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Questions and Topics for Discussion


  • Simon appears to be both altruistic and arrogant at the same time. What role does his profession play in his sense of himself? In what ways is he true to his vision of himself, and, at the same time, in what ways is he shortsighted?

  • Simon listens to his patients, makes himself accessible to them, and thinks up ways to make their health care more productive. He’s also willing to think “outside the box” when it comes to determining a treatment. Is Simon a good doctor?

  • Emily has grown up with an expectation that the world one lives in can be controlled. In what ways is she able to exert control? At what points does she experience the limits of her influence? How does she react when she’s confronted by her inability to control people and events?

  • Simon’s professional world is physically connected to his home. How does the architecture of the house relate to some of Simon’s internal conflicts? How does the architecture of the hospital in Florida relate to medicine and to Simon’s situation?

  • Emily’s professional sphere is in another city. What does work mean to the Bears? How have they established and maintained their professional personas? How have they helped each other professionally over the years? How does their work affect their family life?

  • Simon and Emily have strained relationships with Jamie, but those two difficult relationships differ from each other. In what ways are those two relationships different?

  • What will it take for each of those relationships to improve?

  • Emily, Simon and Jamie are each grappling with the effects of a shared past tragedy. What are the remedies each seeks to handle the lingering, and sometimes unacknowledged, feelings of heartache? What works? What doesn’t?

  • How does each of them act when they can’t handle those feelings of heartache? In what ways do they act out? In what ways do they keep their feelings constrained?

  • Simon doesn’t mean to overstep his bounds with the nurse, Julie McKinley, and yet he does. What kinds of different feelings does Julie McKinley inspire in him? Why are those feelings at odds with each other? Why are those feelings out of step with the real world? What emotions and yearnings are connected to his sexuality?

  • When Simon decides to make wine, he has visions of a family project that will impress his wife and involve his daughter. Why does he choose wine? Why is this project doomed from the start? What does it say about Simon that he believes this project will be an antidote for the strife at home?

  • What fears are keeping Emily from being a good mother? Are they reasonable fears? How could she overcome them?

  • Is Emily’s affair justified? Is she a bad mother for having an affair? Is she overly sensitive when she views Simon’s actions as overbearing?

  • On a trip to care for his father, Simon discovers a cure for pain. Why is this particular treatment the one Simon chooses to use to overhaul his life?

  • In what ways do parents continue to influence adult children? Does the awareness of one’s parents—and the desire to please them and feel their love—ever go away?

  • Simon and Emily are cynical about involvement with religion and tradition. Where does that cynicism come from?

  • At various moments throughout the book, the Bears find that ritual can be a source of comfort. At what points does Jewish tradition intersect with their lives? How do they respond? What does age-old ritual have to offer this particular modern-day couple?

  • Remedies ends on a rather open-ended note in terms of the Bears’ marriage. What do you think happens between Simon and Emily after the book ends? Why?
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