1. Kristin Hannah writes that “the modern world no longer believed in senseless tragedy.” Why do you think people often need to hold someone accountable when something goes wrong? Is it human nature to play the blame game? Would a guilty verdict have offered the parents of those killed some solace? Do you think it’s ultimately better to seek justice or to simply forgive in a situation like this one?
2. After seeing Amber Zuniga for three years, should Julia have been able to foresee the events that unfolded? What kind of culpability should a psychiatrist have for the crimes of their patients? Is it really possible to predict human behavior?
3. Before the tragedy, Julia was considered to be one of the best psychiatrists in the country. Would you trust Julia with your children after everything that happened?
4. Was Julia’s mom wrong to tell her thirteen year old daughter secrets of her marriage, especially since she only told her one side of the story? Why do you think her mother told her those things?
5. With all the milestones that Alice reaches under Julia’s care, why is speech the one that everyone is so focused on? Do people value talking over most other abilities?
6. Kristin includes a lot of research in this novel about feral children. How do you think Alice is like a feral child? How is she different?
7. Hannah writes “A name is integral to developing a sense of self.” Why? What does this mean?
8. Why doesn’t Alice think she’s real?
9. Obviously, Alice learns a lot from Julia. But what does Julia learn from Alice? How does meeting Alice change her life?
10. Julia connects with Alice in a way that is completely unprofessional. Do you think Julia is wrong to try to keep Alice away from George? Is she choosing what’s best for Alice or for Julia herself? George doesn’t have the skills necessary to deal with Alice, perhaps, but he is her father. How important is that in this case?
11. The media plays a huge part in this novel. Press coverage ruins Julia’s life and arguably helps to convict George. Do you think the media goes too far these days? Do you believe that cases are in effect tried in the press? How could we better balance the free speech with that of blind justice? Can you think of any recent case that mirrors George’s trial?
12. How would this story have been different if it had been told from George’s point of view?
13. Did George give up on Alice too easily or was it right for him to realize he couldn’t take care of her in the way she needed to be?
14. Do you think Alice will be able to grow up and live a normal life?