Beyond the Moonlit Sea

Beyond the Moonlit Sea Book Cover

Discussion Questions

Spoiler Alert: Please note that the questions below contain spoilers.

  1. When Olivia learns that her husband, Dean, has gone missing over the Bermuda Triangle, what was your expectation regarding the direction of the overall plot for the novel? Did you believe that Olivia would see Dean again one day? If so, under what circumstances?
  2. When the character of Melanie Brown is introduced during her first therapy session, were you hopeful that her Ph.D. project might provide the answer to Dean’s disappearance?
  3. In chapter 11, Dean is aware of the importance of discussing erotic transference with a colleague to ensure he maintains “a helpful and professional therapeutic relationship” with his client, Melanie. But something stops him from seeking help from a colleague.
  4. Discuss Dean’s personal history and how you believe it played a part in his failure to ask for help and also in his failure to maintain a professional relationship with Melanie.
  5. Consider the questions Olivia asks Dean during the interview for her film project on grief. Later, when they walk in the park, they talk about the afterlife. Discuss how the opinions they express to each other might have affected their actions and feelings in the future, in particular Dean’s decision to disappear without a trace, leaving Olivia behind to grieve for him, and also Olivia’s inability to accept that he’s truly gone. In chapter 6, she wonders if he’s in heaven. Why would she change her mind about something she once believed when she was younger?
  6. When Dean goes to Melanie’s house for dinner in chapter 14 and we see how their romantic relationship is disintegrating, did you feel any understanding or sympathy for
  7. Dean at that point? Also consider Melanie’s feelings and behavior in chapter 17 when she suspects that Dean is interested in Olivia. Discuss how first-person narration and point of view can influence how you, as a reader, might judge what is happening.
  8. Do you believe Melanie and Dean could have been successful in their relationship if he had never met Olivia? Why or why not?
  9. Describe how you felt about Dean’s relationship with Olivia, from the moment he first meets her in his office to the moment when they decide to get married and move to Miami. Consider chapter 18 when they travel up the Hudson River together, and later when they cook spaghetti at Olivia’s apartment. How would you describe their feelings for each other? Did you believe it was true love? Were you rooting for them as a couple?
  10. Why or why not?
  11. The book opens with Olivia and Dean going sailing together, and there are many references to sailboats throughout the novel. What do you think the author was trying to convey? Consider how the sailboat represents themes or the state of mind of the characters at different times in the story.
  12. In chapter 23, after Olivia moves back to New York, she expresses this thought about
  13. Gabriel: “But here we were, both single again, and I didn’t know how to make him understand that I didn’t want to start anything. I just wanted to be on my own.” How did you feel about Olivia’s resistance to loving Gabriel at that point? Did you feel she was taking too long to get over the loss of Dean? Discuss how grief can affect a person’s ability to move on. Can you describe any examples from your own life where it was particularly difficult for you, or someone you know, to move on?
  14. When Olivia travels to Australia and finally learns the truth from Dean, were you able to feel any sympathy for his plight? Do you believe Olivia ever truly forgives Dean? If you were Olivia, what would you have said or done when you recognized him on the dock?
  15. After Rose meets Dean in Australia and Olivia wants him to turn himself in for his crimes, Rose says: “But it was so long ago. Don’t you think he’s suffered enough?” Did you agree or disagree with Rose? And in chapter 32, when Dean spends the evening on his sailboat reflecting upon his life, did you wonder if he might flee again? How would you have felt about the novel’s conclusion if he had remained at large?
  16. If Dean had called the police after he fell down the stairs with Melanie, and if he had confessed everything to Olivia right away, how might their lives have turned out? What do you think might have happened?