1- One of the themes of Wreckage is hiding who we really are for fear of judgment. Lillian starts the story wearing a mask of make-up, pretending she’s a different person. On the outside, Dave is a successful businessman starting a family, but on the inside he’s discontent and uncomfortable in his own skin. In what ways do you or people you know “hide”?
2- Genevieve Randall is a journalist with a hard edge. What do you think she was planning to get out of the interview with Lillian and Dave? How does the media manipulate our perceptions of people or events by their approach to a story?
3- How is the plane crash and resulting traumas similar to trials in our own lives? Have you ever experienced a trauma that hit you when you didn’t expect it and changed the trajectory of your life? If you look at Kent, Lillian and Dave’s post-crash life, how could some of their experiences apply metaphorically to ways trauma changes people?
4- Lillian and Dave were friends first, starting with their interaction on the plane. For each character, at what moment did that friendship turn into something more? With both of them in committed relationships, did you consider their affair on the island cheating?
5- What do you think was the “point of no return” for Lillian when she decided that no one could know what happened on the island? What kind of secrets could entice you to lie to the people you love?
6- Jerry Linden and Beth Hall both welcome their spouses back without hesitation. Jerry knows most of Lillian’s secrets where as Beth is (apparently) ignorant of them. Why do you think Jerry let Lillian back into his life after discovering what really happened on the island? Do you think Beth would’ve made the same decision if she’d had all the information?
7- With the media culture that surrounds modern news coverage, would telling the truth have been more devastating than lying? Could Lillian and Dave’s relationships have survived the glare of the media spotlight if they’d told the truth? Do you think your life and relationships would survive similar attention?
8- Both Lillian and Dave have strong emotions when it comes to the idea of parenthood. How did their feelings about being a mother/father effect the choices they make through the story? Have you noticed yourself or someone close to you change after becoming a parent?
9- People either love or hate the ending of If YOU had the opportunity to write a new ending, what would it be?
WHEN I’M GONE
1- Natalie kept a lot of secrets from her husband Luke, some life changing. One of the biggest reasons for her letters was to reveal this information to Luke in a slow, methodical manner. This plan gave her comfort but ended up being a confusing and painful process for Luke. When do you think she should have told Luke her secrets? In life, are there ever secrets that shouldn’t be told?
2- Though they were best friends, Annie and Natalie were very different in many ways. After learning about Natalie through her letters and Annie through her growing relationship with Luke and his children, why do you think these two women became friends? What does it take to find, make and keep a friendship like these two women had?
3- Natalie’s letters were more than just letters of comfort. She gave some very pointed and sometimes uncomfortable suggestions as to how Luke should move forward with their family. Natalie was a very loving mother but do you think she fully thought through the impact of her letters on her children? Do you think her letters were controlling or loving, selfish or selfless? What is the line between the two?
4- Luke has a deep fear of turning out like his abusive and alcoholic father. In fact, many of his daily decisions revolve around avoiding falling into the unhealthy examples from his youth. In what ways was Luke at risk for falling into the abusive patterns of his childhood? How do you think he escaped those tendencies when so many victims of childhood abuse fall into the same patterns as adults either as abusers themselves or perpetual enablers? What do you think was the key moment in Luke’s life that put him down this healthy and self-aware path?
5- On pg. 204 when talking about his relationship with Natalie and his growing concerns about her secrets, Luke says to Annie, “You can’t assume everything is okay inside the house just because the paint isn’t peeling and the yard is neatly mowed.” How is that true in the various relationships in this story? Have you witnessed this phenomenon either in your own life or in the world around you?
6- Why do you think Annie went back to Brian when she was already out and safe at Luke’s house? Do you think it was wrong of Luke to break away from Annie when she made that decision? Why do you think it took Brian’s aggressive behavior toward Luke to give her the strength to move forward?
7- Jessie quickly became an integral part of the Richardson family after Luke followed Natalie’s request to hire the college student. What do you think made it possible for her to slip into that role as caregiver and friend so easily? Do you think Natalie had any idea how serious Jessie’s health issues were? Do you think Jessie’s chronic illness ever factored into the decision to weave her into the family unit before revealing the depth of their connection?
8- Natalie’s mother, Terry, was an often times harsh and unlikable character through most of the novel. How did your opinion of Terry change as Natalie’s secrets were revealed? How did her final decision to help Jessie affect your opinion of her?
9- The letters were written to Luke but could perhaps hold great meaning to all members of the Richardson family. Should Luke share the letters with his children, Terry and Annie or is that an invasion of Natalie’s privacy?
10- Do you think Natalie predicted a connection between Annie and Luke as she was planning out her interventions in their lives? If not, do you think she would’ve been happy with his decision to pursue that relationship? Do you think that Annie and Luke are a good match romantically? If you could write a final chapter, what would you have happen between Annie and Luke?