believe that Rico really did love Whitney and that they truly have a chance of having a happy relationship?
10. Do you have friends that you can always depend on the same as these women were able to depend on each other in CHANGING FACES?
11. Do you believe the friendship between Whitney, Taylor and Charisse is similar to most friendships between women?