This reading group guide for
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The Beauty of Dusk 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
One morning in late 2017, New York Times
columnist Frank Bruni woke up with strangely blurred vision. Overnight, a rare stroke had cut off blood to one of his optic nerves, rendering him functionally blind in that eye—forever. In The Beauty of Dusk
, Bruni recounts a medical and spiritual odyssey that involved not only reappraising his own priorities but also reaching out to, and gathering wisdom from, longtime friends and new acquaintances who had navigated their own traumas and afflictions. The result is a poignant, probing and, ultimately, uplifting examination of the limits that all of us inevitably encounter, the lenses through which we choose to evaluate them and the tools we have for perseverance.Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Why do you think Bruni chose the title The Beauty of Dusk
for this memoir?
2. Bruni writes about sincerely embracing the familiar sayings that emphasize the bright side of human resilience when faced with hardship: “When you’re given lemons, you can indeed make lemonade, and that was a big part of my education, which included the confirmation . . . that clouds have silver linings and that the night is darkest before dawn.” After reading the book, do you agree with Bruni’s perspective? Do you feel the same way about your own experiences?
3. When Bruni was in college, he absorbed the refrain of a psychology professor: “Life is about adjusting to loss.” What do you think the professor meant? Do you agree with this statement?
4. After Bruni loses partial vision, he grows more aware of other people’s hidden pain. He imagines a world where everybody walked through life with a sandwich board advertising their invisible struggles. “If each of us had just a glimpse of the burdens that people were shouldering,” he says, “we’d all be a whole lot less consumed with our own misfortunes and slights—and a whole lot more understanding of other people’s moods and misdeeds.” What are some ways in which we could make this world a reality without adopting literal sandwich boards?
5. What’s one thing that your sandwich board would say?
6. Are you open about difficulties? Why or why not?
7. The Beauty of Dusk
is a memoir of one man’s life-altering experience, yet Bruni looks for wisdom in the stories of other individuals who live with physical limitations or emotional pain such as grief. Which of the other stories in the book spoke to you most profoundly, and why?
8. How has this book changed the way that you think about aging?
9. Living through the COVID-19 pandemic prompted many of us to reevaluate our lives. Bruni writes, “Many people I know were as surprised by how many activities they didn’t
miss as by how many they did. . . . They discovered that at least a few of the ways in which life was collapsed, constrained and cloistered had upsides.” Did you find yourself evolving as Bruni described? Or did you experience different revelations?
10. Becoming the owner of a dog, Regan, helped Bruni’s wellbeing by motivating him to exercise and experience nature, giving him companionship, and showing him how to get the most joy out of life’s simple pleasures. What lifestyle changes can we do for physical or mental health with a pet or by ourselves?
11. Bruni’s friend Dorrie, who lives with Parkinson’s disease, turns to a physical outlet for her frustrations when she feels overwhelmed: beating a cooking pot on the ground. Dorrie tells Bruni, “It felt great. I think it made me a better wife and mother and person in general.” Why is it important to recognize and process our negative feelings? What tactics do you find effective?
12. What does Bruni gain when he loses vision in one eye?
13. Bruni writes, “I went to bed with more grievances than I could count. I woke up with more gratitude than I can measure.” What is one grievance you can let go of right now? What is one thing you can be extra grateful for?Enhance Your Book Club
1. Reflecting on the title of the book, go around in a circle and have each member think of a different title for Bruni’s memoir. Then go around and ask each member to think of the title they would give their own memoir.
2. If you could ask Bruni one question about his life or his book, what would you ask?
3. Bruni reminds us that we never know how much time we have in prime physical health. Go around the group and commit to fulfilling one resolution for a trip, a dream goal, any bucket list item to complete this year.