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The Cure for Modern Life

A Novel

From Lisa Tucker, the critically acclaimed author of Once Upon a Day and The Song Reader, comes an extraordinary novel about the way we live now: the choices we make and the decisions we let life make for us.

Matthew and Amelia were once in love and planning to raise a family together, but a decade later, they have become professional enemies. To Amelia, who has dedicated her life to medical ethics, Matthew's job as a high-powered pharmaceutical executive has turned him into a heartless person who doesn't care about anything but money. Now they're kept in balance only by Matthew's best and oldest friend, Ben, a rising science superstar -- and Amelia's new boyfriend.

That balance begins to crumble one night when, coming home to his upscale Philadelphia loft, Matthew finds himself on a desolate bridge face-to-face with a boy screaming for help. Homeless for most of his life, ten-year-old Danny is as streetwise as he is world-weary, and his desperation to save his three-year- old sister means he will do whatever it takes to get Matthew's help. What follows is an escalating game of one-upmanship between Matthew, Amelia, and Danny, as all three players struggle to defend what is most important to them -- and are ultimately forced to reconsider what they truly want.

Dazzlingly written with a riveting story that will resonate with readers everywhere, Lisa Tucker's The Cure for Modern Life is a smart, humorous, big-hearted novel about what it means in the twenty-first century to be responsible, to care about other people, and to do the right thing.

Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Though Danny is only ten years old, he's clearly wise beyond his years. His mother, Kim, says he's "closer to forty in his harsh judgments of other people." He holds himself to a standard of "knighthood," his personal code of honor and dignity. What other admirable qualities do you see in Danny? What are his flaws? What kind of person do you imagine he will grow up to be?
2. In his experience begging on the streets of Philadelphia, Danny discovers that people are more willing to give money to a child who needs train fare home than to a child who is hungry or homeless. Do you think this is most likely the case? Why do you think some people may avoid the situations that are obviously the most desperate?
3. Amelia comes from a very socially conscious background. Her whole life, she has grappled with the question, "Why do such bad things happen to innocent people?" What do you think of the logic that is offered by her philosophy class: "Bad things happen to all people. All people includes innocent people. Therefore, bad things happen to innocent people" (p.44)? How does Amelia's preoccupation with this idea color her view of the world?
4. Amelia considers herself a champion of the underdog, the ultimate truth-teller and moralist. Which instances in the book show Amelia living up to this role? When does she stray from these ideals? Would you consider her a hypocrite, and why?
5. In order to make the difficult decision to send his mother away to a drug rehabilitation program, Danny says he "had to learn to harden his heart." Are there any other instances of hearts becoming hardened in this book? When do you see hearts softened?
6. Though he's confronted with caring for a seriously drug-addicted person, Matthew also takes various drugs throughout the book -- for anxiety, sleep, headaches, and, in the opening scene, just for kicks. Are you comfortable with Matthew's claim that he simply endorses the safety of the products he promotes, or is there a deeper irony at play here? What does the book say about drug usage, both prescribed and illicit, in this country today?
7. Though Amelia and Ben seem perfectly paired in their values and global ambitions, Amelia has her frustrations and admits that "living with a hero turned out to be a lot harder than she'd ever imagined." Do you think Ben is heroic? Is he ever a failure or a coward? Why is it so hard to live with a hero?
8. What does Matthew mean when he says to Amelia on page 247, "I can't give you a cure for modern life?" Why do you think the author chose this as her title? In our modern lives, what, if anything, do we need to be cured of?
9. Amelia and Ben each have very difficult choices to make when complications arise in Amelia's pregnancy. How do you think each of them handled the situation?
10. The book begins, "Was Matthew Connolly a bad man?" How did your assessment of Matthew change from the beginning to the end of this book? How is he judged at different points by each of the other characters -- Danny, Isabelle, Ben, Amelia, Kim?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Get to know your book-club members a little better by playing a round of Matthew and Amelia's favorite game -- "What If?"
2. Look up recent news articles on pharmaceutical companies. Discuss with your group what's being covered by the media, and how your understanding or assumptions about the industry have changed after having read The Cure for Modern Life.
3. Make a donation to a charitable organization or suggest that your group volunteer some time at a homeless shelter.
Photo Credit:

Lisa Tucker is the bestselling author of The Promised World, The Cure for Modern Life, Once Upon a Day, Shout Down the Moon and The Song Reader. Her short work has appeared in Seventeen, Pages and The Oxford American. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family.

"An enjoyable literary page-turner that also explores serious social issues. In crisp, lively prose, Tucker cleverly executes a series of surprising twists that, coupled with the Big Pharma backdrop and cinematic feel, make the novel as fast-paced as a thriller, but with astute and often humorous observations about the shifting morality of 21st-century America. An excellent choice for book clubs...solidifies her position as a gifted writer with a wide range and a profound sense of compassion for the mysteries of the human heart." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A touching and very modern relationship story with some compelling social issues...This fast-paced, funny, and smart novel is a sure bet for book clubs." -- Booklist

"An inspiring, twisting story of redemption, forgiveness and morality." -Romantic Times

"An emotionally satisfying page-turner." -- Good Housekeeping

"The Cure for Modern Life is so inviting because it's about people we all know, or at least think we knowÉTucker deftly forces us to ponder what we'd do in this exploration of the complexity of human nature and our relationships with one another." -- The Salt Lake Tribune

"Tucker's book works because she knows how to limn characters, tell a story economically, and propel it at just the right allegro-vivace tempo." -- The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Lisa Tucker, once again, brings a fresh view to the intricacies of relationships in "The Cure for Modern Life"...Tucker continues to grow as a writer, and "The Cure for Modern Life" gives readers some ethical questions to ponder. It's an approach that has long been Jodi Picoult territory, but Tucker comes at it from a different direction. The questions aren't the source of the plot, but they drive the relationships among central characters. It's a structure that should make the novel attractive to book groups who've enjoyed Picoult's work." -- The Denver Post

More books from this author: Lisa Tucker