Reading Guide

Dear Reader,

I’ve received emails from several people who told me their book clubs would be reading one or both of my novels. Some asked for a reading guide.

When I give talks, my favorite part is opening the floor to questions. I find people’s perspectives fascinating. Your ideas and questions always kick-start new ways of thinking within me – and I’m grateful. If any of you want to respond to this reading guide, feel free to contact me through my website. I love hearing from readers, and I try to respond to every message.

For those who are including my novel in your book club, for your own reading, on your list of books to read – thank you so much.





  1. Tightwire tracks Caroline Black through her first year as a psychology intern, working with her first patient, Collier. As the book opens, Collier feels hopeless. As the book progresses, he discovers his capacity to heal. Have you ever felt hopeless? Have you found a way to heal?
  2. People have all sorts of ideas about therapy and therapists, and their ideas sometimes include a stigma. I hope this novel shows how helpful a “talking therapy” can be, and helps to diminish the stigma. This book is about a therapy, a patient, a psych intern, and her supervisor – all fictional characters. Did the story make the idea of therapy less “strange”, possibly more comfortable?
  3. Sexuality can feel confusing, even terrifying. At one point in the story, Collier (the patient) questions his sexuality. Have you ever questioned your sexuality or your sexual identity? How did you resolve your questions? Are your questions still ongoing? (If you need support, please contact an LGBTQIA center near your home. The Trevor Project is also an excellent organization to offer support. http://www.thetrevorproject.org )
  4. Marriage Equality is a charged topic for social activism. Two important characters in Tightwire are Jeanne and Tracy, a lesbian couple with two children, who become role-model-parents for Collier. Have you met a same-sex couple with children? Are you comfortable with that family constellation? Why or why not? (If you’re open to growing more comfortable, maybe Jeanne and Tracy can help!)
  5. One theme of this book is that if you’re motivated, it’s never too late to change. Do you have parts of yourself that you’re motivated to change? How will you set the change in motion?
  6. Sexual assault can happen in many forms. People can feel many emotions including, violated, betrayed, contaminated, frightened…also guilty, confused, depressed, doubting their own experience. Sexual assault is a part of this novel, and the victim’s healing is a central theme. Have you ever had a sexual experience which left you feeling assaulted? Were you able to trust the validity of your experience, even if the assault fell outside the legal definition of “rape”? Have you ever felt safe enough to tell another person? (If you need help healing, please contact a rape crisis center or a therapist.)
  7. In one session with Collier, Caroline (the therapist) has no idea how to handle the situation, and she makes several huge mistakes. She is certain that she has torpedoed both the treatment and her career. She expects her supervisor to kick her out of her psych internship, and her patient to quit. But to her surprise, her supervisor is supportive and helpful, and her patient comes back to continue working. What does Caroline do that earns the respect of her supervisor, and allows Collier to return to his treatment? Have you ever made a terrible mistake, and then been given a second chance?
  8. Tightwire is structured with chapters that alternate between Caroline’s sessions with Collier, and Caroline’s life as she grows up. Did you find the structure engaging? Why or why not?
  9. Do you have an idea to add to this study guide? I’d love to hear from you!

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