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Book Club Discussion Questions:

  1. Much of The Pianist's Only Daughter focuses on the author’s parents. Why do you think the author chose to tell her story that way, centering her parents, rather than herself?

  2. What similarities characterized the childhoods and young adulthoods of Jane and Don? What differences? How do you think those affected their behaviors in their marriage and after?

  3. At which points in the book did you feel most sympathetic to the author, the “only daughter” in the early chapters of the book? Were there things about the parenting she received that made you mad? Things you appreciated and admired?

  4. Could you relate to the daughter’s conflicted feelings about going into music and singing and how she eventually gave that up? Why do you think she then chose social work?

  5. How did you feel at the point when the story revealed that Jane and Don were going to reconcile and they were going to live together? How would you characterize Katy’s reactions to this development?

  6. While the parents were living together at their Afton home, what signs were there that Jane’s health was declining and how did Katy try to handle it? The situation brings up the frequently seen conflict that families and loved ones of older adults face: safety/security versus freedom/independence. In this case, did the author do enough, or what might she have done differently?

  7. What were the most surprising or upsetting things that happened in Jane’s care after she broke her hip and while she was still in Minnesota? In your experience with family members who have been in the hospital or a nursing home, have any similar occurrences happened, i.e., medication orders mixed up, services not available, discharge before the patient was ready, falls due to lack of supervision by staff?

  8. The experiences the author had with Jane in Silverado, a private-pay memory care facility, were mixed. What would you say were positives about the stay there for Jane and for the family? What were a few negatives in how the care was managed?

  9. Were there points in the latter half of the book where you thought the daughter made mistakes, or you disagreed with how she handled the situation with Jane’s care? Did the daughter have reason to feel guilt or regrets about her mother’s last years?

  10. Were you sympathetic to Don when he was eager to find a new love interest after Jane’s death? How might we understand the fact that he wanted to find someone new so quickly afterwards?

  11. When Don eventually met his new girlfriend at the Brookdale apartments, how did his daughter react? What changed when they learned Elena had Alzheimer’s disease?

  12. How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the care Don received and the caregiving his daughter could provide after his fall and broken bones?

  13. What were some positives about McLean’s care and what were some negatives? Did you see some evidence of the facility choosing safety over freedom/independence? How did those choices affect Don?

  14. How did you feel about the fact that Don was given medication to calm his anxiety and his temper?

  15. Don’s grand piano was almost a character in the book. How did the piano and being a pianist figure into the story and follow Don and Katy right up till the end of his life?

  16. Do you think the author came to reconcile her mixed feelings about her father in his last months of life?

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Use the Contact form on this site, or my Facebook page, Kathryn Betts Adams, Author, to let me know what you think! 

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