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The Melting Season Reader’s Guide

By Jami Attenberg

The Melting Season by Jami Attenberg


Questions and Topics for Discussion


A tender, provocative story about the power of friendship, the thrill of self-discovery, and the strength it takes to escape the past.

Catherine Madison is headed West with a suitcase full of cash that isn’t hers. She’s just left the only home she’s ever known, a small town in Nebraska, after the only man she had ever known, her husband, Thomas, deserted her. She’s also left behind her deepest, most shameful secrets-among them a dysfunctional family she’s never quite been able to escape and a marriage whose most intimate moments have plagued her with self-doubt. On the road, she was going to become a new person. Or so she thought.

But running away from the past isn’t as easy as she had hoped. When Catherine reaches Las Vegas, she forms surprising new friendships that compel her to reveal what she had sworn she’d keep hidden, and teach her what human connection really means. Armed with this new knowledge, she is finally emboldened to uncover the truth about her family, come to understand what destroyed her marriage, and prevent her troubled sister from repeating her mistakes.

Deeply compassionate and unflinchingly bold, The Melting Season is the story of an indelible character’s journey from isolation to belonging, as well as an honest look at the things we feel we deserve from our lives- and how far we will go to find them.


Jami Attenberg is the author of the novel The Kept Man and the short story collection Instant Love. She has written for The New York Times, New York, Print, Salon, Nylon, Nerve and others. A Chicago native, she lives in Brooklyn, New York.

  • Do you think Catherine should have kept Thomas’s money? Why or why not?

  • Do you think Valka was more justified than Thomas in getting plastic surgery? Why or why not?

  • Do you think Catherine and Jenny should still try to have a relationship with their mother? If so, what kind of boundaries should that relationship have?

  • Catherine could not open up about the sexual problems that plagued her marriage until she met the brash Valka, who talks easily about her own problems. Are you more like Catherine or Valka? Whose approach do you think is better?

  • What parallels can be drawn between the end of Valka’s relationship with her fiancé, Peter, and the end of Catherine’s marriage to Thomas?

  • Catherine fell in love with Thomas when she was sixteen, before she had seen or known very much of the world. How do you think things will be different the next time Catherine falls in love?

  • Catherine left her home in Nebraska behind so that she could discover something about herself. Have you had the same desire to leave something you’ve known for something new and different? Did you act on it? If no, why not? And if yes, what did you find?

  • Why do you think Catherine was not curious about life outside her hometown before her marriage ended?

  • What do you think Jenny’s daughter Laura’s life would have been like if they hadn’t left Nebraska? Do you see a brighter future for Laura in California? Why or why not?
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