1. Addiction—particularly male addiction—is often glamorized or venerated in literature and popular culture. Do you think that there is a kind of cultural fascination with addiction and addicts? Is this part of what draws Nina to K? If so, in what way?
2. Aron observes that “our cultural view of female addicts has long been dim, to say the least,” while addicted men are often given a pass, or even celebrated as “tormented” (both p. 186) geniuses. What cultural factors might contribute to this difference in treatment? Do you see any of those factors at play in Nina’s life?
3. How does Aron link the temperance movement and the rise of feminism in the U.S.? Why do you think the two are so closely intertwined—and why has the contribution of temperance women been “dwarfed” (p. 80) by that of suffragists in the historical account?
4. Aron notes that, as a child, she “often played the role of another parent in our unfolding family saga.” (p. 39) How might that dynamic have impacted her relationships as an adult?
5. Aron feels that she “made a better mistress than wife,” the true “have to have”, while a wife “is leftovers in the fridge.” (p. 138) What factors might have contributed to her feeling this way? How might these elements have affected her marriage?
6. Aron notes her association of true love with darkness and danger: “tumult” (p. 122), “obsession” and “mad flower” (both p. 175); something “a little bit evil.” (p. 169) What factors might have contributed to this perception? Do you agree with these connotations?
7. Why do you think K fails to invite friends and then leaves the housewarming party in chapter 23? Is there more to his actions than his assertion that he and his friends weren’t “really into sh*t like this.” (p. 203)?
8. Aron quotes temperance crusader Carrie Nation’s lines, “I represent the distracted, suffering, loving motherhood of the World, who, becoming aroused with a righteous fury, rebelled at this torture” as containing “the whole of the codependent experience.” (pp. 164–165) What do you think Aron means by drawing this comparison? What are some contemporary parallels between the early temperance movement and the current conversation around codependency?
9. Throughout the book, Aron is shot through with opposing tensions—a yearning for a more “normal” life(p. 88) and her tendency to create “the chaos I lived in” (p. 129); and her modern, feminist ideal of autonomous, individual fulfillment and the bonds of romantic and familial love. How do you think factors like upbringing, culture, self-perception, and motherhood might have contributed to these tensions? What other external factors may have created this opposition in her life, and how might they have impacted the nature of her codependency?