This reading group guide for Surviving One Bad Year includes an introduction by and Q&A with author Nancie Carmichael and discussion questions for each chapter. 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 From the Author
I am one of seven children, born to wheat and cattle ranchers in northern Montana. Mom and Dad, stalwarts in the community and our church, gifted me with a childhood under the Big Sky. I spent a lot of time outside, seeing the Rocky Mountains of Glacier Park off to the west…hearing meadowlarks and red-winged blackbirds in spring…going to a country school all eight grades, memorizing poetry…taking piano lessons…being a bookworm, not having a TV. These things shaped me: To this day, I love being outside—watching for birds, savoring the seasons. My husband and I live in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon, and I love nothing more than to walk along the MetoliusRiver near our home, or hike in the mountains with friends and family. And I still love playing my piano, a form of journaling for me. And I’m still a “bookworm”!
A Conversation with Author Nancie Carmichael
What motivated you to write this book?
When we went through our own hard year that seemed to have no pain-free ending, I was carried through it by reading the Bible, which became literally life-sustaining. Later, as I looked back over the year and read through my journals, I realized we did get through it. Not always perfectly, and sometimes it was messy. But we were still “us;” we were okay. In that year, we learned important things. So I wanted to write a book to give hope to others that no matter what they’re facing, they too can survive, can have a fresh start. Each morning we are given new mercies, and we get through it that way, taking it one day at a time. I originally started the book as a daily devotional, with the idea of a new “daily mercy.” As things do, it evolved.
Why did you choose this topic?
I felt as if the topic chose me. I write out of what I’m most passionate about, to give voice to it, so my passion to share my own hope is what birthed the book. I wanted to re-affirm what I knew and learned.
What do you want readers to take away from this book?
First of all, I want to give the reader hope—that he or she can get through impossible, life-crushing disappointments and loss, and that life can be good again. I want the reader to feel empowered to take actual steps to help facilitate their healing. And ultimately, I want to encourage the reader to trust God, no matter what.
What was difficult about writing this book?
Hearing and entering into the painful stories of people I interviewed for this book was difficult. But I emerged hopeful, that if they can survive, others can, too. But they were hard to hear.
What is the un-said message of this book?
As an adoptive mom to my daughter (and mom to four biological sons), I thought I knew about adoption. I did—but I knew only one side of it. When I helped my daughter relinquish her baby, I learned the other side of adoption. I’ve come to believe we often have a romanticized view of adoption. In many adoption stories, the birth mother is ignored or discounted, or seen as deficient in some way. I believe my daughter and her now-husband are extremely courageous for realizing their child needed parents who were ready to be parents. Some day I may write a book about adoption. I’m interested in seeing how an open adoption—depending on the circumstances—can be a wonderful, viable arrangement.
What did you learn about yourself in writing this book that you didn’t know before?
I was reminded that so much of life is about letting go—how to love and let go. It’s a curious paradox, but essential to growth in every way. And I was reminded how hard it is for me to let go! I hang onto people and things like a bull-dog.
Questions for Discussion
Share with one another what your most profound crisis has been.
What made it so difficult for you?
Describe a loss in your life. What was your immediate reaction?
What would you tell someone else who was in the midst of a similar loss or crisis?
Describe a time in your life when you had a “dark night of the soul,” or experienced depression. Did you identify a cause?
What helped you emerge from it?
Share with one another a time when words impacted you—both negatively and then positively.
Discuss effective ways of choosing healing words.
Share with one another ways that restore you physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.
Describe situations that keep you from caring for yourself, and how you can be intentional about it.
Tell one another how someone reached out to you when you were in need.
Then share how you have reached out for help to facilitate your own healing.
What have you learned about the importance of community?
Describe ways that help you overcome discouragement.
Share with one another what keeps you going, and what makes you want to quit.
Take time to encourage one another!
Describe a time when you felt overwhelmed.
How could an attitude of praise change your situation?
Share with one another two or three of your “blessings.”
Share with one another a person or situation that you know you must let go of.
What is difficult about letting go? What would be freeing about letting go?
Describe a time when forgiveness changed your life.
Describe a time in your life when you simply had to wait.