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Tales from the Bed

A Memoir

Foreword by Katie Couric / With Valerie Estess

About The Book

Jenifer Estess is a beautiful, successful, thirtysomething New Yorker with dreams of starting her own family when she is diagnosed with ALS, a fatal disease. Doctors tell her to max out her credit cards and prepare to die. That is precisely when Jenifer starts to live -- dreaming deeper, working harder, and loving endlessly. A girlhood pact with her sisters Valerie and Meredith -- nothing will ever break us apart -- inspires Jenifer as she faces down her most vicious enemy.
Beautifully written and wholly inspiring, Jenifer's memoir forces us to reconsider society's notion of "having it all," and illustrates, more than anything, the power of memory, work, and, most of all, love.

Reading Group Guide

The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for discussion of Tales from the Bed. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
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Questions and Topics for Discussion
1) Tales from the Bed allows the reader to get to know Jenifer Estess and follow her throughout the various emotions she experiences before and after being diagnosed with ALS. Do you identify with Jenifer? What are the aspects of her personality that you relate to and why?
2) Jenifer recounts her various experiences with doctors and medical professionals after being initially diagnosed. Do you think her experiences are unique? Discuss the role of the physician and other medical professionals in cases involving life-debilitating or terminal illness, such as ALS. What should be expected from health professionals on both a personal and professional level?
3) Do you think running Project A.L.S. had an impact on Jenifer's health? Discuss the role of work in maintaining a sense of well-being.
4) Discuss how Jenifer relates her childhood experiences with her experiences after being diagnosed with ALS. What are some of the lessons she draws from those experiences?
5) Jenifer employs several metaphors and similes throughout the memoir. Explain how phrases such as "The doctors invited me to a square dance" and "Piece by piece, my morning fell to the sidewalk like leaves" help tell her story. How do these literary devices help personalize the story and enhance Jenifer's personality?
6) Jenifer provides an in-depth view of her close relationships with Valerie and Meredith. Describe of their roles in their shared family history and how those roles were applied to the logistics of running Project A.L.S., as well as their support system throughout Jenifer's illness.
7) Explore Jenifer and Reed's relationship. How does the theme of romantic love figure into how Jenifer views her own illness? What does Reed symbolize to Jenifer? To the reader?
8) The theme of family is present throughout the book. Though the sisterhood shared by Valerie, Jenifer, and Meredith is thoroughly examined, there are other family members Jenifer writes about. How have these family members impacted Jenifer's life? How do her parents, other siblings, and nieces and nephews affect her outlook on life, illness, and death?
9) In recent years, A.L.S. has come to the forefront in media outlets and the scientific research community. Prior to reading Tales from the Bed, were you familiar with A.L.S. or Project A.L.S.? Discuss the impact Project A.L.S. has had on the research, and the role that stem-cell therapy may have in the future.
10) The final chapter of the book is unique. How did you feel reading it? Do you think reading the last chapter, written from Jenifer's point of view, offers some closure to her story?

About The Author

Photo Credit:

Jenifer Estess was the CEO and founder of Project A.L.S. She lived in New York City, where she spent her best times with Jake, Willis, Jane, James, Kate, and the rest of her family.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria Books (November 15, 2005)
  • Length: 256 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780743476836

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Raves and Reviews

"Touching and inspiring....It's like having lunch with a delightful and hilarious friend who you wish could stay on into the evening for just one more story, one more tale."
-- Sarah Jessica Parker

"This gem of a book is an astonishing gift. Filled with Jenifer's singular grace and exquisite wit, Tales from the Bed had me laughing and crying, and often at the same time."
-- Peter Hedges, author of What's Eating Gilbert Grape

"Even as [ALS] steals much of Jenifer away, she reaches inside and shares the best part with us."
-- Michael J. Fox

"From the vantage point of her queen-size bed, Estess displays unflagging courage and wry humor."
-- Los Angeles Daily News

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