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The Only Child
By Andrew Pyper
Reading Group Guide This reading group guide for The Only Child includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book. Introduction
Dr. Lily Dominick has seen her share of bizarre cases as a forensic psychiatrist working with some of New York’s most dangerous psychotic criminals. But nothing can prepare Lily for her newest patient.
Client 46874-A is nameless. He insists that he is not human, and believes that he was not born, but created over two hundred years ago. As Lily listens to this man describe the twisted crime he’s committed, she can’t shake the feeling that he’s come for her—especially once he reveals something she would have thought impossible: He knew her mother.
Lily was only six years old when her mother was violently killed in what investigators concluded was a bear attack. But even though she was there, even though she saw it, Lily has never been certain of what really happened that night. Now, this stranger may hold the answers to the questions she’s buried deep within herself all her life. That’s when he escapes.
To discover the truth—behind her client, her mother’s death, herself—Lily must embark on a journey that will threaten her career, her sanity, and ultimately her life. Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Discuss the importance of names in the novel. Why is Michael’s character introduced without a name, and how did that affect your understanding of his character?
2. Lily is often described as being isolated from others throughout the novel. How did her isolation affect her decision to go in search of Michael and the truth about her past?
3. Mental health plays an important role throughout the novel. Is mental health conflated with the supernatural in the novel? Why or why not?
4. Discuss the structure of the book. What effect does alternating between the past and present have on the story? How do the flashbacks relate to the theme of memory in the book?
5. Michael leaves pages from his diary in Lily’s apartment after he kills Dr. Edmunston. How do the pages guide Lily in her hunt for Michael?
6. Lily “mistrusts people for a living.” Does this lack of trust help or hinder her in the search for Michael?
7. Is Lily a trustworthy character? Why or why not?
8. Discuss the significance of the literary references throughout the novel. Is there one literary character that Michael most closely resembles, or does he possess different traits from each monster?
9. Even though she was only six years old when her mother died, Lily seems to have inherited many attributes from her mother. Discuss how Lily is similar to her mother. How is she similar to her father?
10. Does Lily ever come to terms with who her father is? If so, when and how?
11. If Michael’s character is based on Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Frankenstein, what literary character do you think Lily is inspired by?
12. Discuss the significance of the title. Enhance Your Book Club
1. In the novel, Michael believes he personally inspired the following literary characters: Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Frankenstein. Read the books by Bram Stoker, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Mary Shelley and consider the connections between Michael and the original literary monsters.
2. Michael was created by Dr. Tivadar Eszes on the grounds of the Lipótmezei Sanatorium in 1811—a building that still stands today, long ago abandoned by its doctors and patients. Are there any abandoned sanatoriums in your area?
3. Check out more of Andrew Pyper’s books, such as The Damned
and The Demonologist
. To find out more about Andrew, visit andrewpyper.com, or follow him on twitter @andrewpyper.