A. Sabina tends to surround herself with other young drifters who spend their time looking for love and then fleeing from it. Discuss some examples of this tension between being sought out, being found, and the urge for isolation, retreat, escape. 

B. “He was a boyfriend for the shadows” (p. 122). Sabina has many secret-boyfriends or almost-boyfriends. Why do you think this is? What is it about these sorts of relationships she finds appealing?

C. Guilt and blame come up frequently in the book–between couples who may or may not be faitfhul; in the aftermath of accidents; in friendships. What do you think of Sabina’s sense of accountability–is she too frequently feeling guilty? Not enough? What about the other characters and their sense of accountability?

D. Vida says: “There is no love. Only people living life together. Tomorrow will be better” (p. 145). What do you think of Vida’s outlook on life and love? Is it optimistic or pessimistic (or realistic?). Does Sabina share this outlook?

E. In “Refuge”, Sabina’s boyfriend Nico gets into a fight. “‘The punches I took for you,’ Nico would say, like it was a debt to be paid” (p. 39). Where else in this book are women considered to “owe” a debt to men?

F. Many characters in this book die. What do you think the author is saying about life considering the various ways her characters experience death?

G. Sabina is the recurring character throughout Vida, even when the point of view changes; we see her at different ages, in different cities, with and without her family, in different relationships. What do we come to learn about Sabina in the book? What kind of a girl or a woman is she? What is her relationship with her parents like? With her brother? With her Colombian identity? How does Sabina see herself, and the various roles available to her, in relation to the women in her own family? Consider her mother, her aunt Paloma, and other members of her extended family in the United States and in Colombia.

H. What do you make of the author’s epigraph: “In each life, particularly at its dawn, there exists an instant which determines everything.” Do you agree with this statement? Was there an instant in Sabina’s life that determined everything?

the book is Vida by Patricia Engel