This reading group guide for Safe with Me includes 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.
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Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Consider the title of the novel, and the idea of safety—both of a physical and emotional nature—in the story. Who is keeping whom safe in this book?
2. If you had been in Hannah’s position, do you think you could have donated your child’s organs? Why or why not?
3. Did Olivia and James’s relationship change how you viewed domestic abuse? Does Olivia match your vision of an abuse victim?
4. What is the book saying about the relationship between one’s physical exterior and their emotional and psycho- logical state? How does each character try to project an outward appearance that is different from their internal feelings?
5. Read the novel’s epigraph as a group. What does the concept of destiny, or fate, mean to you?
6. Olivia has many reasons for not leaving James, not the least of which are financial. Consider the power dynamics at play in their marriage. How does James make Olivia feel helpless—and how does he also make her feel special?
7. Dishonesty is a theme throughout the novel. Do you think that there are degrees of dishonesty? For example, is there a difference between fabricating a story and obscuring the truth? What qualifies as lying? And is dishonesty that has good intentions more excusable?
8. Turn to page 177, and as a group, read the scene where James brings Olivia breakfast in bed. Can you empathize with Olivia’s thinking that, “even though she knows better, even though she’s been through this with him a hundred times before, Olivia can’t help but wonder if she really needs to leave him after all.”
9. Maddie’s experience at the mall with Hailey and her friends highlights the perils of being a teenage girl. Do you have any memories from this age that are similar? Do you think the challenges of being an adolescent girl have inherently changed?
10. On page 182, Olivia acknowledges that she worries some- times, “that Maddie spends so much time interacting with what other
people’s imaginations have dreamed up that she’ll never learn to imagine things on her own.” For those of you who have children, do you worry about this as well?
11. Discuss the role that technology plays in this narrative. In what ways does it have an empowering, connective impact? In what ways does it have a distancing effect? Enhance Your Book Club
1. Do you know anyone who has received a donor organ? Learn more about organ donation at: http://www.organdonor.gov/index.html.
2. If you haven’t read Heart Like Mine
yet, consider reading it as a group. Discuss how Hatvany uses three alternating perspectives for different purposes in both Heart Like Mine
and Safe with Me
. What are some of the devices she uses to create unique voices for each of her narrators in these novels?
3. Many domestic abuse shelters accept items that we routinely replace and then have no further need for—like computers, cell phones, cameras, or even magazines. Consider bringing a few of these items to your next meeting and then find a local shelter to donate them to.