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Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. A contagious disease, a quarantined town—thecharacters in The Dreamers are facing an extremesituation. Our culture is dominated by two opposingnarratives about how people respond to disasters:Some believe they bring out the worst in people,others that they bring out the best. How do thesepossibilities play out in The Dreamers?

2. What do you think of Matthew’s character? Arehis actions heroic or heartless? Selfless or selfaggrandizing?Or some combination? Is it ethicalto privilege the lives of one’s loved ones over thelives of strangers?

3. How does The Dreamers differ from other booksabout disaster and dystopia? What does it have incommon with those stories?

4. Some of the sick dream of extraordinarily vividalternate lives. Consider Rebecca, who dreamsof an entire lifetime, including a son. Do you thinkher dreamed-of life is somehow real? Or just adelusion? What about Nathaniel’s extended dreamof Henry?

5. Why do you think Karen Thompson Walker choseto feature a large cast of characters instead offocusing on just one person’s experience? How didthis choice affect your reading of the book? Did onecharacter resonate with you more than the others?

6. One of the main characters is a collegefreshman named Mei. How would you describeher personality? How does she change over thecourse of the novel?

7. The Dreamers includes many parent/childrelationships. What do you think of the book’sportrayal of these bonds? How does the crisisaffect these relationships?

8. The Dreamers involves a fictitious disease in afictitious town, but what parallels do you seein today’s real world? How do you think thegovernment would respond to a situation likethis if it happened today?

9. How do you feel about the ending of the book?How do you imagine the lives of the survivingcharacters will look five years into the future?How do you think their experiences during theoutbreak will affect the rest of their lives?

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