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About The Book

From the Orange Prize­–winning author of A Crime in the Neighborhood comes a “sharply witty” and “impeccably written” (Star Tribune, Minneapolis) novel featuring a therapist attempting to unlock the most difficult cases of her life—those of her son and of her mother.

Anyone who’s ever had trouble persuading a teenager or an elderly parent to “open up” will recognize Lorna’s dilemma during the three days she finds herself alone in a remote lakeside cottage with her mutely miserable son and her impenetrable mother. Despite her training as a clinical social worker, and her arsenal of therapeutic techniques, she’s resisted at every turn as she tries to understand what’s made the two people most important to her go silent.

Though silence has always marked Lorna’s family. Her father was deaf. Her mother, Marika, abandoned Lorna and her brother when they were children. No explanation was ever offered. Nor why Marika resurfaced eighteen years ago to invite Lorna and her infant son, Adam, to Vermont for a strained reunion. A relationship, of sorts, has followed—an annual Thanksgiving visit, during which Marika sits taciturnly among the guests at Lorna’s table, agreeing only to “be seen to exist.”

But now it’s Adam who won’t talk. Home from college and suffering over something he won’t disclose, he’s so depressed that he refers to himself as “A” for “Anti-Matter.” So, when she’s summoned to Vermont because Marika has had a fall, Lorna sees an opportunity to get Adam out of the house and maybe also a chance to finally connect with her mother. What she never anticipated was that grandson and grandmother would form a bond, and leave her out of it.

How do you care for people you can’t understand, and who don’t want to be understood?

Suspenseful, poignantly funny, and beautifully incisive, The Blue Window explores the ways people misperceive each other, and how secrets and silence, wielded and guarded, exert their power over families—and what luminous, frightening, and tender possibilities might come forth, once those secrets are challenged.

“Suzanne Berne is an elegant, psychologically astute novelist” (Tom Perrotta), whose new book reveals what happens to people who hide from themselves, and the act of imagination it takes to find them.

Reading Group Guide


Secrets abound in Lorna’s family. Her mother Marika, who survived the Nazi occupation of Holland, abandoned the family when Lorna and her brother Wade were just seven and twelve years old. The reason she left, and her whereabouts afterward, were shrouded in mystery. As is a darker secret Marika has repressed for nearly seventy years.

Now that Lorna, a respected psychotherapist, has a child of her own, she’s determined to make Marika a part of their lives. But it’s been a struggle for nearly two decades. Lorna’s son, Adam, is creative, passionate, and uncomfortable in his own skin. Three weeks before the story opens, he abruptly returns home from college after an incident that he refuses to discuss. And he refuses to be called by his name. He refers to himself as “A” for “Anti-Matter” and insists that Lorna do the same.

The more Lorna tries to get Adam to talk, the more he withdraws. So, when she gets the call that Marika has had a fall and is incapacitated, she sees an opportunity to bond with Adam on the long drive north to Vermont, and to reconnect with her mother by nursing her back to health.

A deft and compelling exploration of family dynamics infused with suspense, The Blue Window shows what happens to people who hide from themselves—and the act of imagination it takes to find them.

Topics and Questions for Discussion

1. Early in the book, A (Adam) imagines his apathy to be a “responsible moral position . . . in a world full of moral positions.” Do you agree with him? How does his opinion (and your view of his opinion) change throughout the course of the novel?

2. How would you characterize A’s relationship with his parents? Is it significant that he abbreviates his relationship with them—calling his mother “X,” and his father “Y?”

3. Discuss the similarities and differences between A and his grandmother Marika. How would you characterize the ways in which the narrator depicts their respective silences? Can one person’s apathy be distinct from another’s?

4. Track the relationship between language and secrets in The Blue Window, and discuss three moments where characters say one thing, but mean another. Is it significant that the people in this novel—A, Lorna, Marika, etc.—often hide their realities through misdirection?

5. Lorna and A are closely related, but they hide their emotional truths from each other. Considering the theme of secrets in The Blue Window, what do you think it means to truly “know” another person—both in the context of real life, and in the novel?

6. The Blue Window is narrated in a limited and shifting third-person point-of-view. In one chapter, we’re close to A’s perspective; in another, we’re close to Lorna’s. What narrative opportunities are gained via the use of these shifting viewpoints? What would be lost if the book were solely told through a singular perspective?

7. Make a list of the different kinds of media (TV shows, books, online platforms, etc.) that appear in The Blue Window and discuss their significance with your reading group. For example: does the media that A consumes reveal anything about his character? What about Lorna and Marika?

8. How is trauma represented in The Blue Window? How do characters deal with it, and what revelations (if any) are made as characters confront their pasts?

9. What does this novel suggest about the bond between parents and their progeny? Consider, in your discussion, the similarities (and differences) between A’s relationship with his mother, and Lorna’s relationship with Marika.

10. Consider the jobs that the characters have in The Blue Window. How do people’s work, in the context of the novel, inform what you know about them? How do people’s jobs inform what the other characters think about them?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Reimagine The Blue Window using a different narrative point-of-view. For example: you can rewrite one of A’s sections using a first- or second-person perspective; or you can reimagine parts of the book through Marika’s narration only. What are the kinds of differences you notice as you work through this exercise? Do you find first-person narration to be more “truthful,” for instance, at the sacrifice of reliability?

2. Consider the unspoken (perhaps hidden) truths that exist in your community. What are the things that can be discussed in the open? What are the things that can’t? Write a story, essay, or poem discussing one of these “secrets” and discuss with your reading group.

3. Mimicking A’s interiority, try to go about a day in your life by removing pronouns from your interactions with friends, families, neighbors, etc. How does this affect the way you interact with the world? Discuss.

About The Author

Avery Kimmell

Suzanne Berne is the author of?four previous novels: The Dogs of Littlefield;?The Ghost at the Table;?A Perfect Arrangement; and?A Crime in the Neighborhood, winner of Great Britain’s Orange Prize. She lives outside of Boston with her husband. 

Product Details

  • Publisher: S&S/Marysue Rucci Books (January 10, 2023)
  • Length: 272 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781476794280

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Raves and Reviews

“Sharply witty, deeply raw and impeccably written... [The Blue Window] explores familial bonds with deep feeling but without sentimentality, and [Berne's] portraits of marriage are astonishingly good."
—Minneapolis Star Tribune

The Blue Window is a novel in which the revelations are the story…Berne, whose 1998 novel A Crime in the Neighborhood won the British Orange Prize, is good at getting people’s subtle shifts of mood and understanding, and especially good at grounding these moments in sharply observed detailsThe tension between the immediate and the imagined or remembered is what makes this novel work, with Berne striking a satisfying balance between what happens, what it might mean, and what’s needed to go on. The past may be past, but its significance has yet to be determined. The possibilities are endless.”

—Washington Post

“[A] psychologically insightful portrait of family dynamics… Berne, who won the Orange Prize for A Crime in the Neighborhood, her 1997 debut, and more recently charmed readers with the social satire The Dogs of Littlefield (2016), chooses a tight focus for her latest: the tense dynamics of three troubled individuals as they play out over a few days in rural Vermont.”


“Berne (The Dogs of Littlefield) offers an engrossing story of family secrets involving a woman’s estranged mother and her troubled son…With chapters that alternate between points in time and Lorna, Adam, and Marika’s perspectives, the author expertly shows how secrets fester and affect the family, especially as Adam’s allegiances bend toward Marika…Berne’s strong prose carries the day, particularly her descriptions of Vermont’s natural beauty…a satisfying family drama.”

—Publishers Weekly

“Berne builds suspense with a slow reveal of the long-hidden secrets… Berne’s (The Dogs of Littlefield, 2016) compelling fifth novel is an engaging exploration of how trauma can leave its mark in unexpected ways.”


The Blue Window is a probing, deeply absorbing examination of personal and family secrets, and the sneaky ways that trauma can reverberate through multiple generations. Suzanne Berne is an elegant, psychologically astute novelist whose insights are illuminated by sly flashes of humor.”

—Tom Perrotta, Author of Election and Tracy Flick Can't Win

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