1. “We weren’t friends with the Thatches. The Thatches didn’thave friends,” Andrew says. How are the Thatches viewed withinDamariscotta? Early in the novel, did you see them as friendless because they were ostracized, because they were elitist—or something else?Did your opinion change throughout the book?
2. Andrew and Ed’s conversation about the nicknames “Trip” and “Chip” nicely and quickly encapsulates some of the differences between the two men. In what ways do they differ, and in what ways are theysimilar? What is the source of the friction between them?
3. The Midcoast moves back and forth in time. How did this shifting timeline affect your reading experience?
4. Consider the robbery scene in which Ed helps Frank, the elderly man, with a snack and sets him up in the bathroom—while robbing him. What does this tell us about Ed’s character?
5. Did you find yourself sympathizing with the Thatches? Why orwhy not?
6. What do you think was the turning point for the Thatches? When did things finally go too far?
7. Does Andrew feel more empathy or envy toward Ed and Steph? Talk about Andrew’s complicated relationship to the Thatches.
8. Do you think anything in these characters’ lives would have changed if Andrew had sent Steph Ed’s bracelet like he promised?
9. “If you’re happy all the time, you don’t appreciate anything,” White writes. “You have to have contrast, to have low moments to bring out the high moments in relief.” Do you agree? Why or why not?
10. White writes that in Damariscotta, Allie was the smart girl. But at Amherst, she was a below-average student who was accepted onlybecause she was an athlete from a small town. How does this contrastaffect her? How does your opinion of yourself change in differentsettings, or in different crowds? What have those experiences been like?
11. Discuss EJ and Allie’s relationship. How do their parents putdifferent expectations on each of them? How has this shaped the young adults they’ve become?
12. What did you make of EJ’s involvement in Ed’s operation? What was Ed’s responsibility in this situation as a father? How much blame can we place on the Damariscotta PD—especially Chief Hunt? How complicit is Steph?
13. How has the story of the Thatches challenged, changed, or validated your understanding of the American dream?
14. “Why do I feel the need to distinguish myself at all?” Andrew says of his 9/11 story. “Why would I ever wish, if not for a deeper relationship with a tragic event, for a more unusual relationship with a tragic event?” Have you ever experienced this desire, or an urge to connect yourself to a tragedy? Why do you think we tend to do this?
15. Did you find the ending ambiguous? What do you think happens to everyone in the end?