The Deep End of the Ocean

The Deep End of the Ocean

4.0 74
by Jacquelyn Mitchard

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"Masterful...A big story about human connection and emotional survival" - Los Angeles Times 

The first book ever chosen by Oprah's Book Club

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


"Masterful...A big story about human connection and emotional survival" - Los Angeles Times 

The first book ever chosen by Oprah's Book Club

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
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.38(w) x 7.95(h) x 1.01(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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?

What People are saying about this

Judith Viorst
Wonderful...ordinary people caught in the most extraordinary circumstances...once you start reading you will never stop.
Kaye Gibbons
Burns itself into the memory line by line. It is by turns lyrical and startling, brilliant. I wish I had written it. Ms. Mitchard is blessed with a surplus of talent.

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

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The Deep End of the Ocean 4 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 74 reviews.
SuperMomof4 More than 1 year ago
"The Deep End of the Ocean" is a moving account of a family coming to grips with the nightmare of losing a child. The writing is strong and the plot, although somewhat predictable, keeps moving so that the pages keep turning. The book is thought-provoking and quite emotional. The book contains some sexual content and profanity. I enjoyed the book although it was a difficult subject. It is not a light read, but certainly worthwhile and I would recommend it to others.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I cannot even bring myself to take it to the used book store. I don't want to put anyone else through the misery. I kept waiting for it to get better, it didn't. The ending was a complete disappointment. I like the comment about using it for firewood.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Book Review I give Deep End of The Ocean by Jaclyn Mitchard three stars. Two negative aspects that I saw in this book where, how Mitchard portrayed the mother Beth. Also at certain parts of the novel it drags on and on and it bores you after while. One of the positive aspects I saw in this book is that it was realistic because any mother could loose their child in an instant as Beth did. Also even though the book dragged on at times it still was easy to follow. I recommend this book to all mothers, so they can try to understand the pain that Beth went through losing her child for many years. All mothers could relate to Beth¿s pain.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I expected more from this novel. It was a task for me to turn the pages. Too slow, Too dragged out. I wouldn't reccomend it.
Anonymous 7 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book started out good, and there were parts that were engrossing. The last half though was pretty drawn-out and not very realistic. Not one of my faves of Oprah's Book Club picks...
BookBurn16 More than 1 year ago
This book is a brilliant study of abduction. And there were so many times I wanted to slap the mother. I could never understand her sense of loss and guilt and it was this alone that allowed me to hold onto my compassion. She was certainly flawed and I enjoy flawed characters, many times these types of characters you will not entirely love. I am okay with that. It is so beautifully crafted and the second half from the son's point of view (the one that was left behind to deal with all of this) saved this book from being mediocre and propelled it into a must read. It was wonderful, and I felt so deeply for him. This tragedy destroyed them, in so many ways and yes, the mother always seemed as if she were the only one suffering and that was her greatest crime. That she didn't love her family after that day, nor did she love herself. The writing is wonderful, the pacing was a tad slow, it was longer than it needed to be, but not terribly so. I would recommend that if you wanted to explore childhood abduction without having to deal with stark abuse, sexual exploitation this one is much more safe. I do not need to read the details of what happens to these children. I never want to read that. I was pleased that I didn't have to. Surprisingly there are characters (the investigating police officer) that are just as compelling as the main characters. I always appreciate well-written secondary characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This may be fiction, but it is unfortunately not far from real life - from describing my life.  Mitchard has researched this topic well. We lost a teenage son in an accident, and my wife acted very much like Beth.  At first, my wife took out her rage upon me as I ran the funeral, blowing up at me every time I told her of anything that the coroner, funeral director, priest, etc. said.  Then she kept telling me that our son was my least favorite child, and dug hard to come up with one-time events to prove her point (such as a time - once - when I forgot to say hello to our son). After 3 years, she handed me divorce papers, spent 15 minutes with our two surviving children telling them that she was moving 5 hours away to live with her family and never coming back.  They could visit her, she said.  She left 3 hours later in a rage, ordering me never to have any contact with her again.  10 months later, she hasn't visited or called her kids, but they have gone to visit her once (they're old enough to drive) and have called her a few times. In an interview, Mitchard said that she interviewed parents who had had a child abducted before writing this book, and she has developed an accurate portrayal of how some people do react.  Beth's actions may seem unbelievable and unimaginable to some readers, but this book presents an eerie and accurate picture.
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kaymeister More than 1 year ago
Seriously...I thought this book was weak. I read reviews and bought it based on those reviews. I am so sorry I spent my vacation reading it. It was not a thriller. It was not even interesting. It was mostly about a woman that was pathological and I am wondering about the author herself. Don't waste your time reading it. I wish I could find trustworthy and good reviews for books but this is the last straw. You cannot trust any of the reviews anymore...the critiques must be paid off....
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sassypickle More than 1 year ago
Too wordy and detailed, dragged on and on. The story picked up just as I was starting to think about giving up on this book, only to fall flat again. Do yourself a favor and skip this one.
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