Between workouts, charity events, and shopping, Ann Barons keeps her days as full as her walk-in closets. She shares an immaculate house with her CEO husband, Mike, and their two teenagers, Nate and Lauren. It’s a luxurious life, far from her homespun childhood on a farm in eastern Pennsylvania…which is why Ann is wary when her elderly parents ask to move in temporarily.
Ann prepares in the way she knows best—hiring decorators and employing a full-time nurse for her dementia-stricken father. But nothing can prepare her for the transformations ahead. Soon, her mother Eileen is popping in to prepare soups and roasts in Ann’s underused kitchen, while the usually surly Nate forms an alliance with his ailing grandfather. Lauren blossoms under Eileen’s guidance, and even workaholic Mike finds time to attend high-school football games. But it’s Ann who must make the biggest leap, and confront the choices and values that have kept her floating on life’s surface for so long.
Timely, poignant, and wise, The Good Life is a deeply satisfying and beautifully written story about the complex relationships between parents and children—and the gap that often lies between what we seek, and what will truly make us whole.
“The moving story of a family’s rebirth through the simple but profound acts of daily kindness and sacrifice.” –Holly Chamberlin, author of Last Summer
1. Ann appears to have had a fairly happy childhood growing
up on a farm in Pennsylvania. What do you think turns her
away from it as an adult?
2. Ann is attracted to Mike in college because he is “great looking
and powerful.” Why is Mike attracted to Ann, especially
since he might be able to choose from a large pool of young
women? Ann and Mike come from very different backgrounds;
what do they have in common?
3. Nate and Lauren are pretty typical teenagers: sometimes sarcastic
and surly; sometimes withdrawn and insecure. With a
workaholic and an avid shopper as role models, why aren’t
Nate and Lauren insufferable? Or are they?
4. When Sam and Eileen move in, why are Nate and Lauren
drawn to them? What do Sam and Eileen provide that Mike
and Ann do not?
5. Sam’s Parkinson’s disease and dementia unnerve Mike, Ann,
Nate, and Lauren. How does each of them handle Sam’s disabilities?
How does Eileen treat her husband?
6. What kind of relationship did Ann anticipate having with
her parents when they moved in? What happened to those
7. How does Ann’s drinking fit in with her need for control?
Why does Mike put up with her drinking? What happens
when her drinking becomes an issue on the Florida trip with
Jesse, Paula, and Sally?
8. Eileen seems to be a take-charge kind of person. Why does
she often keep her thoughts to herself instead of sharing
them with her daughter? What, if anything, does Sam add to
Ann’s adult life?
9. When Eileen and Sam leave at the end of the book, who is
most upset and why?
10. In the novel, who has the good life and who is still searching?
11. What does the good life mean to you?