For Book Clubs
Also, feel free to check out the reader's guides for David's most recent books below, but know that they do contain SPOILERS.
Reader's Guide for Since She Went Away
1. At the beginning of the novel, Celia has been missing for several months. In what ways are the various characters—Jenna, Jared, Ian, and Ursula—responding to and coping with the stress of her disappearance?
2. Jenna and Jared seem to have a solid mother/son relationship. Do you think this is because Jenna is a single parent? Do you understand why she sometimes worries about the job she is doing and the lack of a male role model in Jared’s life?
3. Since Jared is only fifteen and inexperienced with girls, does it make sense that he would fall so hard and so fast for Tabitha (Natalie)? Are you surprised that he would go to such great lengths to find out what happened to her, including breaking into her house? Do you believe that Tabitha (Natalie) would fall for Jared so quickly as well?
4. Jenna and Celia have been close friends since childhood, but they have drifted apart in the years before Celia’s disappearance. Is it unusual for close friends to drift apart like this as their adult lives change? Do you think Jenna and Celia drifted apart because Celia had moved into a higher social class? Is it possible for friends to grow close again at some point? Draw from examples in your own life, if possible.
5. On the night Celia disappeared, Jenna was late to meet her because she discovered alcohol in Jared’s room and wanted to talk to him about it. Do you think Jenna handled this the right way? Do you blame her for putting her son ahead of her friend? Why do you think Jenna feels as guilty as she does about Celia’s disappearance? Should she feel so guilty?
6. Jenna and Ian have a complicated relationship, starting all the way back in high school when the two of them almost started dating. Do you think they have unresolved feelings for each other? Are you surprised that Celia “stole” Ian away from Jenna? Would Jenna have harbored anger toward Celia? Have there been times in your life when a friend betrayed you? Were you able to forgive?
7. What role does Sally play in Jenna’s life? Is she the kind of friend who tells someone the truth even when they don’t want to hear it? Do we all need a friend like that? Do you have a friend like that, or are you that friend?
8. What did you think of Reena Huffman? What part do the news media have to play when someone like Celia disappears? Do they sometimes overstep their bounds in an effort to get a story? How can the media affect people’s perceptions of a crime? Do you think Jenna made the right decision by not going on Reena’s show?
9. William Rose is obviously not a role model as a father, so why do you think he kept Natalie with him as he traveled around? Do you think in some way he really cared for his daughter?
10. Were you surprised to find out that Ian had Celia followed in the wake of her infidelity? Do you understand why he felt he had to take extreme measures to try to keep his family together? Do you agree or disagree with what he did? What would you do if you found out your spouse was having you followed?
11. Were you surprised to find out that Ursula was responsible for Celia’s death? Can you understand at all the pressures that might have contributed to her violent outburst against her mother? How difficult would it be as a teenager to watch your parents’ marriage almost fall apart as the result of infidelity?
12. How difficult will it be for Jenna and Jared to put their lives together and move on after the end of the novel? Do you think they will maintain a relationship with Natalie?
Reader's Guide for Somebody I Used to Know
1. Nick is hung up on Marissa twenty years after her presumed death. Do you believe that someone could still have feelings for a college love after so much time? Do we ever forget our first real loves?
2. Nick gets a great deal of happiness from his relationship with his stepson, Andrew. Do you think Nick has a significant role to play in Andrew’s life?
3. Nick relies a great deal on Laurel. Do you think they have an equitable relationship in which they both benefit? Or is Nick taking advantage of Laurel?
4. Do you think the police handled the initial investigation of Marissa’s death appropriately? Or did they make assumptions and overlook obvious clues?
5. Why do you think Nick and Heather maintain their on-again off-again relationship? Do you trust Heather’s motives for being with Nick?
6. What do you think of the reason for Marissa’s family disappearing? Do you think her parents did the right thing? How far would you go to protect your child from legal jeopardy?
7. The Maberrys lost a child and never really received justice for it. Do you empathize with them at all? Do you understand why they behave the way they do?
8. Jade has been through a great deal: the pregnancy, the accident, and then the adoption of her child. Do you think she can ever move on from these things and have a normal life?
9. Roger Kirby plays a pivotal role as a friend of the Minor family. Did you know or suspect he was covering up for them the whole time?
10. Were you surprised that Marissa was still alive? Do you think she’s gotten off easy over the years since she was able to have a normal life and raise her own children?
11. What do you think of Riley, Nick’s dog? Were you surprised that he played such a heroic role at the end of the story?
12. What do you think is going to happen when Nick travels to see Marissa? Will they be able to resume their relationship after twenty years?
Reader's Guide for The Forgotten Girl
1. Jason and Hayden have a strained relationship, primarily due to Hayden’s struggles with addiction. Do you understand Jason’s reluctance to let Hayden back into his life? Would you let her back in?
2. Jason seems to realize that it was difficult for Hayden to grow up in his shadow. Do you think it’s challenging for younger siblings to establish their own identities as they grow up? Also, is there more pressure on an older sibling to set the tone in a family?
3. Sierra seems to be a bright, successful teenager despite the difficulties her parents have been through. Are you surprised by the bond between Sierra and her parents?
4. Jason and Regan were close friends—and almost dated—in high school and have recently reconnected. Do you understand the friendship they share even after all those years of not being in touch? Do you think Nora should be concerned about the time Jason spends with Regan? How would you feel if your spouse were Jason?
5. Jason and Nora made the choice not to have children, but when Sierra enters their lives they find themselves reexamining that decision. Do you think Jason and Nora regret not having children? Can having their niece in their lives serve as some kind of a replacement?
6. Jason seems to be having something of a mid-life crisis due to losing his job in New York and moving back to his hometown in Ohio. Is it unusual for someone at Jason’s stage of life to be reevaluating this way? Do you think he’s happy with the choices he’s made?
7. Regan tells Jason that he “hero worshipped” Logan and didn’t see him clearly. What kind of person do you think Logan was? Is Regan correct when she says that Jason didn’t see him clearly? What do you think is the cause of some of Logan’s behavior?
8. Were you surprised to find out what really happened on graduation night? Are you surprised that Regan was willing to keep it a secret for so many years?
9. Logan’s mother knew the truth about her son—both the act of violence he committed against her as well as what he did on graduation night. Was she right to keep those things secret for so many years? Do you think she could have--or should have--done something to help her son, or were the cards too stacked against her because of the influence and power of Logan’s father?
10. Mr. Shaw seems like something of a distant and distracted father. Do you blame him for Logan’s behavior? Do you think he really loved his son?
11. Jesse Dean was responsible for Logan’s death on graduation night, and then Derrick was responsible for Jesse Dean’s death in the cabin. Do you blame these men for the acts of violence they committed? Were there extenuating circumstances in one or both of the cases? How do you view the men differently? Would you want to see them prosecuted for the things they did?
12. When Jason returns home at the end of the book, he seems genuinely happy to see his family, including Hayden and Sierra. Do you think he has a new appreciation for his life, one he didn’t have when the book started? Do you think he and Nora have found a way to be happy in Ohio?
13. Sierra turns out very different than her parents. And despite being siblings, Jason and Hayden take divergent paths in life. Do you attribute these differences to nature over nurture? Do you know people who turned out significantly different from other people in the same household?
Reader's Guide for Never Come Back
1. Elizabeth and her mother have a complicated relationship. Is it unusual for mothers and daughters to have conflict?
2. Elizabeth is reluctant to commit to caring for Ronnie. Can you understand why she feels this reluctance? Or do you think she has an obligation to care for her brother no matter what?
3. Having a family member with special needs places an extra strain on a family. How do you think Leslie, Elizabeth, and Paul handle Ronnie’s special needs?
4. Elizabeth has chosen to come home to attend graduate school. Do relationships between parents and children change for the better as the child becomes an adult?
5. Elizabeth and Dan have a complicated relationship. How do you feel about the way they get along? Is Elizabeth always fair to Dan?
6. When Elizabeth finally meets Beth, they obviously have a lot of catching up to do. What do you think of the way the two sisters try to get to know each other under these difficult and unusual circumstances?
7. Elizabeth relies on her student, Neal Nelson, for help. What do you think of Neal and his role in the book?
8. Gordon Baxter plays a key role in the book. What did you think of him when he first showed up at Elizabeth’s apartment and told her he had been married to Leslie? Did you initially feel any empathy for him? At what point did you realize he was a truly dangerous man?
9. Paul also seems like a caring and loving uncle at the beginning of the book. What was your reaction when you found out his secrets in the final chapters? Why do you think he did the things he did?
10. Beth wanted to get away from her town and her family. Is this a natural desire that a lot of children have? Is it understandable that she felt so ashamed of the direction her life had taken that she had a hard time reestablishing contact with her mother?
11. In the end, Elizabeth decides to take on the role of caring for Ronnie. Does it surprise you that she decides to do this? Do you think she’s going to make this work and still have the life she wants to have?
12. The novel closes with Leslie’s three children visiting her grave. Are the three of them a family now? Will they have an easy time adjusting to being in each other’s lives, or have the real challenges of being a family just begun?
Reader's Guide for The Hiding Place
1. There are a number of parent-child relationships in THE HIDING PLACE. What is the nature of these relationships? Do any of them seem healthier than others?
2. If you are a parent, how do you feel about the decision to leave Janet in charge of her little brother on the day he disappeared? Is there ever a time when this is okay? Was this fair to Janet?
3. Janet is haunted by and feels guilty about the disappearance and death of her brother. Do you think this contributes to her intense desire to believe that the man on the porch is really her brother as an adult?
4. Everyone in the story has a secret he or she is keeping. Why do people who are close to each other—people who are even in the same family and intimately related—so often keep secrets from each other?
5. Are the men in the story—Bill Manning, Michael Bower, Steven Kollman, Frank Stynes—less capable of dealing with their emotional pain and torment than the women? Do any of the men deal with their emotions better than the others?
6. In many ways, Ashleigh is the most physically courageous character in the story. Is that just because she’s young, or is something else driving her to do the things she does?
7. Ashleigh is withdrawn from her mom emotionally, but also possesses an intense desire to make her mother happy, even going so far as to risk her own safety to do so. Is this typical teenage behavior? Why or why not?
8. Discuss Janet’s complicated feelings for Michael. Does she really care for him, or does she just intensely associate him with her past? Or does Michael simply represent the freedom Janet has never had?
9. Like Janet, Detective Stynes feels guilt and regret over events in the past. Why is Stynes attempting to finally deal with these things? Why couldn’t he do it right the first time?
10. Why is Steven Kollman so drawn to Janet? Do you sympathize with him at all or understand why he approaches Janet the way he does?
11. Discuss Dante Rogers. Do you feel any sympathy for him? Is it possible for him to ever have a normal life? Will he ever get over or deal with the inappropriate feelings he has toward young children?
12. How do you think the Manning family will move on after the end of the book?
13. Will Janet ever see Michael or her mother clearly, especially after what she learns about them at the end of the book?
14. Who do you blame the most for what happened to Justin—Michael or Ray Bower? Why?
15. Why is the book called THE HIDING PLACE?
Reader's Guide for Cemetery Girl
1. What do you think of Tom’s desire to know everything that happened to Caitlin while she was gone? Is this in any way a normal response? At what point does his desire to know become reckless or harmful?
2. Did you have a difficult time relating to Abby since she wanted to move on before Caitlin was found? Could you understand why she felt the way she felt? Can you understand why it was difficult for Abby to see Caitlin when she first came back?
3. What did you think of Buster, Tom’s half-brother? At times it seemed like he might have been involved with Caitlin’s disappearance, but at other times, he seemed to be the voice of reason for Tom.
4. Could you understand Caitlin’s behavior when she returned to her family? Is it surprising that a teenager who had been though what she had been through would act that way, at least initially?
5. What is the book trying to say about the complicated nature of family dynamics? We see relationships between a husband and a wife, parents and a child, a brother and a brother. Are our relationships with our families the most complicated relationships in our lives? Do we ever fully understand the people closest to us?
6. What did you think of Pastor Chris and the role he played in Abby’s life?
7. What do you think is going to happen to Caitlin in the future? Is there any hope that she will return to a normal life with her family?