This sequel to the best-selling Chosen by a Horse follows author Susan Richards’s journey of self-discovery as she embarks on a book tour, and by pure chance meets the man who will become her husband. Along the way she revisits her time with Lay Me Down and her other beloved animals, as well as delves deeper into her formative years—all told with the same compelling straightforwardness and candor that made her debut such a hit with readers.
1. In her first book, we read that the author was “chosen” by the horse Lay Me Down. In what ways did this experience allow Susan to open her heart to people? Was she “chosen” by Dennis Stock, or did her experience with Lay Me Down allow her to trust and choose someone for herself?
2. In many ways, the animals in Susan’s life have had a more significant impact on her than the people she’s known and loved. Why do you think that is? How do the memories of her horses help Susan work through various challenges presented to her? In what ways does she find inspiration in her relationships with, and the behavior of, her animal companions?
3. Susan’s journey often includes moments of profound clarity or striking force that instantly change her life. Many of these moments are almost magical. She says that when you are traveling the path you were meant to, amazing things can happen. Does Susan believe in fate? Do you? Are we meant for a particular life? Identify some of these moments and describe how they change her, or why they change her mind.
4. Like raising and caring for animals, writing has been a significant part of Susan’s adult life and a major influence on her, even motivating her lifestyle decisions. On page 83 she writes, “Besides being a craft, writing is about discovering the truth.” How does Susan use her writing to discover the truths in her life? What truth does she find?
5. After years of reporting a lack of success to Barry, her friendly neighborhood bookseller, Susan finally gets her memoir published. Yet when Barry enthusiastically offers to set up a reading for her at his store, Susan finds herself distressed. Why does this show of local support upset Susan instead of thrill her?
6. Susan frequently describes feelings of longing for things she’s never had—a family, self-confidence, a published book, a healthy loving relationship—but her anxiety also causes her to run from those things she says she wants most. Identify moments in the memoir when this happens. Why does she react the way she does? Discuss the deeper motivations behind her behavior as described in the book.
7. While driving to a reading in Connecticut, Susan remembers the short period of her life when, at age twenty-two, she went to live with her father and his fourth wife on their private island in the Long Island Sound. As she drives, admiring the large mansions and beautifully groomed landscapes, she “wondered what kind of hell was going on behind the boxwood hedges and the big stone pillars. I can tell you this: things are not as they appear” (page 196). What does she mean by this? What else in the memoir turns out to be different than it appears?
8. Susan lost her family at a young age, but she made a family of her own throughout her life with animals—horses, dogs, cats. The fact that Dennis has a dog certainly makes him feel more familiar and comfortable to her. How does Susan take solace in her animal family? In what ways are their relationships similar to that of a human family? What aspects of animal relationships are irreplaceable by humans, and vice versa?
9. On page 206, Susan writes, “Being on a book tour had begun to feel like coming full circle, returning to my youth but now with a chance to do it differently, to do it better.” What do you think she means by this? How is the book tour a chance for her to do things differently? Do you think she does, in fact, do things better? Why or why not?
10. Susan describes her personal brand of religion as one that honors signs—particularly those involving animals, since they are so close to her heart. What signs are presented to Susan throughout the book? How does she, or other people in her life, interpret them? Do you agree or disagree with these interpretations? Have you ever felt that you’ve been given a strong sign to indicate how you might make a decision?
11. Orphaned in childhood and raised by relatives who were cruel at worst and indifferent at best, Susan grew into a woman plagued by insecurities. Her relationships with her extended family, as well as many friends, became casualties of her severe anxiety problems and increasing alcoholism in her adulthood. The book tour brings her back in touch with this lost community of people. How does this reconnection extend from the lessons of her first book? How does her discovery that these people have missed her and love her change Susan’s outlook on her relationship with Dennis and her overall approach to life? Are there any family members or friends you have lost over the years whom you would like to find again? Whose presence would change your life?
12. Susan shows herself to be a work in progress. Before she rescues Lay Me Down, her life is marked by fierce solitude and distrust; then, after she’s written the first part of her story, she becomes a successful writer with a best-selling memoir. In what ways does publishing her book change her life? How does Susan’s story prove that one can change, at any age? How does her transformation affect her human relationships?