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We Are All the Same in the Dark Reader’s Guide

By Julia Heaberlin

We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin


Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. “I want to tell her, We are all the same in the dark.” Why do you think Julia Heaberlin chose this as the title for her novel? How does this sentiment relate to the characters and how they are perceived? How does it relate to the topics of vulnerability and overcoming adversity? What does its sentiment mean to you?

2. In the book, Wyatt and Odette are haunted, literally and figuratively, and burdened by the past. Is there any time or place in your life where you felt the weight of history? Do you believe in ghosts, or have you ever had a paranormal experience? If so, what is your what is your “theory” of ghosts, what they’re like, how they reach us, and what purpose they serve?

3. How does small town gossip and legend work against Odette? How do the stories we tell, and the stories we tell ourselves, shape our identity and expectations? Have you ever had to challenge any personal narratives or myths? 

4. Thwarted potential is a theme in the novel: from Trumanell’s death, to Wyatt losing his mind, to Odette and Angel losing physical parts of themselves. In our culture, we love prodigies, ingenues, wunderkind, and rising stars. Why is potential so fascinating and prized in our culture? Is it over-valued? 

5. “I always wondered: What if I’d watched the reel of my movie with her one more time? Two more times? Three more times? What else might I have seen through the crack of the door . . .” Odette is haunted by those what-if scenarios: what if she could have said or done something differently with her friend, could her death have been prevented? She carries those alternate realities in her mind and tortures herself with what could have been. She longs to rewrite history—but it can never be done. How does this relate to her relationship with Angel? Do you have any what-if parallel universes in your mind? Have you ever compared yourself or your choices to a hypothetical alternative?

6. The house bullies me with its history,” Odette remarks on page 84. How do the Texan setting and its landmarks take on human characteristics, and what is the effect? Do you think that places can hold onto memories, that the events of what occurred there can linger?

7. Discuss Odette and Angel’s reluctance to let the loss of an eye and a leg define them. How does it interact with their traumas and inform their ambitions over time? 

8. Wyatt tells Finn that, “[He] shouldn’t mistake grief for love. Guilt for passion.” What did he mean by this? How does it manifest in other ways besides Odette’s feelings for Wyatt? Do you agree that grief can easily be misconstrued as other emotions, and if so, why?

9. How do you feel about the time gap in the middle of the novel—and Odette’s shocking fate? Are you surprised by any of the characters and what they are up to five years after Odette’s death? 

10. In We Are All the Same in the Dark, many characters express a frustration with the half-truths of an explosive documentary, and it is revealed that Dr. Greco has authored a true crime book about Trumanell and Odette. Why do you think we are so fascinated with stories about crime and murder? What does the novel say about the pitfalls of how we choose to frame certain stories? Do you think it’s fair for a documentary to have certain biases?

11. “We are whole human beings existing the best we can without a part. . . . That’s everybody who is a survivor.” What does the novel suggest about the possibility of repair after enormous trauma? What fuels each characters’ quests for healing and what do you think is necessary for individuals to recover?

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