Book club discussion questions for House on Fire

  1. Reread the first paragraph of House of Fire. When you first read it what did you think it was referring to? What do you think now?
  2. Bernadette’s brother’s memory of the promise is vague. What is the the significance of this?
  3. Shayne, Kara, Colleen and Adam all have very different reactions to Bernadette telling them that her mother has asked her to euthanize her father. Is anyone completely right? Is anyone completely wrong? Explain why you think so.
  4. Helen Rogers is certain her husband would have wanted her to end his life because of his dementia. Do you think she’s correct? Is she wrong for wanting to keep that promise?
  5. Do you think Bernadette should have tried harder to help her mother? Why or why not?
  6. Why doesn’t Bernadette want to go to the coming of age ceremony? How does that event impact the lives of Bernadette, Shayne and Jax?
  7. In The Bite 2012, Bernadette says, “And I knew then that somehow I’d have to love him, while at the same time protecting myself from him. I’d have own duplicity, my own two worlds, whole in neither.” In what ways does she have two worlds? Is it true that she’s whole in neither? How so?
  8. What is the relevance of Bernadette’s career as an ICU nurse when juxtaposed with what her mother is asking her to do?
  9. What is the relevance of Kara’s accident when juxtaposed with the rest of the story?
  10. In Thanksgiving 2013, Shayne says about people with dementia, “I think the person or their soul or whatever is ready to go somewhere else and they leave. They go on a journey.” How do you feel about that sentiment?
  11. When Shayne asks Bernadette to come back he says, “And you know, you left, but you never really left.” What does he mean? How is it true? How is it not true?
  12. Do you think Colleen helped her mother? What makes you think so?
  13. House on Fire is a deeply personal story about one family dealing with dementia. How has your life been impacted by dementia?
  14. It is not currently possible anywhere in the United States to use a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia to obtain medications for assisted suicide (It is possible in some other countries). Do you think it should be?
  15. How is what happens in House on Fire different from assisted suicide? What are the different moral dilemmas this brings up?

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