Rescuing Olivia

Reading Guide

Olivia is given a memory-blocking drug to induce amnesia about certain events. The drug in the story is fictional, but such drugs are, indeed, being researched with some success. Are such drugs ethical? If no, are there any circumstances in which you think this sort of drug is acceptable? If so, what are they? Is your answer dependent on whether the patient is aware he is taking such a drug and has made the decision to do so of his own free will?

Anders and his mother have each handled their relationship with his father, and reacted to what he did, in different ways. Anders believes his mother continues to “make excuses” for his father. Is he right? If so, why you think she does so? Is Anders’ refusal to speak to his father justified? Why or why not?

Why is Anders so reluctant, at first, to find out what really happened to Olivia?

Lenny forgives Anders for his betrayal. Did you believe this was realistic? Why or why not? Do you think a woman would have been able to forgive another woman for the same thing so quickly? In general, do men handle such transgressions differently than women?

Did Olivia act in self-defense? Do you believe her actions were warranted? Why or why not?

Anders tells Olivia that he thinks her father loves her, despite everything. Does Anders believe his own words? If so, why does he think so? If not, why does he say this to her? Does her father love her? And do you think Olivia will ever reconcile with her father?

When Anders and Lenny are on their way home from Africa, Lenny asks Anders, “Where’s Olivia?” He knows the literal answer, of course. What does he mean by this?

Shel asks Anders why he left Africa. Why did he leave?

The epigraph at the beginning of the novel (by poet James Richardson) reads: “Every life is allocated one hundred seconds of true genius. They might be enough, if we could just be sure which ones they were.” Did Anders have his one hundred seconds of true genius? If so, at what point?

Who, in your opinion, “rescues” Olivia?