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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

The Moments Between Dreams

1. The themes of courage and perseverance are prevalent throughout the novel. Social expectations are also explored. How were these themes used to move the story forward?

2. The story of Carols life is mostly told through the lens of raising her children. How does growing up in an abusive environment affect Ellie, as a young woman, and Tom, as a young man? Is the effect different for each of them? Why or why not?

3. Since the 1940s, we have learned that intimate partner violence is not always male driven. Could the same story have been told if the genders were reversed? Why or why not?

4. Symbolism plays a large part in the telling of Carols life. How does Carols use of makeup change throughout the story, and how is it a symbol of her lived experience?

5. Driving is a major symbol of freedom throughout the story, as well. We see that Tommy is given a car as a graduation gift, but Carol and Ellie both have to learn how to drive in secret. Discuss more ways the author uses driving as a symbol for freedom and how it affects each of the main characters.

6. Discuss the role of religion in Carols life and along her journey to personal freedom.

7. When Carol meets Tony at his office to discuss her options for leaving her marriage, she learns discouraging facts about the justice systems treatment of women during that time. How have things changed? How have they stayed the same?

8. Throughout the work, we see three different depictions of women in the 1950s: Carol, a housewife with children and an abusive husband; Anna, a housewife with no children but a supportive husband; and Polly, a single woman with a career and no children who marries later in life. What is the importance of this representation? How does it affect Carols journey? How does it affect Ellies growth into womanhood?

9. Discuss Ellies journey as a young person living with a visible disability in the 1940s and '50s. How does it affect her growth and maturity? How has the climate changed for persons with disabilities in regard to access and assistance?

10. Discuss how shame plays into Ellies feelings (about her limp and/or shoes) and Carols feelings of shame (about her marriage and her visible marks).

11. Readers witness three notable funerals. What do each of these losses represent for Carol?

12. Carol is 26 when we meet her and 40 when the story ends. How does she change over the course of her story? How would you describe her transformation?

13. Do you think Joe followed through with his threat to tamper with the brakes, or was it the slippery roads and/or his fury while driving that led to his car accident? Does it matter?

14. We see that Carol has had strong male role models throughout her life. Why do you think she missed red flags early in her tumultuous relationship with Joe? Are tangible role models more important than verbal lessons on morality? Why or why not?

15. After Joe has his accident, we see disagreement amongst Carols family about whether or not she should have gone to the hospital. What do you think about her decision? Was she wrong to stay behind? What would you have done?

16. Readers might notice the switch from past to present tense in the last chapters of the novel. How does this literary technique play with a shift in Carols journey to healing and attitude toward her next chapter?

17. Excerpts from Anne Finchs "The Petition for an Absolute Retreat" open and close this novel. What is your interpretation of this poem? How do these chosen excerpts reflect Carols journey?

18. Discuss why you think that domestic violence resource groups are trying to shift the narrative from Why didnt they leave (sooner)?” to Why arent abusers held accountable?” and How can families (or society) stop the cycle?”

19. Discuss the limits of the Lautenberg Amendment (1996), which provides basic protections to domestic abusers and does not specify procedures for the surrender of firearms.

The Moments Between Dreams
by Judith F. Brenner

  • Publication Date: May 17, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
  • ISBN-10: 1626349339
  • ISBN-13: 9781626349339