The Deep End of the Oceanby Jacquelyn Mitchard
"Watch your brother," says Beth Cappadora to her seven-year-old son, Vincent. She's checking in at her high school reunion in Chicago. Even with a hotel clerk who is, in Beth's estimation, slower than weight loss, it's not more than five minutes before she turns again and asks, "Where's Ben?" It's the moment every mother dreads. Three-year-old Ben is gone. And no one… See more details below
"Watch your brother," says Beth Cappadora to her seven-year-old son, Vincent. She's checking in at her high school reunion in Chicago. Even with a hotel clerk who is, in Beth's estimation, slower than weight loss, it's not more than five minutes before she turns again and asks, "Where's Ben?" It's the moment every mother dreads. Three-year-old Ben is gone. And no one can find him. Despite a police search that will turn into a nation-wide obsession, Ben has vanished, seemingly without a trace. His disappearance will leave Beth frozen on a knife-edge of suppressed agony for nine years and drive a shattering wedge through her marriage to Pat - who, though he is a man of consummate kindness, can do nothing to bring his boy back. It will transform their other son, Vincent, into a delinquent who courts danger in an attempt to break the bell jar of silence that surrounds the whole Cappadora family. Then, just after the Cappadoras move back to Chicago to help start a family restaurant, something so unexpected happens, it changes everything that once seemed true or possible. And perhaps, only perhaps, it will give Beth what she thought was gone forever: a reason to live
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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.
ABOUT JACQUELYN MITCHARD
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
AN INTERVIEW WITH JACQUELYN MITCHARD
The Truth Depends on Who's Telling It
How did you come to write The Deep End of the Ocean?
- 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 griefor the loss of a childdifferently?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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 disappearanceand Vincent's own role in the incidentshape his personality as he grows older?
- 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?
- 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 discoveror have a real reason to believethat 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?
- 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?
- 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 Samand the Cappadora familywould 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?
- 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?
- Recurring throughout the novel is the image of a cedar chestas 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?
- 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?
- 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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