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Reading Group Guide The Boy on the Bus
by Deborah Schupack
1. By blending the ordinary with the extraordinary, The Boy on the Bus
transforms what is most familiar -- family and home -- into something strange and unsettling. What makes the first encounter between Meg and the boy so unusual and mysterious?
2. Describe the novel's mood and tone. What elements of the setting and story establish or enhance this atmosphere?
3. What is your initial impression of Meg? Do your feelings about her remain the same as the story progresses? What are her strengths and weaknesses as a mother?
4. The Boy on the Bus
upends the maxim that "mother knows best." Even Meg remarks, "Sometimes what other people say shows a truth you cannot see yourself. Because you're always too close to your own life" (p. 10). Why is so difficult for Meg to positively identify her own son? Should
mother always know best?
5. Early in the story, Meg reflects, "Each time your child returned home, he was an approximation of who you had sent out into the world that morning" (p. 30). Discuss this idea of children as "approximations."
6. Why do you think Meg and Jeff decided not to marry, and how has that decision contributed to the events that have unfolded? How do you interpret Jeff's comment that he sees her body as "a screen" (p. 156)? What has driven them apart and what, if anything, holds them together?
7. Why does each character experience such a sense of claustrophobia in this home, and how is each in some way trying to escape?
8. What effect has Charlie's asthma had on his relationship with his mother -- and, vice versa, what possible effect has their bond had on his health? Are you convinced that his recovery is as dramatic as Meg insists? How might Charlie's improving health impact their relationship in the future?
9. By contrast, where do you think Katie gets her strength, and why does her own mother seem so hesitant around her, almost afraid of her?
10. How reliable a narrator is Meg? In what instances are her interpretations of situations and signals -- especially from "the boy" -- faulty? (For an example, see pages 176-77.) How does her shifting perspective shape her relationship with Charlie -- and with the reader?
11. The sickness and death of Meg's father still weighs heavily on her mind. How does the guilt she continues to carry influence the choices she makes?
12. Why does Meg refuse to mark Charlie's correct height when he asks to be measured?
13. Late in the story, Meg hops onto the school bus with Sandy and, seeing Charlie running toward them, asks him to drive off. When asked what the boy wanted, she responds, "Whatever it was, it was too much" (181). What do you think she means?
14. Discuss the role of the goose that appears throughout the story. What meaning does it hold for Charlie and Meg, and what does its eventual fate signify? Why does Charlie give the goose his own name?
15. How have your perceptions changed over the course of the story? Looking back to the novel's opening scene on the bus, do you now interpret the events in the same way?
* Note: All pages numbers are based on the hardcover.