1. A contagious disease, a quarantined town—thecharacters in The Dreamers are facing an extreme situation. Our culture is dominated by two opposing narratives about how people respond to disasters: Some believe they bring out the worst in people, others that they bring out the best. How do these possibilities play out in The Dreamers?
2. What do you think of Matthew’s character? Are his actions heroic or heartless? Selfless or self aggrandizing? Or some combination? Is it ethical to privilege the lives of one’s loved ones over the lives of strangers?
3. How does The Dreamers differ from other books about disaster and dystopia? What does it have in common with those stories?
4. Some of the sick dream of extraordinarily vivid alternate lives. Consider Rebecca, who dreams of an entire lifetime, including a son. Do you think her dreamed-of life is some how real? Or just a delusion? What about Nathaniel’s extended dream of Henry?
5. Why do you think Karen Thompson Walker chose to feature a large cast of characters instead of focusing on just one person’s experience? How did this choice affect your reading of the book? Did one character resonate with you more than the others?
6. One of the main characters is a college freshman named Mei. How would you describe her personality? How does she change over the course of the novel?
7. The Dreamers includes many parent/child relationships. What do you think of the book’s portrayal of these bonds? How does the crisis affect these relationships?
8. The Dreamers involves a fictitious disease in afictitious town, but what parallels do you see in today’s real world? How do you think the government would respond to a situation like this if it happened today?
9. How do you feel about the ending of the book? How do you imagine the lives of the surviving characters will look five years into the future? How do you think their experiences during the outbreak will affect the rest of their lives?