The Art of Adapting

A Novel

The Art of Adapting

In this “intriguing and moving” ( first novel, a recently separated woman rises to the challenge and experiences the exhilaration of independence with the unlikely help of her brother with Asperger’s.

Seven months after her husband leaves her, Lana is still reeling. Being single means she is in charge of every part of her life, and for the first time in nineteen years, she can do things the way she always wanted to do them. But that also leaves her with all the responsibility. With two teenage children—Byron and Abby, who are each dealing with their own struggles—in a house she can barely afford on her solo salary, her new life is a balancing act made even more complicated when her brother Matt moves in.

Matt has Asperger’s syndrome, which makes social situations difficult for him and flexibility and change nearly impossible. He only eats certain foods in a certain order and fixates on minor details. When Lana took him in, he was self-medicating with drugs and alcohol to numb his active mind enough to sleep at night. Adding Matt’s regimented routine to her already disrupted household seems like the last thing Lana needs, but her brother’s unique attention to detail makes him an invaluable addition to the family: he sees things differently.

A “lively, engaging, and heartfelt tale of learning how to cope with change” (Publishers Weekly), The Art of Adapting is a feel-good story that celebrates the small moments and small changes that add up to one great life.
  • Touchstone | 
  • 368 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476761619 | 
  • July 2014
List Price $10.99 (price may vary by retailer)

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Art of Adapting includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Adapting to change is never easy—especially when that change involves your husband moving out and your brother with Asperger’s moving into the home you share with your two teenaged children. Lana has been dealing with this for the past few months, and not very gracefully. She’s been finding comfort in calories instead of moving on with her life, and she’s not the only one having trouble adjusting. Her brother, Matt, is getting used to a new home with new rules and the unfamiliar sights and sounds of two noisy teenagers. Byron is a fifteen-year-old-boy busy trying to fit in and find himself at the same time, while his younger sister, Abby, is eating less and less, though nobody seems to notice. As they each face their own challenges and begin trying to pull themselves up, they realize that having each other to lean on may be the key to getting back on solid ground. The Art of Adapting is a moving debut about self-acceptance and love, and what it takes to grow and adjust—both individually and as a family.  
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About the Author

Cassandra Dunn
Photograph © Robin Kempster

Cassandra Dunn

Cassandra Dunn received her MFA in creative writing from Mills College. She was a semifinalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and a finalist in Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers. She has two children and lives in the San Francisco Bay area.