The Transformation of Things (Paperback)

A Novel

By Jillian Cantor

William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780061962202, 304pp.

Publication Date: November 2, 2010

List Price: 13.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.


“A provocative novel that raises fascinating questions about marriage and how to find our way back when love falters. Thoroughly original, highly engaging, and wonderfully tender.”
—Laura Fitzgerald, author of Veil of Roses

The Transformation of Things is an elegant and involving page-turner….Part mystery, part love story, part coming of age, it is a wonderful book. ”
—Barbara O’Neal, author of The Secret of Everything


Author of The September Sisters, Jillian Cantor has crafted a truly fantastic novel about a complicated life made even more complicated by betrayal, secrets, marital upheaval, and an unwanted gift of extrasensory perception. Enthralling and original women’s fiction from an exciting new voice, The Transformation of Things tells the story of a woman who, in glimpsing the intimate lives of her loved ones, is able to illuminate the half-truths in her own.

About the Author

Jillian Cantor has a BA in English from Penn State University and an MFA from the University of Arizona. She is the author of award-winning novels for teens and adults, including, most recently, the critically acclaimed The Lost LetterThe Hours Count, and Margot. Born and raised in a suburb of Philadelphia, Cantor currently lives in Arizona with her husband and two sons.

Praise For The Transformation of Things: A Novel

“In her memorable debut novel, Cantor follows a family so devastated by the disappearance of a daughter that it never fully recovers.”
— Publishers Weekly on The September Sisters

“The Transformation of Things is an elegant and involving page-turner about perception, truth and what’s really true about each of our lives. Part mystery, part love story, part coming of age, it is a wonderful book. I could not stop reading!”

“A provocative novel that raises fascinating questions about marriage and how to find our way back when love falters. Thoroughly original, highly engaging, and wonderfully tender. I couldn’t wait to see how it ended!”
— Laura Fitzgerald, author of Veil of Roses

“Remarkable and magical, THE TRANSFORMATION OF THINGS is a surprising and honest look at the assumptions we make about ourselves and those around us,”
— Maureen Lipinski, author of A Bump in the Road and Not Ready for Mom Jeans

“Cantor puts a unique spin on this tale of a woman in transition.”
— Kristine Huntley

Conversation Starters from

  1. When Jen’s husband Will is first indicted, she decides to stick by him, at the cost of her friendships and her country club life. Do you think she does the right thing? And why do you think she would believe in him, even though their relationship is on rocky ground in the beginning of the book?
  2. How do you feel about the way the people in Deerfield treat Will and Jen after he’s indicted? Are they right or wrong in doing so? Did you initially feel bad for Will when he’s forced to go from judge to salesman, or did you think he got what he deserved? If you were friends with Jen, how would you have reacted to her similarly or differently than her friends in the book?
  3. Jen and her sister Kelly both still feel residual aftershocks from their mother’s death, even though it happened 20 years earlier. How do they handle their grief in different ways? How do you think Kelly and Jen both live their lives differently than they might if their mother had lived? Is Jen right to still be angry with her father, or do you agree with Kelly, that at a certain point she needs to let things go?
  4. Why do you think Jen is afraid to have a baby? Is Will right, that she’s not sure she wants to have a baby with him, or is it something else?
  5. When Jen begins dreaming about her friends, sister, and husband, she begins to see that she was wrong about each one of their happiness. How does learning these intimate thing about those around her begin to inform her choices about her own life? How do you begin to see the characters differently after learning more about them through Jen’s dreams? Is it true that we are each flawed in some way? Do you believe that, beneath the surface, we all have something lurking there that we don’t tell our friends, siblings, or even, spouses?
  6. Which character do you identify with most, Jen, Lisa, Kelly, or Kat, and why? Do you agree or disagree with the choices these women make about being mothers and wives?
  7. At one point in the book, Ethel tells Jen about “The Transformation of Things,” about the man who dreamed he was a butterfly, and then woke up, unsure whether he was a man dreaming about being a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was a man. How does this idea inform your understanding of Jen’s situation? Why is the book called The Transformation of Things? What are the ways in which Jen transforms herself?
  8. Jen spends most of the book dreaming about other people in her life, learning secrets about them. But how did you feel when she started dreaming about herself? What did you believe to be her reality, and what did you believe to be her dream world? Did you notice any clues throughout the book that Jen might be awake when she was “dreaming” or vice versa?
  9. Twice when Jen takes the train into the city, she comes across a little girl reading Goodnight Moon with her mother, a book Jen vividly remembers reading with her own mother. Who do you think this girl is, and why do you think these scenes are in the book?
  10. How do the figurines that Will and Jen give each other act as symbols for what they want in life and with each other? Why do you think Jen finds the figurines at the end of the book?
  11. Are Will and Jen right for each other? Do you think that they have both changed enough to make their marriage work by the end of the book? Why or why not?