Book Club Discussion Questions

for SUSPENDED SENTENCE: A MEMOIR
  1. In the first few chapters in the book, what are some of the tensions you see between the narrator and her son?
  2. In Chapters 5 and 7, discuss the mom’s reaction to the workings of the criminal justice system and the jail. What elements stand out for you?
  3. In Chapter 11, the mother says she thinks Dylan holds a grudge against her. According to her, how has this happened? How does she deal with her feelings of guilt?
  4. In the same chapter, the narrator expects the three-way conversation with Darlene Winchester to be an argument about money that will be arbitrated by the Drug Court Coordinator. How does Ms. Winchester redirect the meeting toward discussion of underlying feelings between Dylan and his mom?
  5. How does what you learn about Dylan’s childhood and young teen years (in Chapters 13, 14 and 16) influence the way you view him in the present?
  6. Does it help Dylan and his family when they receive the diagnosis that he has a form of mood disorder?
  7. In Chapter 17, the mother reflects on Dylan’s stay at the special school in Jamaica. Do you think this experience was positive or negative for Dylan?
  8. Discuss how Dylan’s focus on bodybuilding (Chapter 15) helps or hinders the spiritual surrender required by AA’s model of recovery.
  9. How does the metaphor of Alice (Chapter 18) aid your understanding of Dylan’s complex attitude toward medications?
  10. There are many reasons Dylan could feel different from his college-age peers. Yet how does he try to fit in and be a regular guy?
  11. With regard to Mark’s story (Chapter 19), discuss how each parent can react differently to their child’s addiction problem.
  12. While Dylan attends group meetings for Drug Court and AA, his mom attends a local NAMI family support group. How does each react to the peer support group experience?
  13. What are your impressions about how Drug Court works as a pathway to recovery?
  14. Early in the book, the mother says she wants to save her son, but she is also afraid of having only a codependent relationship with him (Chapter 8). Cite instances in the story where you think the mom tries too hard to help Dylan.
  15. Discuss the emotional ups and downs in the narrator’s life. How does she handle these?
  16. Substance abuse and mental health issues have intergenerational ramifications, as the author explores. If these exist in your family, how have your own attitudes toward certain family members changed over time?
  17. What was your favorite nature or garden scene in the book? How does this imagery illustrate the struggle for recovery from addiction, illness, or codependency?
  18. What is your reaction to the ending of the book (Chapters 30 and 31)?

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