The Deep End of the Ocean

The Deep End of the Ocean

3.9 71
by Jacquelyn Mitchard

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Few first novels receive the kind of attention and acclaim showered on this powerful story—a nationwide bestseller, a critical success, and the first title chosen for Oprah's Book Club. Both highly suspenseful and deeply moving, The Deep End of the Ocean imagines every mother's worst nightmare—the disappearance of a child—as it explores aSee more details below

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Few first novels receive the kind of attention and acclaim showered on this powerful story—a nationwide bestseller, a critical success, and the first title chosen for Oprah's Book Club. Both highly suspenseful and deeply moving, The Deep End of the Ocean imagines every mother's worst nightmare—the disappearance of a child—as it explores a family's struggle to endure, even against extraordinary odds. Filled with compassion, humor, and brilliant observations about the texture of real life, here is a story of rare power, one that will touch readers' hearts and make them celebrate the emotions that make us all one.

Editorial Reviews

A first-rate new storyteller.
The Boston Globe
Possesses a white-water momentum nearly as dynamic as its emotional pull.
Los Angeles Times
Masterfully paced....A story...of one family's slow tumble back into light.
People Magazine
A drama with the tension of a thriller...that moves deeply into the emotional territory of family ties.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Oprah's Book Club Series
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Sales rank:
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Jacquelyn Mitchard is the author of the bestselling novel The Deep End of the Ocean and of two nonfiction books, including Mother Less Child: The Love Story of a Family. She has been featured on NBC?s Today Show and CBS This Morning, and has been profiled in such national publications as People and Newsweek. A contributing editor to Ladies? Home Journal, Mitchard and her five children live in Madison, Wisconsin.

Brief Biography

Madison, Wisconsin
Place of Birth:
Chicago, Illinois
B.A. in English, Rockford College, 1973

Read an Excerpt


The Deep End of the Ocean is a story about every parent's worst nightmare: the loss of a child. It is a story that is all too familiar to many of us, made frighteningly routine by the young faces emblazoned on milk cartons or steeped in pathos by Hollywood scriptwriters. In Jacquelyn Mitchard's deft hands, however, the story of the Cappadora family is neither routine nor cliched. It is chillingly and beautifully real.



Jacquelyn Mitchard's venture into fiction with her first novel, The Deep End of the Ocean, marks the latest evolution in her diverse and distinguished career as a writer. A native of Chicago, Mitchard graduated from the University of Illinois and Rockford College and became a newspaper reporter. From 1984 to 1988 she was metro reporter for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Her weekly column, "The Rest of Us," has appeared in the Journal for over a decade and will be nationally syndicated starting in September 1996.


"The Deep End of the Ocean burns itself into the memory line by line. It is by turns lyrical and startling, brilliant." —Kaye Gibbons



The Truth Depends on Who's Telling It

How did you come to write The Deep End of the Ocean?



  1. Beth and Pat deal with their grief over Ben in quite different ways: while Pat goes through the "normal stages," Beth is by turn stoic and hysterical; at times she feels as if her slightest move would cause an avalanche. What is this avalanche about? Do you think it is characteristic of men and women to deal with grief—or the loss of a child—differently?
  2. Beth Cappadora in no way resembles an ideal mother, yet no one could question her love for her children. How does Beth express this love? Do you think she was a "sloppy" mother before Ben's disappearance? And after?
  3. Beth points out that the divorce rate of grieving parents is eighty percent. Why is it so hard to sustain a marriage after losing a child? And why do you think Beth and Pat are able to stay together throughout their ordeal? Do you think their marriage will ultimately succeed?
  4. Mitchard reveals Vincent to us in stages, allowing us to see him develop from a typical older brother to a troubled teenager. How effectively does she convey Vincent's complex feelings about the loss of Ben and about his parents? How does Ben's disappearance—and Vincent's own role in the incident—shape his personality as he grows older?
  5. Both Vincent and Ben are known to the outside world by different names. What is the significance of these "aliases"? Why does Mitchard herself refer to Vincent as Reese in his named chapters? In your own mind, which names are the most appropriate for each boy?
  6. In many instances Beth reacts angrily when her family expresses hope for Ben's return. Do you think it would have been easier on the family if they were to discover—or have a real reason to believe—that Ben had died? Why is the possibility of his being alive so painful to Beth? Do you fault her for being willing to believe that her son is dead?
  7. Although it is difficult to imagine how any good could come out of the Cappadoras' tragedy and its aftermath, can you make an argument for what is often referred to as the "healing power of grief"? Has anyone in the family benefited from the experience of losing Ben? What kind of family would they have become had their lives not been torn apart?
  8. Watching Sam (Ben) interact with her family, Beth thinks to herself that he is "not of this world." She realizes that George and Cecilia were loving, caring parents; perhaps in some ways better parents than she and Pat would have been. Do you think that Sam—and the Cappadora family—would have been better off if they had remained strangers? What parts of his personality as their birth child were preserved over the course of his years with George? How is he the Cappadoras' child, and how is he George's child?
  9. The title, The Deep End of the Ocean, refers to Ben's first, timid reaction to a large body of water. Later in the novel, Beth reflects that Ben has indeed been to the ocean's deep end, and returned. What does the title mean to you? How have other members of the Cappadora family been to The Deep End of the Ocean?
  10. Recurring throughout the novel is the image of a cedar chest—as a coffin, as a storage for keepsakes, as a hiding place for Ben. What does the image of the chest evoke for you? Is it fearful or comforting? Claustrophobic or cozy? Why would a child be drawn to such an object?
  11. Reunions play an important role throughout the story. What different kinds of reunions take place? Are these events generally pleasant or painful experiences for the characters involved?
  12. After Ben's disappearance, Beth ceases to communicate with just about everybody, except Candy. Why do you think Beth turns to Candy instead of all the other people who love her and have tried to help her?

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