Skipping a Beat (Paperback)

A Novel

By Sarah Pekkanen

Washington Square Press, 9781451609820, 352pp.

Publication Date: February 22, 2011

Other Editions of This Title:
Digital Audiobook (12/16/2013)

List Price: 16.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.


From the author of the acclaimed The Opposite of Me, a poignant, witty novel about marriage, forgiveness, and the choices that give shape—and limits—to our lives.
What would you do if your husband suddenly wanted to rewrite all of the rules of your relationship?  This is the question at the heart of Skipping a Beat, Pekkanen’s thought-provoking second book.

From the outside, Julia and Michael seem to have it all.  Both products of difficult childhoods in rural West Virginia – where they were simply Julie and Mike – they become high school sweethearts and fall in love.  Shortly after graduation, they flee their small town to start afresh.  Now thirty-somethings, they are living a rarified life in their multi-million-dollar, Washington D.C. home. Julia is a highly sought-after party planner, while Michael has just sold his wildly successful flavored water company for $70 million.

But one day, Michael collapses in his office. Four minutes and eight seconds after his cardiac arrest, a portable defibrillator jump-starts his heart. But in those lost minutes he becomes a different man. Money is meaningless to him - and he wants to give it all away. Julia, who sees bits of her life reflected in scenes from the world’s great operas, is now facing with a choice she never anticipated. Should she should walk away from the man she once adored – but who truthfully became a stranger to her long before this pronouncement - or give in to her husband's pleas for a second chance and a promise of a poorer but happier life?  

As wry and engaging as her debut, but with quiet depth and newfound maturity, Skipping a Beat is an unforgettable portrait of a marriage whose glamorous surface belies the complications and betrayals beneath.


About the Author

Sarah Pekkanen is the bestselling author of The Ever After, The Opposite of Me, Skipping a Beat, These Girls, The Best of Us, Catching Air, Things You Won’t Say, and The Perfect Neighbors. Her work has been published in People, The Washington Post, and USA TODAY, among other publications. She lives with her family in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Praise For Skipping a Beat: A Novel

“The impossible choice between true love and the trappings of success is explored in Skipping a Beat. Sarah Pekkanen proves masterful at creating nuanced, complex characters deadlocked with emotional conflict, and the story culminates in an ending that will leave readers breathless. Evocative and compelling, it couldn’t be more satisfying.”Jen Lancaster, author of Bitter is the New Black

"A provocative, poignant look at marriage, money and the things that matter most." —Beth Kendrick, author of The Pre-Nup

"Original, engaging, and soulful, Skipping a Beat explores the complexity of marriage and what it really means to share a life. I fell in love with Julia, a funny, flawed and utterly real heroine—and felt the weight of her dilemma with every page, all the way through to the surprising, satisfying finish." —Emily Giffin, New York Times bestselling author of Something Borrowed and Heart of the Matter

"Tender and funny in turn, Sarah Pekkanen has made modern marriage exciting in this imaginative and heartfelt tale of love and healing." —Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, #1 New York Times bestselling authors of The Nanny Diaries

"In her second novel, Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me) offers a wonderfully compelling, compassionate, and complicated portrait of the marriage of Julie and Michael Dunhill. Meeting in high school, the two were both determined to leave their hometown behind and make something of their lives, contrary to how they were raised. With Michael’s colossal and unpredicted financial success, these once loving sweethearts drift apart and find different foci for their passionate energies—Michael is completely absorbed in his DrinkUp company and Julie in her party-planning business. When Michael collapses on his office floor and dies for four minutes and eight seconds, their whole world changes, and both are left to reevaluate what they thought was important in life. For Julie though, this is a struggle to overcome the disappointment, sense of abandonment, and misunderstandings she’s harbored against her husband for years. VERDICT: In this compelling and satisfying read, Pekkanen offers relatable characters that move you and an ending that surprises and pleases. Highly recommended." —Library Journal, starred review

“A two-hanky weepy… A tragic turn of events redirects what could have been a predictable romance into a drama on the fragility of love and marriage.” —Kirkus

“An insightful examination of a marriage. The moving story and bittersweet ending will draw in readers” —Booklist

"This portrait of a couple forced to take responsibility for the breakdown of their relationship is at once heartbreaking and familiar." —People

“Intelligent and entertaining.” —The Washington Post

Conversation Starters from

  1. When a teenaged Julie asks Mike where he sits in class, he responds, "I'm right behind you, Julie. I always have been." Does this statement remain accurate for their entire relationship?
  2. Why is Julia so reluctant to hear about Michael's near-death experience?
  3. "I had no doubt Michael would be successful, but as much as I loved him, as much as I wanted to, I couldn't bring myself to gamble on him." Why does Julia feel this way? Why does she insist on a prenuptial agreement?
  4. When Michael leaves Julia a card telling her that he loves her, she crumples it in her hand and thinks, "I wanted to hurt him. He was ruining everything." Considering how unhappy she is in their marriage, what exactly is Michael ruining?
  5. How did her parents' relationship affect the one she shares with Michael? Does Julia trust anyone?
  6. Michael is often described as jittery. Why does he seem to never stay still for very long?
  7. Michael senses that he doesn't have much time left. Does Julia believe him? Why does she have nightmares that she is losing him?
  8. Throughout the novel, Julia frequently mentions her favorite operas. Why are they so important to her?
  9. What significance do you see in Noah's restaurant riddle?
  10. Michael frequently laments that success changed him for the worse, from taking risks with the exploding glass bottles to the "Let's see you bastards ignore me now" checks for his family to Scott's law- suit and the many other examples of hush money. Do you agree that money changed him? Was he always a good man, or did power truly corrupt him?
  11. What do you think the future holds for Isabelle and Beth? Will they stay in touch?
  12. "'I never went with you to visit your mother.' This is what Michael and I had been heading toward ever since he'd fallen to that conference room floor, I realized." Why is it so important for both of them to visit Julia's mother?
  13. Why does Julia confess her affair to Michael? Why had they never discussed Michael's assumed affair?
  14. What does giving her jewelry to Michael symbolize? Does this decision mean that Julia wants to stay married?
  15. At the novel's end, why does Julia return to her father's house? Does she forgive him?
  16. Discuss how things could have been different if Michael had never collapsed in the conference room. Would he still be married to Julia?