The Heights Teacher’s Guide

By Peter Hedges

The Heights by Peter Hedges


Questions and Topics for Discussion


Tim and Kate Welch seem to have the perfect partnership. Tim is an inspired and beloved history teacher for a private school and Kate is a caring, dynamic mother to their two sons. Despite the pile of unpaid bills, the occasional rut, and even the eventual swapping of roles that finds Kate returning to her former career running a charitable foundation, they always make it work.

Their perfect system is interrupted, however, when the wealthy, sophisticated Anna Brody moves into Brooklyn Heights. Anna is attractive, elegant, and gifted with a presence that sparks awe and curiosity among the Heights’ elite. Her irresistible charm pulls Kate and Tim into a complicated friendship of love and lust that may tear their marriage apart.

The Heights is a novel that explores the delicate battle between what we have and what we want, and the impact desire has on our relationships. It tells the story of a marriage taken to the very edge of collapse and asks if it’s possible to save it.


Peter Hedges is a novelist, playwright, and filmmaker. He wrote both the novel and the screenplay What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, and is the writer-director of Pieces of April starring Katie Holmes and Dan in Real Life starring Steve Carrell. His screenplay for About a Boy was nominated for an Academy Award. Hedges lives with his wife and children in Brooklyn, New York.

  • The characters in this book appear to be driven by the ideas of class and society. How does Tim and Kate’s relationship with the Brooklyn Heights community affect who they are and the decisions they make?

  • What does Anna Brody represent to these characters? What attracts both Kate and Tim to Anna? What does she bring to the world of this book?

  • What is your impression of the marriage between Anna Brody and Philip Ashworth? Considering her relationship with her husband and her status, what attracts Anna to Tim? What do you think Anna’s intentions are? What does Tim mean to her?

  • Both Kate and Tim have complex relationships with their parents. How does Kate’s relationship with her mother affect who she is? How is Tim shaped by his father? What do these relationships do to drive the decisions they both end up making in the book?

  • One of the book’s pivotal moments is Tim calling out Anna’s name while having sex with Kate. What was your reaction to this moment? What is your opinion of Kate’s response? How does this moment affect the rest of the book?

  • Both Kate and Tim find themselves driven toward having affairs. What is Kate looking for in Jeff Slade? What is Tim looking for in Anna?

  • What was your opinion of the book’s “he said/she said” format? What did it add to the story? How did it affect your understanding of the characters?

  • In the beginning of the book, Tim becomes a stay-at-home dad while Kate restarts her career. What impact does this have on these characters? What would have changed had their roles remained the same?

  • To which of the three main characters can you most relate? What draws you to them and why? What would you have done differently if confronted with the decisions these characters faced?

  • Another powerful theme in the book is fantasy versus reality. What do you consider a healthy fantasy within a committed relationship, if at all? Should Tim have entertained Anna’s invitation? Should Kate have entertained Jeff’s? When does one cross the line?

  • What is your opinion of Bea Myerly’s authoring the final entry in the book? What significance does that have, if at all? What did the character of Bea Myerly bring to the world of The Heights?

  • What do you think the state of Kate and Tim’s relationship is now? Can a marriage survive the challenges they’ve faced? What do you see in their future?
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