READING GROUP GUIDE FOR
LEAVING THE HALL LIGHT ON
- What does the title of the book mean?
- What is your reaction to Madeline’s story about her son? Did you have any unexpected feelings or responses?
- Have you known anyone (a friend, a relative, etc.) who has/had mental illness? In your experience, how have people dealt with mental illness?
- Would you be able to recognize the signs of mental illness or suicidal tendencies? Do you know any support services in your community that could be of help in such a situation?
- When Madeline and Bob see Paul in a manic state for the first time, they essentially do an “intervention” on the spot and take him to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. Would you have taken the same action? Why or why not?
- What would you do if you suspected a friend or family member was a danger to
himself/herself or to others?
- After Paul is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, he is emotionally distant from Madeline and Bob and sometimes seems hostile. (He frequently tells Bob to “Leave me alone!”)
How do you give support and comfort to a person who doesn’t want support or
- Paul doesn’t take his medications as prescribed. One of the reasons he cites is that it interferes with his creative work (in his case, composing and playing music).
If a medication inhibits an artist’s creativity, should the artist give up his/her art?
- Have you known anyone who committed suicide? What was the impact on people who were close to the suicide victim? How did people deal with the suicide?
- Does the stigma of mental illness and suicide still exist? If so, how can we help erase it?
- What could you do to help and comfort a family that has experienced a suicide or other tragedy (besides bringing over a casserole)? What kind of friend would you be during a time like this?
- Madeline and Bob grieved differently. How were their experiences different? What are the pros and cons of their reactions to Paul’s suicide?
- In Chapter Nine “Surviving the First Year (and Beyond),” Madeline talks about “diversions” – reading, going to movies, etc., – all the things she does to keep her mind off of Paul’s suicide. What do you think of Madeline’s list? Is there anything you would add or do differently?
- What role does storytelling play when it comes to death? Does it make a difference to survivors to be able to remember a person in stories?
- Do you think that writing this story was helpful/cathartic to the author? How does writing aid healing? How do you deal with trauma in your life?
- Do you think the poetry and photos enhanced or detracted from the story? What role does the poetry play in the memoir?
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