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Beachglassby Wendy Blackburn
Reading Group Guide
1.) Talk about the title of the book. In what way are recovering addicts like these pieces of broken-yet-beautiful glass? What other groups of people also fit that description?
2.) “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” is a theme prevalent in this story; what are some examples of this concept?
3.) Which character do you think undergoes the most significant transformation? The least?
4.) Many people view addicts/alcoholics as somewhat doomed, never able to make significant, lasting changes. What did this book do for you in terms of breaking through that belief?
5.) On stigma and stereotype: Delia gets sober at seventeen, stating, “I had been using one chemical or another since I was eleven years old, so the fact that I would bottom out at an age when most people were just getting started was not surprising…” How did this sit with your prior concept of “who addicts are?” What about your preconceived notion of AA: was the AA in the story the way you imagined it really is? How so—or how not? What characters or incidents went against stereotype, and how did this affect your view of 12-step programs, of addiction, of “typical” male/female behavior, of AIDS?
6.) The imagery surrounding the Joan character is rich with symbolism and metaphor. In what ways is she a guardian angel? What visuals support this notion? Talk about the ‘angels in your life.
7.) Zodiac consistently relapses, lies, and engages in activities reminiscent of everything Delia and Timothy are trying to leave behind, yet they never throw her away. Even when Delia is at the end of her rope with Zodiacs antics, there is a sense of a soft spot, a camaraderie. Why do you think this is? Do you feel Delia should have been more like Timothy toward her (hopeful, trusting), or do you feel Timothy should have been more like Delia (reserved, wary, guarded)? Which one do you relate to more in this way? How would you react to such a person—or how have you reacted, if youve known someone like Zodiac?
8.) Going from Point A (allusions to drunken promiscuity, James, Rafael) to Point B (finding a stable, non-addicted soulmate of a husband in Simon) is not an easy journey for Delia; she struggles to understand how to be in relationships, what her needs are, and how to behave in a healthy manner when it comes to men. Does her relationship with Timothy help—or hinder—this struggle? How?
9.) One could make the statement, “Weve all had a James in our lives”—someone with whom a relationship is for whatever reason not feasible, yet the attraction is relentless. Why is he so irresistible to her? Do you feel Delia made the right move with James in the end? Why or why not? What would you have done with someone like that?
10.) Do you think it would be harder for a recovering person to go through a tragedy and stay sober, or would the day-to-day stuff be just as likely to create room for a setback?
11.) Water is a part of several key scenes in this story, in several different forms. Discuss the types of water used (ocean, lake, pool, shower, drinking) in various scenes and the meaning behind each one.
12.) Discuss the concept of surrogate family. Think about how disjointed and mismatched the group of friends in this story would look to others. Is it possible that such seemingly different people would grow so connected? In what other situations do otherwise dissimilar people find friendship and intimacy?
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