The Combined Book Group meets at the Endicott Branch of the Dedham Public Library- 257 Mount Vernon Street in Dedham, MA at 12:30pm on the first Monday of every month. Copies of each book will be available no less than a month before each meeting and kept at the circulation desk for your convenience. Clicking on the book's title will bring you to our catalog where you may also place a hold on the item for pickup at your local library.
Each section on this page details the book we will be discussing that month, and gives possible discussion questions to guide your reading. Please feel free to reach out to Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns.
Every year, nearly 30 million Americans sit on a therapist’s couch—and some of these patients are therapists. In her remarkable new book, Lori Gottlieb tells us that despite her license and rigorous training, her most significant credential is that she’s a card-carrying member of the human race. “I know what it’s like to be a person,” she writes, as a crisis causes her world to come crashing down.
Enter Wendell, the quirky but seasoned therapist in whose office she suddenly lands. With his balding head, cardigan, and khakis, he seems to have come straight from Therapist Central Casting. Yet he will turn out to be anything but.
As Gottlieb explores the inner chambers of her patients’ lives—a self-absorbed Hollywood producer, a young newlywed diagnosed with a terminal illness, a senior citizen threatening to end her life on her birthday if nothing gets better, and a twenty-something who can’t stop hooking up with the wrong guys (even one from the waiting room)—she finds that the questions they are struggling with are the very ones she is now bringing to Wendell.
With startling wisdom and humor, Gottlieb reveals our blind spots, examining the truths and fictions we tell ourselves and others as we teeter on the tightrope between love and desire, meaning and mortality, guilt and redemption, terror and courage, hope and change.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is revolutionary in its candor, offering a deeply personal yet universal tour of our hearts and minds and providing the rarest of gifts: a boldly revealing portrait of what it means to be human, and a disarmingly funny and illuminating account of our own mysterious lives and our power to transform them.
(provided by publisher)
Possible Discussion Questions:
1. In her author’s note, Gottlieb explains why she uses the term "patients" rather than "clients" in the book, though neither quite satisfies her. What does each term suggest about the person described and the therapeutic relationship?
2. Revisit the four epigraphs that introduce each part of the book, and consider how they resonate with the stories of the patients we follow: John, Julie, Charlotte, Rita, and Lori herself. Which patient’s arc resonates most for you?
3. What does Gottlieb learn from each of her patients? In what ways does she identify with them? In what ways do you?
4. If you have a therapist, what do you think you want from him/her? Have you ever shared Lori’s experience, and that of her patients, of wanting to specific advice, or wondering what the therapist is thinking about you?
5. Is it reassuring or uncomfortable to see inside a therapist’s head? What was it like peering inside Gottlieb’s consultation group, when she and her colleagues are discussing a patient that the group suggests she "break up with"?
6. When Lori asks Wendell whether he likes her, he says that he does but not for the reasons she’s asking to be liked: he likes her neshama (Hebrew for "spirit" or "soul"). When do you see glimpses of someone’s soul? Given how much all of us share deep down in our psyches, how much do you think our souls differ? Could it be Lori’s very humanity—the parts of her that he himself relates to—that Wendell feels affection for?
7. In a funny moment in the book, Lori explains that while she’s surrounded by therapists—in her office, in her consultation group, in her friendships—she can’t find a therapist for herself because she needs the space of the therapy room to be "separate and distinct." How does Wendell’s reaction to Lori’s crisis differ from that of her close friends, including Jen, who’s also a therapist? How might our friends’ love for us make their way of soothing us less helpful in the long run?
8. Gottlieb writes: "It’s Wendell’s job to help me edit my story"(115). How was her story about herself holding her back and how does she revise it by the end of the book? How do her patients revise their stories about themselves? Have you ever had to rewrite your own self-narrative in order to move forward?
9. Compare Lori’s and Wendell’s styles as therapists. Would you prefer one to the other? What does Lori learn from Wendell? How does her interaction with him change her own practice?
10. The ultimate concerns the psychiatrist Irvin Yalom identifies—death, isolation, freedom, and meaninglessness—are theological and philosophical concerns as well. Would you turn to therapy, religion, or another wisdom source to explore them? How might the guidance you receive from each source differ?
11. Gottlieb notes that contemporary culture is rendering the ingredients for emotional health more elusive, such as real connection with others, time and patience for processing our experiences, and enough silence to hear ourselves. Have you noticed a change in your own emotional health (or that of your loved ones) as our lives become increasingly digitalized? What do you do to offset the damaging effects of an online age?
12. Lori Google-stalks Boyfriend and also Wendell—what problems does this cause in each case? Think about the Google-stalking you’ve done. How do you feel after you’ve learned something about someone in this way? Has it helped or hurt your relationships? What does this use of the internet reveal about us?
13. In Chapter 39, "How Humans Change," Gottlieb outlines one model of behavioral change and applies its stages to Charlotte’s case. Think about changes you’ve made in your own life. What helped you to make them? Do you recognize these stages?
14. After reading about Julie’s preparations for death, did you look up from the book and see the world any differently? Do you have a bucket list? Have you ever tried writing your own obituary? What have you learned from these exercises?
15. By the end of the book, do you feel you’ve internalized Gottlieb’s voice? Pick one of your current dilemmas and imagine what she might say about it. Are you conscious of carrying inside you the voices of people you’ve been close to? Has your conversation with those voices evolved over time?
16. What do you learn from this book that you can apply to your relationship with yourself? With others? Gottlieb introduces several psychological terms, such as projective identification (204) and displacement (367)—do you find it useful to have names and definitions for behaviors you recognize in yourself or others? If you were to put something you learned from this book into practice, what would that look like?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)
A year after getting divorced, Helen Carpenter, thirty-two, lets her annoying, ten years younger brother talk her into signing up for a wilderness survival course. It's supposed to be a chance for her to pull herself together again, but when she discovers that her brother's even-more-annoying best friend is also coming on the trip, she can't imagine how it will be anything other than a disaster. Thus begins the strangest adventure of Helen's well-behaved life: three weeks in the remotest wilderness of a mountain range in Wyoming where she will survive mosquito infestations, a surprise summer blizzard, and a group of sorority girls.
Yet, despite everything, the vast wilderness has a way of making Helen's own little life seem bigger, too. And, somehow the people who annoy her the most start teaching her the very things she needs to learn. Like how to stand up for herself. And how being scared can make you brave. And how sometimes you just have to get really, really lost before you can even have a hope of being found.
Description provided by publisher.
1. Helen decides to go into the wilderness because she thinks she needs to learn to be more brave. At first, in fact, she’s hoping to turn herself into a tough guy like Chuck Norris (“Chuck Norris can slam a revolving door.”) She doesn’t become that kind of brave --- but what other strengths does she find in herself?
2. Helen comes to see the kids on the hiking trip very differently as time goes on --- particularly Beckett. How does their relationship evolve?
3. Helen’s relationship with her brother Duncan changes quite a bit during the story. What about her time on the trip --- those experiences with those people --- allows her to see him differently? Would what GiGi told her on the day she paints her portrait have had the same impact if Helen hadn’t gone on the trip?
4. When Helen worries about Jake being ten years younger than she is, Grandma GiGi says, “You know that doesn’t matter.” Does it matter? In what ways are Helen and Jake well-suited to each other? In what ways do you think they’ll clash?
5. Helen’s a bit of a fish out of water. At one point, wondering what she’s even doing there, she said, “When Duncan first told me about this survival course, I’d been planning a trip to Paris. I’d given up Paris for the wisdom of the wilderness.”Have you ever forced yourself to do anything scary, or hard, or outside your comfort zone because you thought it would help you get stronger or wiser?
6. Windy says that “getting what you want doesn’t make you happy” and “happiness is more about appreciation than acquisition.” What do you think? Windy is a complicated mixture of likable friend and romantic foil. Was she an appealing character to you?
7. There’s something Helen really, really wants in the story that she doesn’t get. What do you think she’ll take away from that disappointment? How do you think she’ll learn from it?
8. Were there any particular quotes that stood out for you? Why?