Spoiler Alert: Please note that the questions below contain spoilers.
The novel opens with the following passage: “Intuition is a funny thing. Sometimes it’s a gut feeling, and you look around and just know something bad is about to happen. Other times, it’s elusive, and later you find yourself looking back on certain events and wondering why in the world you missed all the signals.” Discuss Abbie’s state of denial in the first chapter, before she is run off the road. How effective, or ineffective, was her intuition?
In chapter twelve, do you feel that Abbie should have taken Zack’s phone away from him to shield him from the news coverage about his father’s accident? What would you have done in that situation? And discuss how this approach differs from her later approach, when she wants to shield him from his father’s extra-marital affair. Why is this different? Or is it? If you were in Abbie’s shoes, would you have told your son about your husband’s infidelity? Why, or why not?
In chapter twenty, Paula says, “I’m sorry I kept this from you…but Alan made me promise never to tell you, and after the accident, I felt so guilty… That it was my fault he was on the road that night. And then I figured… What would be the point in telling you? It couldn’t change anything, and you’d only be in more pain.” Then Abbie thinks to herself, “But would I have preferred to live the rest of my life in ignorance? I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. Maybe I would have.” Do you believe Abbie would have been better off never knowing about Alan’s affair? Where might she be a year later, or twenty years later, if she’d never found out? How would her life be different?
In chapter twenty-three, when Zack suggests they do something special to honor Alan’s memory, Abbie thinks, “…doing something special for my lying, cheating husband isn’t exactly at the top of my priority list right now. I just want to figure out how to get up in the mornings without wanting to smash our framed wedding portrait against the corner of the kitchen table.” Do you feel Abbie’s emotions are normal, and is she doing a good job managing them? Or do you feel she is keeping too much bottled up and needs to deal with her anger more openly? She often works very hard to keep her cool, especially in chapter twenty when she learns the truth from Paula. What does this say about her as a woman? Does she try too hard to be perfect? If so, where do you think this desire to be perfect comes from?
Discuss how Abbie’s choice to keep Alan’s infidelity a secret from Zack is the same and/or different from Alan’s choice to keep his affair secret from Abbie.
Based on what you know about Alan and his upbringing, did you ever feel any sympathy toward him after learning of his affair? If so, why? If not, why not?
In Chapter twenty-nine, Abbie says: “I realize it was sheer force of will that kept me on my feet just now, because I don’t want to give Alan the power to hurt me anymore. I want to live, and live happily, and in order to do that, I need to do my best to stop fixating on his betrayal and the anger I feel. I need to focus on how I’m going to manage this condition, and move on with positivity and determination, not vitriol, which will only bury me in ugly, emotional muck. That won’t help me at all.” Can you think of a time in your life when you were angry about something, and you had to put aside your emotions and deal with the problem objectively, or force yourself to maintain a positive attitude? Are there any situations in your life where you allowed yourself to become bogged down in emotional muck, and it took you longer than it should have to emerge happily?
In chapter thirty, Abbie says, “I watch my son for a moment and I know exactly what he’s feeling because I’m feeling it, too. I know him too well and his pain is my pain. His joy is my joy.” Zack is Abbie’s only child. Do you think she is too invested, emotionally, in her son’s life? What does this say about her as a parent and what does it mean for her as a widow? Discuss the difficulties parents face when it comes to letting go of their children as they move into adulthood, and how are these difficulties compounded for Abbie, given her situation?
In chapter thirty-three, in the cemetery, Zack defends his father. Is it wrong for him to be so defensive and supportive of the man who drove drunk and nearly killed his mother? Do you feel it is disloyal to Abbie, for him to be critical of her anger? Is it ever okay to sympathize with a drunk driver?
Do you know anyone with narcolepsy? If so, how has it affected this person’s life?
Discuss the role of Abbie’s dog, Winston. How is he a mirror image of some of Abbie’s experiences throughout the novel? How does he contribute to her survival, both physically and emotionally? And do you believe that animals can sense and understand what is going on the hearts of humans? Discuss the scene where Winston reacts to the home intruder that Abbie dreams about. Have you ever had an experience with a pet when you believed he or she displayed some psychic abilities?
Abbie never actually says in the novel that she has forgiven Alan for his infidelity. In the end, do you believe Abbie forgives him? Why or why not?