Basking in the perpetual sunshine of Singapore, Dara, Amaka, and Lillian find themselves ensnared in the allure of luxury—until a mysterious and handsome newcomer disrupts their close-knit community, shattering their idyllic existence. Dubbed “wanderlust-inducing” by Lola Akinmade Åkerström, this Today Show #ReadWithJenna Book Club Pick unfolds against the backdrop of the Lion City, a place known for its decadent street food, world-class shopping, and lush gardens teeming with tropical blooms.
In The Sun Sets in Singapore, Kehinde Fadipe skillfully captures the vibrancy of the metropolis through the perspectives of these three resilient women. As they navigate the glittering surface of Singapore, they are about to discover that unresolved histories have a way of catching up, even in a city that seems worlds away from home. The listen promises a dazzling exploration of friendship, the complexities of female ambition, and the defining factors that shape our identities. Jenna Bush Hager, in praising the book, describes it as a captivating tale that delves into the essence of friendship, the support structures we rely on, and the intricate elements that define who we are.
If you haven’t listened to The Sun Sets in Singapore yet, take a sneak peek into our exclusive excerpt that’s sure to entice you. And if your book club is picking up this listen from Kehinde Fadipe, keep reading for our discussion questions below. Beware— SPOILERS ahead.
1) At the beginning of the novel, Dara reveals that she’s dedicated the last six years of her life to work, prioritizing her career over personal relationships. Did you admire Dara’s unwavering commitment to her career? Or did you find yourself questioning her prerogatives? In your own life, where do you prefer to channel your energies?
2) Before Dara moved to London to live with her mother, she lived in Lagos with her maternal grandparents. Other than a respect for formality, what do you believe Dara inherited from Granee and Grandad? How do you think being raised by grandparents who loved Nigeria and then a mother who rejected her Nigerian identity impacted Dara’s perception of her heritage?
3) Amaka buys luxury items to temporarily relieve the pain and resentment she feels toward her family, but the consolation is always short-lived. When did you realize that Amaka’s coping mechanism was having its own detrimental effects? Have you ever had a friend or family member fall into a similar situation? How did they work through it?
4) Discuss the mixed feelings Lillian has about her piano—the reasons she played and stopped playing, the connections it gave her to her parents and her past, her resentment and appreciation for it, etc. Symbolically, what did the piano represent?
5) Amaka’s mother, Ugo, was constantly worried that Amaka would “repeat her mistakes” and find herself in a situation that would force her to rely on a man’s generosity. Even as Amaka made a significant amount of money as a credit risk officer, this apprehension never went away. Do you think Amaka ever internalized this worry? How would this have impacted her relationship with Rohit, despite his kindness and reliability? Considering Amaka’s childhood, do you think her anxiety regarding men stemmed more
from her father or her mother? Why?
6) Lillian moved to Singapore with her husband, Warren, when he was transferred for work. Leaving Philadelphia, however, made her feel unmoored, lonely, and isolated. Have you ever made a similar move in your life, one that forced you completely out of your comfort zone? How did you handle the stress and uncertainty? By contrast, how did you handle the excitement? Explain.
7) At her therapist’s office, Lillian admits that, since she was young, she’s struggled to make life-altering decisions, like having a child or not. Have you ever similarly struggled? Who do you lean on when you have to make difficult choices? If you had met Lillian in real life at this stage in her journey, what advice would you have given her?
8) Lillian and Amaka (and an initially reluctant Dara) participate in an expat book club in Singapore. How did the book club foster a sense of community among its members?
9) Out of all the book club members (Kike, Yemisi, Nana, and LeToya), which character did you respond to the most? At the first meeting, what book would you have recommended that everyone read next?
10) Because Ugo’s traditional marriage to Chukwu was dissolved, and he legally married another woman, Amaka and Ugo lived apart from him, which put a great strain on the family. How did you feel learning the details of Amaka’s family dispute? Did you find yourself leaning toward the side of Amaka and Ugo or the side of Amaka’s half-siblings? Why? How would you have navigated such a conflict?
11) In Kike’s dressing room, Dara makes the following remark: “That Kike Ibusun was not the sharpest tool in the box was what Dara suspected she wanted you to believe. Dara had spent too long as an outsider at school and at Oxford not to recognize the sharpness behind that public schoolgirl insouciance. Pretending to be thick was a privilege only girls whose parents had spent half a million pounds on their education could afford.” Unpack the implications of this observation, accounting for Kike’s unique family
circumstances. Why do you think a privileged, highly educated young woman like Kike would deliberately hide her intelligence? What purpose would it serve?
12) Dara also finds it ironic that Kike—the well-connected daughter of a former governor—disapproves of the fact that Lani “had help” getting his role in Geneva: “Maybe when you [stand] on a mountain for so long, the ground [starts] to feel flat.” Discuss how the author calls attention to nepotism and class divides throughout the novel. Did you agree with Dara that Kike was unaware of her privilege in this scene?
13) The author describes the atmosphere and topography of Singapore throughout the novel, imbuing the story with real-world charm. As you were reading, what setting piqued your interest the most? Fort Canning, where Dara and Amaka went for their run? Sentosa, where Amaka and Lani had their first date? The Botanic Gardens, where Lillian and Warren had their conversation? Yishun, where Lillian move to and had dinner with Amaka at the open-air market? Why?
14) Discuss Lillian’s research into reincarnation and the events that prompted her to pursue this inquiry. How would you have responded if Lillian had shared her speculations with you directly? What are your own thoughts on reincarnation?
15) Discuss how the author highlights the economic disparities in Singapore, such as Amaka’s comment to Lani about the gap between the wealthy and the underserved, the cost of rent that Lillian considers when moving to Yishun, or the fact that residents are surrounded by luxury brands but also migrant workers, laborers who sacrifice time with their families in order to make a living in Sing dollars, often residing in cramped living quarters with extremely controlling managers.
16) At Kike’s party, Nana reprimands Dara for not reading books authored by writers like Teju Cole, Helen Oyeyemi, and Noviolet Bulawayo: “You’re basically reading a bunch of books by dead white men and leaving no space to discover your own writers.” Did you agree or disagree with Nana at this moment? When you’re choosing new books or new writers to read, what factors do you take into consideration? While reading, what is most important to you?
17) Discuss how friendships grew and changed throughout the course of the novel between Dara, Amaka, and Lillian. How did the women lean on one another? How did they hurt one another? How did they rebuild trust after it had been broken? How have friendships in your own life been ruptured and mended, and what have you learned about yourself—and others—navigating these experiences?
18) Throughout the novel, Lillian has a recurring dream where she’s drowning. What elements of her past were folded into the dream, and how did you feel reading the hypnotherapy scene in which Lillian worked through these memories with Dr. Geraldine?
19) The author weaves Greek mythology throughout the text, especially in Dara’s point of view. How did the mythological references parallel the plot of The Sun Sets in Singapore? Did the allusions enhance your experience of reading the book? Why or why not?
20) How did you feel about the end of the novel and the resolutions offered for each character? Ultimately, did events play out differently than you expected? Why or why not?
Looking for Book Recommendations?
• Looking to share your love of books? Our handy Book Clubbin’ questions make it super easy to start a book club. Or, Netflix n’ buddy-read with this year’s book-to-screen adaptations (just be prepared for the perennial debate: is the book better than the movie/show?).
• If you’re looking for something extra, we’ve got author and narrator interviews to give you a gleam inside their worlds.
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