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My Darling Girl

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About The Book

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Children on the Hill, a psychological thriller “that delivers both chilling scares and genuine emotion” (Chandler Baker, New York Times bestselling author) about a woman who, after taking in her dying, alcoholic mother, begins to suspect demonic possession is haunting her family.

Alison has never been a fan of Christmas. But with it right around the corner and her husband busily decorating their cozy Vermont home, she has no choice but to face it. Then she gets the call.

Mavis, Alison’s estranged mother, has been diagnosed with cancer and has only weeks to live. She wants to spend her remaining days with her daughter’s family. But Alison grew up with her mother’s alcoholism and violent abuse and is reluctant to unearth these traumatic memories. Still, she eventually agrees to take in Mavis, hoping that she and her mother could finally heal and have the relationship she’s always dreamed of.

But when mysterious and otherworldly things start happening upon Mavis’s arrival, Alison begins to suspect her mother is not quite who she seems. And as the holiday festivities turn into a nightmare, she must confront just how far she is willing to go to protect her family in this “twisty, propulsive, character-drive, and hair-raisingly scary” (Nick Cutter, author of The Troop) novel.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for My Darling Girl 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.

Introduction

The New York Times bestselling author of the “otherworldly treat” (People) The Drowning Kind and The Children on the Hill returns with a spine-tingling psychological thriller about a woman who, after taking in her dying, alcoholic mother, begins to suspect demonic possession is haunting her family.

Alison has never been a fan of Christmas. But with it right around the corner and her husband busily decorating their cozy Vermont home, she has no choice but to face it. Then she gets the call.

Mavis, Alison’s estranged mother, has been diagnosed with cancer and has only weeks to live. She wants to spend her remaining days with her daughter, son-in-law, and two granddaughters. But Alison grew up with her mother’s alcoholism and violent abuse and is reluctant to unearth those traumatic memories. Still, she eventually agrees to take in Mavis, hoping that they both can finally heal and have the relationship she’s always dreamed of.

But when mysterious and otherworldly things start happening upon Mavis’s arrival, Alison begins to suspect her mother is not quite who she seems. And as the holiday festivities turn into a nightmare, she must confront just how far she is willing to go to protect her family.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. In My Darling Girl readers are immediately introduced to Alison O’Conner through a chilling flashback to her childhood. How does this introduction to Alison and her mother, Mavis, set up the rest of the story?

2. In Chapter 2, Alison meets Paul at the hospital where Mavis is staying. What was your first impression of Paul and his relationship with Mavis?

3. “I sometimes thought about Ben’s theory that our mother had never wanted children. But she had been different once. When our father was still alive” (p. 17). Alison and Ben remember the events of their childhood differently when they discuss it. How does this affect their dynamic while Alison is caring for their dying mother?

4. “I remembered all the times when she was drunk and angry, that she’d called me a worthless girl. Maybe I was there to prove I wasn’t so worthless” (p. 22).

This is the explanation Alison gives readers for why she visits her mother in the hospital. Do you believe her?

5. Alison has been understandably apprehensive about allowing her mother around her family over the years. What do think motivated Alison to remain in contact with her mother during her adulthood?

6. “She and the stone shared a complicated history; they were inextricably linked” (p. 65). When Mavis arrives at the O’Conner home she brings along her coveted stone. What do you think about the relationship between Mavis and Bobbi? Knowing the stone’s significance, do you think there is more to Bobbi’s death than we learn about in the novel?

7. Throughout the story, Alison reflects on how much she was like Izzy when she was her age. What similarities do you see between the two of them? How does this impact their relationship?

8. Olivia’s upcoming role in The Nutcracker is a recurring topic of discussion for the characters. What is the significance of the ballet in the book?

9. When Alison’s behavior becomes worrisome, Mark suggests going back to therapy, but readers quickly learn that she never went all those years before. Why do you think she lies about seeing a therapist?

10. In Chapter 22, Alison chooses to share with Penny her theory about her mother’s condition. Do you think it was wise of Alison to discuss her suspicions?

11. In Chapter 13, Alison reflects on the incident with the blue jay, which she describes as the “most terrible thing” (p. 117) she’s ever done. What is the significance of the blue jay?

12. At the end of the novel, time jumps ahead eight months. What did you think while reading the last chapter? Was it fate that determined what happened to the characters, or was it the choices they made?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Art plays a significant part in many of the characters’ lives in the novel. Have your reading group set up a paint-and-sip night where you discuss the book.

2. My Darling Girl is primarily told through Alison’s perspective. If you could pick any other character for the story to follow, who would it be? Discuss why you chose that character.

3. Who would you like to see cast in a movie or TV adaptation of My Darling Girl, and which characters would they play?

About The Author

Photograph by Zella McMahon

Jennifer McMahon is the author of twelve novels, including the New York Times bestsellers Promise Not to Tell and The Winter People. She lives in Vermont with her partner, Drea, and their daughter, Zella. Visit her at Jennifer-McMahon.com or connect with her on Instagram @JenniferMcMahonWrites and Facebook @JenniferMcMahonBooks.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press (October 3, 2023)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781668019061

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Raves and Reviews

“Jennifer McMahon’s storytelling skills are on full display . . . This novel feels like what you’d get if you injected The Exorcist into a Hallmark Christmas movie. And that’s a good thing.” - New York Times Book Review

New York Times Book Review, New York Times

“[McMahon calls on] her talent for crafting deliciously creepy atmosphere and a deepening sense of dread. . . . her books rely on ominous, emotional suspense over jump scares. . . [She] takes an all-too-relatable idea—who hasn’t been driven a bit mad by their mother?—and deftly twists it into a tale of supernatural suspense and psychological thrills perfect for spooky season.” –Chandler Baker, author of Cutting Teeth

“Twisty, propulsive, character-driven, and hair-raisingly scary novels are true rarities, but Jennifer McMahon manages this singular feat with My Darling Girl.”

—Nick Cutter, bestselling author of The Troop

"Jennifer McMahon takes an all-too-relatable idea—who hasn't been driven a bit mad by their mother?—and deftly twists it into a tale of supernatural suspense and psychological thrills. My Darling Girl is the rare book that delivers both chilling scares and genuine emotion—I got goosebumps from both."

Chandler Baker, New York Times bestselling author of Whisper Network and Cutting Teeth

"When your estranged, abusive, and dying mother comes to spend her final days at your house and that's only the start of your problems ... My Darling Girl is a thrilling, heady mix of family dynamics and one hell of a clever and page-turning possession story. And scary. Like I couldn't read it before going to bed scary. Good luck, reader."

—Paul Tremblay, author of The Cabin at the End of the World and A Head Full of Ghosts

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