Reading Group Guide
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.