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Linda Nichols
Bethany House Publishers
ISBN: 0764227289

Critical Praise
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Discussion Questions

1. What is a marriage? Is it a legal definition or a lifestyle definition? Is there a distinction in your mind between a couple married in the church and one wed "outside" the church?

2. Describe the role of physical appearance in this book. Who is beautiful and who is plain? What do these labels reveal about the characters, and do they change throughout the book?

3. What do the main characters' jobs (Daniel as actor and Lenore as nurse) reveal about the characters?

4. The change in these characters upon giving their lives to Christ seems almost instantaneous. How do their experiences compare to yours or to that of others you have observed?

5. Lenore's name means "light" or "light of the sun." Discuss how she lives up to her name.

6. Both Daniel and Lenore (at different times) are faced with hitting rock bottom. What do you admire about their particular responses, and what, if anything, do you think they should have done differently? Talk about how you made it through some of the darkest times of your life.

7. Lenore keeps things (her diagnosis, the name of her ex-lover) from Erik Ashland, and later she keeps the discovery of the lump in her breast from Al. Why do you think she holds these secrets? Should she?

8. Think of the different homes portrayed in the novel (Daniel and Lenore together, Daniel alone, Lenore and Scott, the communal home). Which is the truest representation of "home" as you see it? What are the elements that make up this purest embodiment of home? How did your childhood home life meet or miss those qualities? Likewise, how does your present life?

9. Which character do you think benefits most from living in the communal house? Which character sacrifices the most?

10. Domesticity (cooking food, keeping house, working on wood projects) has deep meaning for the characters. What do these things represent?

11. The core theme of the book comes from the verse suggesting the folly and frustration of seeking to "gain the world." Give some examples of what you think this phrase means. Name a real-life person who you think best exemplifies someone who has gained the world. What meaning does their life have?

12. "A new normal" is a phrase that gained great significance in the days following 9/11. What are some life events that have forced you to find a new normal in your own life? Is there any trauma or change too great to reestablish normality?

13. Extra: Read Edgar Allen Poe's poem "Lenore" and discuss the narrator's thoughts about his beloved as compared to Daniel's vision of Lenore in the book. (This poem can be found online.)

Copyright 2003 by Linda Nichols. Reprinted with permission by Bethany House Publishers. All rights reserved.

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Critical Praise

"Nichols's follow-up to NOT A SPARROW FALLS is rich and unsentimental. Her main characters are skillfully developed and draw readers into their struggles. This high-quality relationship novel is highly recommended for most collections."

Library Journal

"Linda Nichols' emotionally gripping style renders a challenging, insightful and fulfilling read."
Romantic Times

"I don't want to say Linda Nichols is a great storyteller because I feel those words are inadequate. There is so much more to IF I GAINED THE WORLD than a story. It is an experience. She touches the tender part of the soul that is often hidden away, protected by a wall of life experience and pain. I devoured the 386-page book and had to deliberately slow down and read the last few pages because I didn't want it to end. And, at the same time the end was so good, I'm sorry I didn't get to it sooner. IF I GAINED THE WORLD is a must read. Five stars."
— Guide, Romance Fiction