Thanks for joining us for the virtual book club on A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. It’s easy to participate. Just read the book and then at your own convenience, add your thoughts to the comments section. You can respond to any of these discussion questions—or just say what you thought of the book.
And as a bonus, I’ll give away a free book to one lucky commenter!
This book was suggested to me by the same person who recommended A Man Called Ove. She has never steered me wrong when it comes to the literary decisions of life, so I tend to pull out a pen whenever she starts talking books. This book was out of my typical genre, but it didn’t disappoint. I’ve already recommended it to several people who are dealing with loss or grief at some level.
Discussion #1: The power of story
From the outset, this book is about grief and loss—the real monsters in the book. But it wasn’t a downer like I was expecting: it felt real and fresh and even witty at times, while not minimizing grief. One thing I really liked was how Conor dealt with his grief through stories:
Stories are important. They can be more important than anything. If they carry the truth.
How have stories helped you deal with something difficult in your life? Are there certain kinds of stories that tend to bring healing for you?
Discussion #2: Dealing with grief
I appreciated that Conor’s grief wasn’t sugarcoated or glossed over. It seems like as adults we sometimes try to protect kids from pain, and while this comes from a good motivation, it means that they end up stuffing their grief instead of dealing with it. As scary as the monster seems at first, he is the one who ultimately helps Conor unleash the truth about his feelings.
There is power in speaking the truth. We must tell the truth in order to heal.
Are you someone who tends to deal with hard situations head on, or do you lean more toward denial or anger? What “monsters” have helped you face the truth about how you’re feeling?
Discussion #3: Knowing when to let go
One of the things that tortures Conor most about his mother’s death is that he feels guilty for letting her go—for simultaneously wishing she’d live and wanting to be free from the pain of living in the not-knowing.
I didn’t mean to let her go! And now it’s for real! Now she’s going to die and it’s my fault!
When have you had to let go of something or someone? What conflicting feelings did you have about that . . . not wanting to lose them but also wanting the suffering to be over?
Discussion #4: Writing someone else’s book
I found it fascinating that another author, Siobhan Dowd, came up with the idea for this book first and then Patrick Ness ended up writing it. Dowd came up with the concept for the novel during her own terminal illness but died before she could write it, and an editor who worked with both authors arranged for Ness to write the story. Patrick says he had a lot of freedom to make the book his own:
I always say it felt like a really private conversation between me and her, and that mostly it was me saying, “Just look what we’re getting away with.”
If you were writing a book and weren’t able to finish it, would you want someone else to complete the project for you?
I thought this book was a fascinating study on loss, and the characters all seemed real and live to me. I just discovered that there’s a movie out based on the book, and I’d be interested in seeing it. I’d give the book four stars.
How many stars would you give the book (out of five)?
Remember: I’ll give away a free book to one lucky commenter!