By Karen Halvorsen Schreck
About the book:
Sixteen-year-old Livy Moore has finally summoned the courage to ask about her mother’s illness. But she already knows the answer: for two years, Livy has watched her mother grow weaker. And until now, Livy has survived the pain of losing her mother by shutting herself off from the rest of the world. She has alienated herself from her best friend, and barely speaks to her father, never sharing with him the grief that is tearing them both apart. But as Livy gets swept up in a strong but ill-fated crush, and her mother’s condition worsens, she must learn to trust not only those around her, but herself. A beautiful coming-of-age novel, Dream Journal gazes unflinchingly at the pain of loss and the beauty of survival.
About the author:
Karen Halvorsen Schreck is also the author of the children’s book Lucy’s Family Tree. Her short stories and articles have received a number of awards, including a Pushcart Prize and Illinois Arts Council Fellowship. Karen lives with her husband, daughter and son near Chicago.
- What was the original inspiration for this novel?
- What’s your favorite part of the writing process? What’s your least favorite?
- Which authors or titles have most influenced your work?
- What can readers look forward to next?
- Livy’s dad tells her not to share with the outside world what is happening with her mother at home. Is this fair? Why do think some families deal with tragedy silently and stoically while others turn to their wider communities? Should one person be able to dictate the choices of an entire family?
- How would your life change if one of your parents or siblings became seriously ill or disabled? How would your family handle this kind of stress? How would you react?
- Who is your literal or figurative blood brother or sister? How did they become a part of your life? Compare your friendship to that of Ruth and Livy. Would you be able to keep a secret even from that person?
- Do you think Ruth should’ve let Livy know that she already knew about her mom’s condition? Was Ruth being a good friend or not? What makes you think this?
- How does Livy become the center of Chloe’s party? Should Ruth (or anyone else) have tried to stop her? Why or why not? How would you have felt if this had been you? Do you think Livy will continue to party like this or not? Why?
- Describe Ruth’s relationship with her own father. How does it mirror Olivia and her fathers? What do you think would be the most difficult aspect of being a preacher’s kid? Do you think these kids often feel the need to rebel? Would you rebel too?
- Why does Livy keep a dream journal? What do the dreams reveal about her life? Can you remember your dreams each night? Do you believe there is meaning in your dreams? What was the most significant dream you ever had?
- Livy keeps rereading Gone With the Wind. She uses it as a touchstone or a way “To see where I am now, compared to where I was then.” (p.96) Have you ever reread a novel several times? What did you learn about the novel? What did you learn about yourself? Do you think any book could be worthy of this attention? Why or why not?
- Describe what happens with the fireworks. Who do you blame for this incident? What is Ruth trying to prove? Livy seemed ready to move things to the next level with Charlie until this happened. Why? Was she seeing only what she wanted to see about him? Do young women do this more than young men? Defend your answer.
- What words from the bible soothed Olivia’s mother? Which ones meant the most to her as a daughter? Are their words from your own traditions which mean a great deal to you in times of distress? Do you share them?
- How does Ruth and Livy’s friendship change over the course of the novel? In the end, would you still consider them best friends or not? Why? Can childhood friends remain close over a lifetime or not? What makes you think this?
- Why do you think Livy’s dad is capable of showing such tenderness for his wife but not his daughter? Do you think they would be closer if he wasn’t the beloved coach of the hometown team? Why?
- Do you have any sacred spaces in your own life like the cottonwood trees and the abandoned cottage do for Livy and her mom? How are memories like this developed? Can they be forced?
- Compare Olivia’s journal to her mothers. Why do people keep journal of any kind? Have you ever kept one? Would your journal more resemble Livy’s or her mothers?
- When Livy tries to attend Chloe’s party she says, “ I could barely bring myself to look anyone in the eye- these kids I once knew, who now felt like strangers.” (p. 238) How can grief change a person fundamentally? How does Livy change?
Keep a dream journal for a week. Try to write in it as soon as you wake up each morning. At the end of the week reflect on the images that you were able to remember. What do they reveal about your present stresses and concerns? Did you have any revelations from this exercise? Do you think keeping a dream journal would be valuable?
Create a piece of art inspired by your own dreams. Use any media or technique that like but explain your choices in a brief journal.
Choose a theme song for the movie release of the novel. Explain your choice.