Dream When You're Feeling Blue Cover
Dream When You're Feeling Blue

1. Elizabeth Berg titles Dream When You’re Feeling Blue after a Johnny Mercer song, and the popular culture of the 1940s is referenced throughout the novel. Can you find some descriptions of the popular culture of the day? How does the title enhance or complement the narrative?

2. The discombobulation and strangeness of the wartime era are fore-grounded throughout the story, often in counterpoint to the normalcy of the Heaneys’ everyday life. Can you find some examples?

3. Kitty’s love for Louise “made her her best self.” (p. 180) Many different kinds of love are depicted in the novel. What kind of love do you think makes each character his or her best self?

4. “It’s not the ring that makes you engaged. It’s the promise,” Louise says (p. 21), and the novel examines the difference between symbols and the realities they’re believed to represent. Which symbols in the book accurately represent reality? Which do not?

5. “If you weren’t engaged you were nothing” (p. 27) is the message Kitty has seen in advertisements all around her. What differences in gender roles and expectations did you notice between the forties and today?

6. Kitty never marries or has children of her own. Do you think it is fair to say that her real “children” are her sisters and brothers? Why or why not? Do you think Kitty is happy with her life at the end?

7. Visions and premonitions play an important role in the novel. Can you find some examples of premonitory visions or dreams? How do they shape the narrative?

8. “Kitty and her sisters had always looked down on girls who got pregnant out of wedlock, on those who had relations outside of marriage” (p. 164), but Margaret defends Louise, saying that “her terrible crime was to show love to her fiancé.” (p. 180) Do you think Louise and Michael make the right decision?

9. Throughout the novel, the role of deceit–often well-meaning or by omission–is highlighted as an unavoidable aspect of family life. Think of some instances of deceit in the novel, then discuss. Were the consequences positive or negative?

10. The Heaneys are devout Catholics, and each of them struggles with the moral ambiguities of war. In particular, how do Kitty, Tommy, Margaret, and Frank come to terms with this issue? How does Hank influence Kitty’s opinions? Which characters’ ideas are the most compelling to you?

11. In your opinion, was Frank Heaney a good father? Why or why not?

12. The family always said, “If one Heaney girl loved you, the three of them did. And if you loved one Heaney girl, you loved them all.”(p. 211) What do you think of Kitty’s sacrifice? Did she make the right decision for herself? For Louise? For Hank? Do you think Julian and Tish were happy together in the long run?