Night Road

Discussion Questions

Enhance Your Book Club Experience with Night Road:

My son’s senior year of high school was the best, worst, craziest, scariest, most stressful year of my life, and it became the inspiration for Night Road.

I know that senior year is supposed to be all of those things. Your child is breaking free, trying to use their new wings to fly away from the nest, while you are trying to keep them safe and on track for the rest of their life. Everything becomes a battlefield; everything scares you. There’s the drinking, the partying, the curfew, the testing. All of it is enough to make a sane woman mad. (I maintain that I started sane: allow me my small fantasies.)

I didn’t write the book right away. I needed my son’s senior year in my rear view window before I could see it clearly, and when I did, I realized I had something to say about that watershed time in life, that one irreplaceable year that changed both parents and their kids. Night Road is the result. Many people have said that it’s a novel every parent and teen should read.

As such, I think Night Road presents a special opportunity for those of you with teenaged children. Wouldn’t it be great to schedule a special mothers-and-daughters book group to read the book and talk about the issues raised? I’d love to be a fly on the wall for that meeting. Your daughters could invite their friends. The more the merrier.

Here’s a video of me talking about Night Road. Maybe that will jump-start your discussion.

Finally, flowers and balloons figure prominently into the story, and what party isn’t just a little more fun with both?

Discussion Guide

1. Jude Farraday is obviously a tenacious and committed mother. She very clearly tries to do anything and everything she can to keep her children safe. Do you think all of this effort makes her a “good” mother? Or is she over-invested in her children’s lives? Does this kind of micro-managing keep kids safe, or put them in a position where they don’t trust their own judgment?

2. One of the powerful themes in this novel is the delicate balance a mother must find between holding on to her children and letting them go. How does Jude succeed in finding this balance? How does she fail?

3. At one point or another in this book, every character feels extreme growing pains. How do you feel each character “grew up” throughout the story?

4. On page 71, Jude observes that her husband accused her of being a helicopter parent, all noise and movement, hovering too close to her children, but if that were true, he was a satellite, positioned so far up in the sky he needed a telescope to track the goings on his own home. How does this sentence illustrate Jude’s view of motherhood? Is she right? Is Miles unaware of what’s going on in his children’s lives? How does Jude render Miles ineffective and what is the price for that?

5. Jude seems to make all the rules for her children. Why does she ignore Miles’ suggestions and advice? Why does he let her?

6. For years, Jude promised her children than they could “tell her anything, that she would pick them at night up no questions asked.” But when put to the test, she fails. Can you understand why she disciplined her children for drinking? What would you have done?

7. When the senior year partying starts, Jude knows that her kids are going to parties where alcohol is served, and she gets proof that they are drinking. How should she have handled this? Should she and Miles have forbidden them from going to parties? Why didn’t they? What were they afraid of?

8. In knowing about the drinking, were Jude and Miles tacitly allowing it? Is it enough to tell your kids about the dangers of drinking and driving and then trust them to make good decisions?

9. In many parts of the country, parents choose to have a “take the keys” party for their teenage children, with the thought that it will be a safer environment. What do you think of this? Would you do it?

10. Jude seems to find a kind of solace in her grief. It appears that she would rather stop feeling anything than to experience her own pain. Do you think this is believable? Understandable?

11. How did Jude’s handling of grief add to the heartache her family suffered? How do her perceptions of fault play into her coldness?

12. Jude has an extremely strained relationship with her own mother. How does this broken relationship contribute to the story?

13. Lexi comes from a very different world than the Farradays. How does her past contribute to the unfolding of the events? How is her past responsible for the decision she makes to drive that night?

14. When Jude discovers the romance between Zach and Lexi, she is immediately worried for Mia. Why? Were her fears justified?

15. Lexi pays an very high price for her actions that night. Did she do the right thing by admitting guilt? How does her past play into and contribute to the decisions she makes about Grace?

16. The author seems to be making some strong statements about the judicial system, especially with regard to power and money. Do you agree that Lexi paid a higher price for her guilt because she was powerless and broke?

17. Jude says at one point that she is seeking “justice” from the court. Is she? Did she find it?

18. Assign blame for what happened on that tragic night. How much of what happened is Lexi’s fault? Zach’s? Jude’s? Mia’s?

19. Discuss your thoughts about Grace’s “invisible” friend. Who is she? How did she help Grace deal with her emotions?

20. In the end of the novel, Jude learns that in the sea of grief, there were moments of grace, moments of time when one could remember what was left, rather than all that had been lost. What does she mean by this? How does it summarize the lessons learned she and Lexi learned? How will this new understanding change all their lives? Do you believe it? Do you think a person can ever truly overcome a tragedy of this magnitude, and if so, how?