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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

The Overnight Guest

1. With Wylie’s tragic history, why do you think she would choose to be a true crime writer where she is continually faced with the brutal realities of violence and its impact on victims and their families? Why do you think Wylie felt the need to return to Burden and her childhood home in order to write her book?

2. Discuss the rural setting of the novel. How do you think living in Burden shaped the characters? How would the story be different if it was set in a large city?

3. The child says, “It isn’t the dark you should be afraid of… It’s the monsters who step out into the light that you need to fear.” What do you think they meant by this?

4. Wylie and Becky vowed to be “sisters forever.” After all that they’ve been through, what do you think their friendship will look like? Will it last? Why or why not?

5. THE OVERNIGHT GUEST is set in a blizzard and in the scorching heat of summer. What role does weather play in the story, both literally and metaphorically?

6. The child says there are three kinds of dark. What is the relationship that each of the characters have to darkness? How does it change throughout the novel?

7. Parenthood is a common theme throughout the story. How does it manifest itself throughout the story? How did each of the characters step into that role?

8. Wylie, Becky and Josie have been through so much. Where do you see them a year from now? Five years? Twenty?

9. Discuss the ways in which the idea of being a prisoner is explored throughout the story for each of the characters.

10. By the end of the novel, we learn secrets that change the way we think about certain characters and the way the characters see one another. What character do you think changed the most over the course of the book? How did your opinions of the characters change throughout the story?

The Overnight Guest
by Heather Gudenkauf