Synopses & Reviews
A remarkably frank, deeply moving, and inspiring memoir by Jai Pausch, whose husband, Randy, wrote the bestseller The Last Lecture while battling pancreatic cancer.
"Jai is such a giver that she often forgets to take care of herself," Randy Pausch wrote about his wife. "Jai knows that she’ll have to give herself permission to make herself a priority."
In Dream New Dreams, Jai Pausch shares her own story for the first time: her emotional journey from wife and mother to full-time caregiver, shuttling between her three young children and Randy’s bedside as he sought treatment far from home; and then to widow and single parent, fighting to preserve a sense of stability for her family, while coping with her own grief and the challenges of running a household without a partner.
Jai paints a vivid, honest portrait of a vital, challenging relationship between two strong people who faced a grim prognosis and the self-sacrificing decisions it often required. As she faced life without the husband she called her “magic man,” Jai learned to make herself a priority to create a new life of hope and happiness—as she puts it, to “feel a spark of my own magic beginning to flicker.”
Dream New Dreams is a powerful story of grief, healing, and newfound independence. With advice artfully woven into an intimate, beautifully written narrative, Jai’s story will inspire not only the legions of readers who made The Last Lecture a bestseller, but also those who are embarking on a journey of loss and renewal themselves.
About the Author
JAI PAUSCH became an impassioned advocate promoting pancreatic cancer research following the death of her husband. Previously, Jai led the Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science Web team as the director of electronic publications. She lives with her family in Virginia.
Reading Group Guide
Millions of readers were captivated by Randy Pausch’s bestseller The Last Lecture,
written in the final months of his life as he battled pancreatic cancer. One of his greatest concerns was the toll taken on his wife, Jai, as she cared for him while raising their young children, including an infant daughter. In their all-too-brief marriage of eight years, they had built a symbiotic relationship, but Randy’s disease would transform them even more deeply. Now, in Dream New Dreams
, Jai shares her story, chronicling the emotional and practical challenges she faced and sharing wisdom for other caregivers.
From managing finances to making gut-wrenching decisions about medical care, as well as trying to explain it all to their three little ones, Jai candidly describes the process of facing stark truths while a loved one is dying. Her husband taught the world how to live a life infused with joy, purpose, and hope. With Dream New Dreams, Jai reflects on the promise of that message as a single mother, finding strength in unexpected ways.
In the spirit of Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking and Elizabeth Edwards’ Resilience, Jai’s memoir awakens us to newfound courage. As you and your friends gather to discuss this inspiring book, we hope that the following questions and topics will enhance your journey.
1. Which aspects of Jai’s story resonated with you the most? How did her observations compare to your own experiences with loss and grief?
2. With gratitude, Jai describes the support network of family and friends who helped her manage her family’s many day-to-day needs. What does her story tell us about the importance of community, and the humbling process of asking for help? Who are the strongest members of your support system?
3. One of the Pausches’ most difficult crossroads arose when Randy opted for treatment at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center. This meant Jai had to become a long-distance mother, leaving her two sons and infant daughter in the care of others. (Were her struggles amplified by the fact that she is a woman?) Meredith: this was more about making a difficult choice between two compelling and competing sets of needs, and less because she was a woman. Can we recast?) Is there a difference between the way women and men experience the obligations of caregiving?
4. What does Jai’s story reveal about grief through the eyes of children? How did Dylan, Logan, and Chloe experience their father’s love and loss in unique, individual ways?
5. Jai describes her marriage as one that encouraged open lines of communication. How did she and Randy handle anger? What solutions did they come up with to resolve the loss of control they both felt after his diagnosis?
6. Randy was diagnosed with cancer j just three months after Jai gave birth to Chloe. What special struggles did this present for Jai, nurturing a new life while facing her husband’s mortality?
7. Jai mentions the fact that some might see Randy as too controlling in his approach to finances, his medical treatment, and her life as a widow. Yet she sees his detailed spreadsheets and instructions as signs of how worried he was about her well-being. What is the difference between concern and control? How did the Pausches adapt to the power struggles all married couples experience?
8. What was Dr. Reiss’s role in helping Jai find strength and clarity? Which people in your life have sustained you emotionally during difficult circumstances?
9. In the aftermath of Randy’s death, Jai experiences a range of sorrows and fears, but she also admits to finding new freedoms. How did she regain some of the magic in her life? How was her healing enhanced when she became part of a network of caregivers and cancer-research advocates?
10. As Jai debates whether to date again (Dylan lobbies hard for a new dad) she struggles with the process. What do these scenes say about the experience of solitude versus partnership?
11. Many of Jai's dreams for her family were never fulfilled, yet she has embraced the future, traveling to Europe with her best friend, Tina and finding new love. Discussing the book’s title, explore your own lifelong dreams and any new ones that replaced them.
12. Dream New Dreams inspires us to find hope, regardless of the challenges we face. What did Jai discover about moving forward after loss? What does she teach us about reimagining the future while cherishing the past?
13. Jai talks about the extra demands caregiving placed on her life and how her support network stepped up to help her and her family. What ways have you seen people in your life support a caregiver? What acts were well received and appreciated? Sometimes the best of intentions cause unintended harm. Have you witnessed or experienced situations were someone was trying to help, but ended up doing more harm than good hurt?
14. Randy lived 23-months with pancreatic cancer---much longer than the majority of people with the disease. As medical science finds ways to slow cancer's growth and patients battle diseases for longer periods of time, what are the implications for the loved ones who care for them and for our society in general?
15. Jai describes the process she went through to reinvent herself after becoming a widow with three small children. When have you had to make major life or career changes? How did you decide which new direction to take with your life?