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READERS GUIDE

The questions and discussion topics that follow—provided courtesy of the author—are intended to enhance your reading group’s conversation about Together, Judy Goldman’s inspiring account of the medical mishap that forever changed her marriage—and her life.

Introduction

Novelist and poet Judy Goldman’s inspiring account of the mishap that left her husband paralyzed, how it tested their marriage, and their struggle to regain their “normal” life.

When Judy Goldman’s husband of almost four decades has a routine spinal injection to alleviate back pain, he is instantly paralyzed from the waist down—a phenomenon no doctor can explain or undo. She’s forced to take over, navigating the byzantine medical world they suddenly find themselves in. Her husband is forced to give in. This is the starting point for Together, which looks at the changes every couple faces—the slow, ordinary ones brought about by time and the sudden, dramatic ones that take us by surprise. Identities shift; roles switch. How do we adjust?  How do we let go of the if-onlys? Together is a deeply honest story about the life we dream of and the life we make—an elegant and empathetic meditation on what happens to love, over time and all at once.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Together is actually a braid. One thread is the chronology of a medical trauma. The other, the history of a marriage. Which thread engaged you more?  Why?

2. Judy’s sister used to tell her children that choosing a spouse was the most important decision they would make in their lives. Do you agree? Judy and Henry got engaged on their third date. How wise (or foolish) was this quick decision?

3. Judy writes: “In any marriage, one person becomes the ____________ one (fill in the blank), and the other person becomes something in tandem… Henry would be the protector. I’d be the protected.” Then, Judy’s and Henry’s roles switched. What has been your experience with you and your partner slipping into each other’s role?

4. Did you think the hospital and rehab scenes were realistic? Have you had similar experiences navigating the medical world? How important is it for a patient to have an advocate?

5. Some readers believe that Judy’s anger over her husband’s medical mishap was justified and appropriate. Others believe she wasn’t angry enough. Which camp do you fall into? 

6. Judy writes: “When concerns are immediate and one’s world is confined, the commonplace can feel almost sacred. There are many honeyed moments…” When you’ve faced personal trauma, did you suddenly find yourself having “honeyed moments”? Did the story told in Together feel inspiring to you?

7. Were you surprised that one of the reasons Judy wrote this book was to figure out how to forgive—the physiatrist, her husband, herself? Which do you believe would be most difficult? What has been your experience with needing to forgive someone when it wasn’t easy to forgive?

8. Judy writes about “young love turning into old love.” What is the difference between young love and old love? Did you see evidence of this gradual unfolding in the scenes from Judy and Henry’s marriage? Have you and your partner undergone such a change over the years? Have you witnessed such a change in your parents?

9. When Judy worries about the things she didn’t get around to teaching her children, she quotes Erma Bombeck: “I’ve seen mothers fight to keep from running down the aisle at their daughter’s or son’s wedding, screaming, ‘Wait! I’m not finished with you yet!’” Do parents ever truly believe their child is ready for the world? 

10. Do you find memoir or fiction more compelling? Why?

About this Author

JUDY GOLDMAN is the author of two memoirs, two novels, and two collections of poetry. Her work has appeared in USA Today, Washington Post, Real Simple, Literary Hub, Southern Review, Gettysburg Review, Kenyon Review, Crazyhorse, Ohio Review, Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. She received the Hobson Award for Distinguished Achievement in Arts and Letters, the Fortner Writer and Community Award for “outstanding generosity to other writers and the larger community,” the Irene Blair Honeycutt Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Beverly D. Clark Author Award from Queens University.
 
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