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A Reading Group Guide to The Remedy
By Suzanne Young Discussion Questions
1. From the very beginning of The Remedy
, Quinn describes her job as a closer as “saving lives.” Discuss whose lives are at stake in this arrangement, and whose lives can/cannot be saved.
2. To help process their grief following an assignment, closers are encouraged to drink truth tea to stimulate honest reflection. Why is “forced” truth-telling necessary for this process? Why would closers lie? Do you suspect any ulterior motives behind the use of the tea?
3. Quinn describes returning from an assignment as feeling “like I’m an actor in my own life.” Later, Isaac concludes that the job of a closer is “a lot like pretending.” Have you ever felt like an actor in your own life? When? How did this make you feel? Is it ever okay to “pretend” in life?
4. The foyer in Quinn’s home is laced with reentry items to help her transition back into her own life following an assignment—photographs of her growing up, an old coat, etc. What items of yours ground you? Think about special artifacts in your life that represent you and describe their meaning.
5. We learn that teenagers are assigned journal writing in school to help them “identify [their] weaknesses, [and] point out flaws in [their] mental health so that [they] can work toward managing it.” Do you believe in the effectiveness of journaling for this purpose? Do you keep a journal? What kinds of things do you write about? Is it ever okay for someone else to read another person’s journal? Do the same rights to privacy apply to other forms of expression, like e-mail and social media? Is it ever justifiable for someone to log in to another person’s digital accounts? Describe how you felt about Quinn having access to Catalina’s accounts.
6. We learn from the interaction at Aaron’s house, where he, Myra, Quinn, Deacon, and Shelly (the girl Deacon brings along) are hanging out, that closers are not universally accepted by society. Shelly states, “You take advantage of people’s suffering . . . You take their money and lie to them, rewrite their lives. You’re disgusting.” Her sentiment is echoed by other peers throughout the book, including Catalina’s sister, Angie, and even her boyfriend, Isaac. Is there merit to these arguments? How would you support or refute them? What is your stance on closers?
7. Everyone who is close to Quinn in her real life is somehow affiliated with closers—not once does she mention a friend, family member, or even an acquaintance who is not, or has not been, part of the closure movement. Why is Quinn so isolated? How come she tells Isaac that she isn’t “loved”? Is it just because she is a closer? How does this isolation influence her as a person?
8. Quinn references the “person-centered” approach to the closure movement, and how a closer’s “role play frees up [clients’] minds to heal. Like tricking your brain out of its grief. People think it’s a broken heart that hurts; maybe that sounds more romantic. But it’s the brain, and it can be fooled.” Do you agree with this reasoning? Which do you think governs emotions—the heart or the brain? Is closing more of a healing agent, or does it fall into the category of adding “salt to a wound”?
9. Quinn explains that, in closing, “I’ll target the painful memories and help the family overwrite them with positive ones.” Is it possible for one to manipulate memories? Can a person revise his/her own memories, or is this something that can only be done by someone else? Are memories ever tampered with by accident?
10. Quinn writes to Isaac, in a moment of uncharacteristic emotional overflow, “I have feelings, you know.” What about her dynamic with Isaac brought out these authentic emotions? Quinn knows, from extensive training, that she must keep her real self hidden during assignments. Why has she deviated during this particular assignment? What are the triggers?
11. Quinn claims she suffers from “lifesickness.” What does she mean by this? If the feelings she is experiencing are so obviously traumatic—why does she continue being a closer? What does Quinn get out of her experience as a closer? What does it provide her with that she doesn’t have in her own life? Why would Deacon suggest that in “helping” Isaac, Quinn was really “helping herself”?
12. As Quinn assumes the identity of Catalina, she speaks as if she is
Catalina in her narration, referring to “my” boyfriend and “our” parents. How did the use of these pronouns, coming from Quinn, make you feel? Did they stand out to you, or did you barely notice?
13. When Quinn feels sorry for Catalina’s family, are her feelings her own, or is she simply channeling what Catalina would feel? What about her overwhelming attraction toward Isaac—is that coming from her, or “Catalina”? What is the difference?
14. Quinn is extremely invested in unraveling the mystery of Catalina’s death, going to such lengths as showing up at the Warehouse uninvited. What’s driving her compulsion to find answers—her professional responsibility as a closer or personal curiosity?
15. Quinn asks Deacon if her appearance at the Warehouse is unethical, to which he responds, “Sometimes the ends justify the means . . . And those times, we have to be the ones to decide what’s worth losing.” Do you think Quinn’s behavior, in this circumstance, is ethical? Has she demonstrated unethical behavior during other times in The Remedy
? Have you ever done something based on the reasoning that the end justifies the means?
16. When Quinn resists Deacon, and she knows she’s hurt his feelings, she compares it to an “inoculation.” Describe this analogy and then discuss instances from your life in which it has applied to something you’ve said or done.
17. Quinn thinks she loved Deacon, expressing, “We held each other’s identities in our hands. I gave him everything of myself, and for a while I thought he did the same.” She continues, “You can’t be in love with someone who doesn’t feel the same way. That’s not real love.” Is this an accurate depiction of love? Is a shared identity necessary, or even natural, in love? How does this particular characterization of love make you feel, now that you know the deeper truth behind Quinn and Deacon’s relationship?
18. Quinn experiences relationships with both Deacon and Isaac. Compare and contrast Deacon’s and Isaac’s characters. Then, compare and contrast Quinn and Catalina. Are there any similarities, or overlaps, in the relationships they share? How might Quinn’s relationship with Deacon influence her relationship with Isaac? How might Isaac’s relationship with Catalina influence his relationship with Quinn?
19. Isaac’s friends ultimately stage an intervention to encourage him to sever ties with Catalina’s closer and accept her death. Was this the right thing to do? What would you have done if you were one of Isaac’s friends?
20. Explain Quinn’s revelation: “Now I know what [people are] afraid of. People don’t want to be replaced. They don’t want a stranger to come in and seamlessly take over their lives. What was the point of them ever existing if I could come in and wrap it up in a few days?” How did she come to this conclusion? Do you agree with what she’s suggesting? Can you relate to the fear to which she alludes?
21. When Quinn breaks down at the Barneses’ home following the intervention, she describes being “struck with a weird sense of déjà vu. ‘Quinlin Mckee,’ I say out loud to the room, as if arguing with myself. The name is a shock to my system, a cold slap in the face.” What was the root of this panic? Later, Catalina’s father asks Quinn what her name is, to which he replied, “That’s a pretty name.” Why was that the first question he asks her, once Quinn’s assignment has ended? What is the importance of a name? How much do our names define us? Do you see any particular, perhaps hidden, significance in the names of the characters in The Remedy
22. While Quinn feels that her failures in the Catalina Barnes closure case were her fault, Deacon insists, “This is all on [her] father.” Who is ultimately responsible for the success and failure of closers—the closers themselves or the adults who manage them?
23. Deacon pleads with Quinn to quit her job as a closer. Does he have a right to ask this of her? What are his motivations? Knowing what you know now, are his intentions sincere, or part of a greater, calculated plan?
24. When Quinn leaves Deacon to return to her closure assignment with the Barnes family, she tells herself, “I’ll leave this baggage here, stow it while I finish the job.” What exactly is her baggage? Do you think it’s ever necessary—or even possible—for someone to control when his/her “baggage” comes to the surface? Can you ever bury “baggage” for good?
25. Quinn tells Angie that her job as a closer is to be an “empty vessel for your emotions,” and then speaks of absorbing Isaac’s guilt. What does she mean by this?How can this be helpful to those who are suffering? When is it possible, or fair, for a person to take on this kind of role?
26. Despite all the anguish she experiences, has Quinn’s role as a closer, especially in the Catalina Barnes assignment, been at all positive? What has Quinn learned about life, and about herself? How has she grown?
27. How did you react to the truth about Quinn’s life and her upbringing? Were you surprised? Refute and
defend her father’s arguments for raising her the way he did. What was harmful about this arrangement and might actually have seemed fair, or even positive?
28. Explore the nature vs. nurture theories of child development, using Quinn’s life as a case study. Is a child’s personality more affected by his/her genes or how he/she was raised? Do you believe that nature decides what kind of person we become, or is it more the way our family has nurtured us?
29. React to the epilogue in The Remedy
, “Eight Months Earlier.” How does this chapter affect your understanding of the novel?
30. Assess Quinn and Deacon’s relationship. Are they good for each other? What about them is real? Was their love ever real? Will it ever be real again?
31. The Remedy
ends on a cliffhanger—what will happen next? How will Quinn confront Dr. Pritchard's daughter? How will Quinn affect the future of the Remedy? The Program?
32. When does The Remedy
take place, with respect to The Program
and The Treatment
? What is happening in the lives of the characters in The Program
and The Treatment
during this time period? How does the picture painted of Dr. Pritchard in The Remedy
affect how you see him as a whole? Do the scenarios in The Remedy
change your views on, or your understanding of, The Program
? Guide written by Catharine Prodromou, a Lead Teacher at the Alta Vista School in San Francisco, CA. This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.