Reading guide for The Half-Life of Everything by Deborah Carol Gang

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The Half-Life of Everything

A Novel

by Deborah Carol Gang

The Half-Life of Everything by Deborah Carol Gang X
The Half-Life of Everything by Deborah Carol Gang
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    Sep 2018, 320 pages

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Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!

  1. David's family is faced with one of the most difficult diseases in our world today - Alzheimer's. Have you ever had a family member or loved one suffer through the disease? How did your family react?
  2. Kate's friends and family react differently to her illness. Many of them visit her very infrequently, almost avoiding her. How do you think you would react if you were one of Kate's friends?
  3. After Kate begins to get better, she spends a lot of time focusing on the years she lost. She grieves for them, looking through photo albums and listening to David tell her everything that she missed. She doesn't want to focus on these years, but she can't help it. If you were Kate, how do you think you would react to missing so many years? Would you focus on your past, or live more (or entirely) in the present and future?
  4. When David begins to see Jane, he maintains that his children, Dylan and Jack, do not have a say in their relationship. Do you agree that once children grow up, parents should be able to forge new relationships without their consent?
  5. Once she unexpectedly returns, it doesn't take long for Kate to realize that David is struggling with the loss of Jane. If David were your husband, would you ever offer him a similar plan? Or is the idea of an open relationship too difficult for you to imagine putting into action?
  6. Would you rather be Kate or Jane in this situation - the first wife who left and returned to a foreign world, or the new woman whose world was shattered by news that is supposed to be good?
  7. The love triangle that Kate, David, and Jane put themselves into is a different take on love and relationships. Do you believe that a relationship like the one here could survive in the real world? Do relationships like that have the ability to work in the long run?
  8. Many of Kate, David, and Jane's friends, including Martha, Ian, Lucy, and Tom, are accepting of their situation, despite the fact that they may disapprove of it. How do you think you would react if you were one of their friends? Would you accept the situation or be critical of it?
  9. Did you find yourself rooting for David to choose either Kate or Jane? Were you surprised to see their relationship work right through to the end of the book?
  10. Kate and David have drastically different relationships with their parents, with Kate being much closer with hers than David with his. Is your own relationship with your parents more similar to Kate's or to David's?
  11. Towards the end of the book, Jack talks about a new girl in his life - Erica. He even imagines her at home with him, playing "Trivial Pursuit" with his family. Do you think that Jack will be able to have a healthy and committed relationship now that his family, although different, seems put back together again?
  12. What did you think of Kate sleeping with William? Did you think she had a right to do so because David was sleeping with Jane, or do you think that was wrong of her? Would you consider it to be cheating?
  13. In the end, when Charlie returns and asks for a second chance with Jane, did you think she would agree to giving their relationship another shot?
  14. After Kate gets better, David and Kate are forced to lie to many people with whom they have been close. Although it is for the greater good of the drug trial, they struggle to do so. Do you think you would be able to lie to those you care about if you knew that it was the right thing to do?
  15. Did the friendship between Kate and Jane surprise you? Do you think you could be friends with someone that your significant other was with?
  16. Jack and Dylan, though brothers, have different personalities and responded to their mother's illness in different ways. Are you different from your own siblings, or are you more similar? If you have children, do you see major differences in their personalities? What do you think contributes to such different personalities in children raised together, by the same parents?
  17. Jane is very understanding throughout her entire situation, despite the fact that her love life was uprooted and the man that she had fallen in love with was taken from her. She does not try to fight for David or take him from Kate. This may be the right thing to have done, but do you think you could have been as noble had you been Jane? Would you have fought to be David's only woman?
  18. At the end of the novel, Lily is pregnant, though she hasn't told anybody yet. How do you imagine her child's future? Will it have two grandmothers on its father's side, instead of just one?
  19. Jack and Dylan, though initially unsure about Jane, don't take too long to accept her into their family, both before and after Kate gets better. Were you ever faced as a child, or even a young adult, with accepting a new family member into your life? How did you feel about your parents dating someone new? Was it difficult for you to accept?
  20. Kate repeatedly explains how embarrassed she feels being around people who knew her when she was sick. Because of this, she seeks out a friendship in Jane, who only knew her after. Do you sympathize with this embarrassment, or do you not understand it? If you were Kate, would you focus on mending your relationships with old friends or creating new ones?


Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Bancroft Press. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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