About The Book

Reminiscent of the beloved novels by Mary Kubica and Jodi Picoult comes a chilling portrayal of a son’s addiction and its harrowing effects on both him and his mother from New York Times bestselling author Courtney Cole.

There comes a time when offering your life for your child’s doesn’t work, when you realize that it’ll never be enough.

The cold needle in his warm vein was a welcome comfort to my son at first. But then it became the monster that kept us apart.

Heroin lied, and my son believed. It took him to a world where the last year didn’t happen, to a place where his father was still alive. What Beck didn’t understand was that it couldn’t bring his father back from the dead. It couldn’t take away his pain, not permanently.

You think it can’t happen to you, that your kids, your family, will never be in this situation.
I thought that too. But you’re wrong.

Step into our world, and see for yourself.
Watch my golden boy become a slave to this raging epidemic. Watch me try and save him.

Drug addiction comes with a price.
Trust me, you’re not equipped to pay it.

Don’t miss this heartwrenching, evocative, yet hopeful novel—it will leave you forever changed.

Reading Group Guide

This readers group guide for Saving Beck 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

When Natalie Kingsley’s husband, Matt, dies in a car crash on his way home from a college visit with their teenage son, their happy family life is irreparably damaged. One year later, she’s a widow still unmoored by grief, struggling to raise three grieving children who feel as if they have somehow lost both parents.

Her older son, Beck, helps Natalie with daily responsibilities that she can’t seem to manage alone. But in private, Beck agonizes over his role as driver of the car the night his father died. Unwilling to accept that a faulty seat belt is to blame, Beck turns to heroin to cope, and he quickly becomes addicted to the temporary escape it offers.

For Natalie and Beck, heroin threatens to endanger the fragile recovery that they have painstakingly achieved. Separately, and together, they must fight for their family’s survival.

Topics and Questions for Discussion

1. Describe Natalie Kingsley’s condition when she arrives at Mercy Hospital with her oldest son, Beck. What does Natalie’s heightened awareness of the private waiting area in the hospital—its sounds, smells, lighting, decor—reveal about her emotional state? How does her husband’s recent death intensify her perceptions?

2. “I feel my chest rise off the table, breaking rank from the rest of my body, and I feel myself thrashing against my will, yet it doesn’t hurt. . . . I don’t know why I’m able to think calmly when my body is out of control” (page 14). How does the author’s decision to incorporate Beck’s internal monologue into the novel’s narrative affect your understanding of his character and his motivations? How would you describe Beck’s awareness of his condition and his whereabouts?

3. Compare Beck’s relationship with his father, Matt, to his relationship with his mother, Natalie. With whom does he seem most able to express himself and why? In your discussion, consider examining his parents’ individual feelings about Beck’s athletic and academic pursuits, his future goals, his girlfriend, and his strengths and weaknesses as a person.

4. “Beck was the one who had been feeding the kids for me; he even paid the utility bill for me yesterday. . . . He couldn’t be that responsible and also smoke pot on the side” (pages 66–67). In the aftermath of Matt’s death, why does Beck assume the role of co-parent? In what respects do his self-medicating and use of illicit drugs reveal the impulsivity of a typical adolescent, the rebelliousness of one who cannot bear the new burdens imposed on him, or something altogether different?

5. Beck’s first experience with heroin leads him to seek out more drugs in a run-down Chicago building populated by drug users that he imagines as his “new family.” Why does Beck want to leave his family and the comforts of home? To what degree are Beck’s family and friends responsible for his drug use?

6. “It’s Kit, my husband’s best friend, and he’s filling the doorway with his giant shoulders. He’s a Great Dane in a sea of Labradors” (page 11). How would you characterize Natalie’s feelings for Kit? How does Kit’s changing role in the Kingsley family following the accident disrupt the stability Natalie has sought to reclaim?

7. How would you describe the sibling dynamic between Natalie and her younger sister, Sam LaRosa? In the aftermath of Matt’s accident, what substantive changes in Beck does Sam observe that Natalie is incapable or unwilling to acknowledge? To what extent are these changes visible to others close to Beck, like his girlfriend, Elin, and his younger siblings, Annabelle and Devin?

8. How do the present-tense and flashback narratives of Natalie and Beck provide a more comprehensive picture of their family’s experience? Which character’s voice or story did you find more compelling, and why? Why do you think the author chose to write the novel using these dual—and at times, dueling—perspectives?

9. Discuss the character of Angel and the role she plays in the novel. What does she represent to Beck? How did you react as a reader upon learning that Angel was a figment of Beck’s drug-addled imagination? To what extent does Beck’s interpretation of Angel—that she was the embodied spirit of Sarah Greene, the other driver, who perished in the car accident—seem persuasive to you? What are some other possible ways readers might understand Angel?

10. How does the premature death of Matt Kingsley impact each member of his immediate family? How does Natalie’s grief exacerbate Beck’s feelings of guilt for his role in his father’s death? If you were a therapist treating the Kingsley family, what would you encourage them to explore as they come to terms with their profound loss? To what extent do you think Natalie and Beck could have taken more preventive measures to avoid Beck’s overdose?

11. “People on the outside looking in think that I should’ve been able to fix it. That if I FORCED him into getting help, he would’ve beat the addiction. That’s not the way it works” (Author’s Note, page 290). How did the author’s decision to relate her experiences as a mother dealing with her son’s drug addiction affect you as a reader? Why do you think she chose to do so at the end of the novel, rather than in a foreword?

12. Saving Beck touches on many complex social issues of our time—including illicit drug use, digital privacy, drug addiction, rehabilitation, adolescent/parent conflict, the consequences of extramarital sex, the death of a parent, distracted driving, vehicular homicide, grief, depression, and prescription drug abuse. Of the many issues the author highlights, which especially captured your imagination as a reader, and why?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Imagine that Natalie is a cherished member of your book club. How might fellow club members support her as she mourns her husband and despairs over the emergency hospitalization of Beck? Members of your club may want to share stories of acts of compassion and kindness they have received during difficult moments in their own lives, or discuss what they wish had been said to or done for them.

2. Over the course of the novel, Beck and Natalie experience many different stages of grief. Have members of your club reflect on losses they and those they know well have experienced. What kinds of healthy activities enabled them to come through these painful moments intact? In what ways does the novel’s depiction of grief in the aftermath of the death of a loved one echo their own lived experiences?

3. In its depiction of a high-achieving student from a well-to-do family whose life is nearly destroyed by illegal drug use, Saving Beck upends commonly held perceptions that drug addiction happens to people in less stable circumstances. Have members of your club reflect on their own direct or indirect experiences with substance abuse and discuss as a group the current attitudes toward illicit drug use in their wider communities.

4. The catalyst for the plot of Saving Beck is a fatal car accident involving substance abuse on the part of one young driver, distracted driving by another, and a potentially faulty seat belt. Ask your book club to defend the author’s decision to incorporate these narrative ambiguities into the novel. To what extent does the author’s implicit refusal to render judgment on her characters’ choices place the burden to do so on the reader? How does the author’s use of two narrative perspectives further complicate the reader’s assignment of responsibility?

About The Author

Christine Arnold Photography

Courtney Cole grew up in rural Kansas and now lives with her husband and kids in Florida, where she writes beneath palm trees and is still in love with the idea of magic and happily-ever-after. She is the author of Saving Beck and Mine.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Gallery Books (July 2018)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781501184536

Raves and Reviews

"Courtney writes poignant and emotionally driven stories that prove again and again why she's the best at what she does."

– Rachel Van Dyken, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“[A] heart-wrenching, suspenseful tale…This riveting story highlights the unrelenting force of addiction and the havoc it can wreak on any family. Through accessible and absorbing prose, Cole tells an important tale full of complex characters and nuanced family drama. An intense but stunningly hopeful story about drug addiction, loss, and relationships.”

– Kirkus Reviews

“With addiction being so pressing an issue for so many people today, Saving Beck is a must-read cautionary tale. It will rip your heart out but then leave you knowing there is a light at the end of the tunnel.” 

– Nikki Sixx,New York Times bestselling author of The Heroin Diaries and Mötley Crüe bassist

"Raw and timely."

– Booklist

"In her most compelling work to date, Courtney Cole lays open the soul of addiction with such compassionate precision it will take your breath, break your heart, and restore your hope in the strength and resilience of the human spirit."

– M. Leighton, New York Times bestselling author of Down to You

“From its visceral opening scene to the satisfying final twist, this story held me in its thrall. Courtney Cole’s first-hand experiences make Saving Beck a raw, powerful, heart-wrenching read.”

– Robyn Harding, international bestselling author of The Party

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