Discussion Questions for Signs of Life

Use this reader's guide to spark discussion at your next book club meeting.
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Hailed for its searing honesty and tender wisdom, Signs of Life is a moving portrait of grief and its aftermath. In an opening flashback that will leave you mesmerized, Natalie Taylor recalls the day her husband died suddenly in a freak accident. He was just twenty-seven years old. It was Father's Day, and she was five months pregnant with their first child. Unfolding over the course of the following year, Natalie's memories capture both the anguish and the healing she experienced as she tried to rebuild her life, returning to work as a high school English teacher, giving birth to her son, and struggling to rediscover her place in the world. Her unofficial grief counselors include her students; Signs of Life features excerpts of Natalie's best-loved literature, from Dickinson to Steinbeck and Salinger, interwoven with classroom scenes as she uses poetry and fiction to spark new ways of understanding. Navigating relationships with her in-laws, support groups, and a saucy, imaginary fairy godmother, she discovers a very different kind of inner strength -- a clear-eyed view of life that will inspire anyone who is facing a difficult crossroad.

Just as Natalie embraced her circle of friends and family, your reading group will appreciate the power of companionship as you explore her story together. We hope this guide will enhance your discussion of her unique, compelling memoir.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Compare Natalie's experience to the times when you have had to find your way back from despair. Which aspects of her story could you relate to easily? Which aspects opened your eyes to the personal, individual nature of grief?

2. Natalie compares her intense need for loyal, authentic supporters to Don Corleone's Family: Josh's sister Ashley is in; his college friend Ted is out, after insulting Mathews. Without Josh, how does she create a new sense of trust in her life? How did the different aspects of her "team," including her students and Dr. G., reflect the different needs she experienced?

3. Which of the book's literary references, from Gatsby's all-consuming love for Daisy to Robert Frost's dark winter night and Sartre's exitless hell, resonated with you the most? What healing powers do poetry and fiction possess?

Continued on page 2:  Impressions of Josh


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