Synopses & Reviews
Stricken by a mysterious malady, college sophomore Alice Brody has suddenly lost the use of her legs. How does a bright, beautiful, and now immobile young woman proceed with her passions? As she convalesces in a Manhattan hospital, Alice finds herself attended by a motley group of visitors: indifferent nurses, doctors both good and bad, divorcing parents, and eccentric relatives. But Alice is a creature of many charms, whose wit can enchant those bearing even the worst bedside manner. With a captivating heroine of great comic depth, Alice in Bed is balm for whatever ails you.
About the Author
Cathleen Schine is the author of The Three Weissmanns of Westport, To the Birdhouse, The New Yorkers, and The Love Letter, among other novels. She has contributed to The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, and The New York Times Book Review. She grew up in Westport, Connecticut, and lives in New York City and Venice, California.
Reading Group Guide
1. What was your initial impression of Alices character? Did her reactions to her situations surprise you, or did you feel you understood her?
2. How does Alice's view of each of her family members change throughout the novel?
3. What is the function of the letters Alice writes to her institutionalized friend, Katie? Do they reveal more about her inner workings than the narrator does?
4. Do Alice's sexual relationships with Simchas and Dr. Davis help her cope in any way? Why does she allow the men to keep taking advantage of her -- if that indeed is what is happening? How does her realization of how abusive her old boyfriend Jeffrey was affect how she views sex and relationships?
5. Almost everyone has the experience of visiting a loved one in the hospital or being a patient themselves. How does Alices experience change or illuminate your imagination of what such an experience is like? If you have experienced a long hospital stay yourself, what resonated with you from her narrative?
6. Alice develops close relationships with her nurses, but recognizes that the relationships will be defunct once she leaves their care. What is hard about continuing a close relationship like that after the reason for it is gone?
7. Why does Alice dislike having her friends visit so much? Is it immature to push them away, or a natural coping mechanism? Are any of the people who come “real friends”?
8. Several severely flawed male characters (Louis Schifo, Simchas, Dr. Davis, etc.) provide much of the humor in the novel. Which one did you find most hilarious? Which was the most disturbing?
9. Why is it hard for Alice to leave her bed after she is well? How is she paradoxically liberated through her experience of being physically trapped for so long?
10. At the very end, Alice describes herself as a used-to-be-patient to Nick, the young doctor/ornithology enthusiast. In what ways is being a patient like an occupation? Is Alice a good patient?