Bibliomaniac's Book Club: My Husband's Son by Deborah O'Connor


My Husband's Son

What's the book about?

You'd always recognise your own son. Wouldn't you?

Heidi and Jason aren't like other couples.

Six years ago, Heidi's daughter was murdered. A year later, Jason's son Barney disappeared. Their shared loss brought them together.

By chance, Heidi meets a boy she's certain is Barney.

But Jason is equally convinced it's not him.

Is Heidi mad? Or is Jason hiding something? And can their fragile marriage survive Heidi's newfound quest for the truth . . 

Shoebox Prompt Box

Here are a few ideas of things to pop in the box to start off the evening:

  • A page of photos of celebrities as children to match to their adult photos 
    • Why? Think about how much people do  / don't change over time and how easy it might be / might not be to recognise someone after a long time)
  • A Newspaper Headline from the Ben Needham case
    • Why? A true life story of a mother searching for her son for 25 years
  • A photo fit of Madeline McCann as they believe she may look now
    • Why? Think about how faces change, how the police or press can influence investigations, opinions and the truth....
  • Some props from the story - see if people can guess what they are, why they are significant to the story and any other comments generated from thinking about these specific items and their role in the story
    • We chose: a fire engine, a compass, a hotel room key, a black file with 'Vicky' written on it, a jiffy bag with some strands of hair
  • Questions (see section below for full details)
    • We cut the questions up and put them in an envelope for a kind of "lucky dip" approach to vary the discussion 
  • A sheet with a few games / activities / fun discussion points, for example:
    • Write Jason and Heidi's wedding vows
    • What questions would you ask Heidi when she's 'on the psychiatrists couch'?
    • Write a letter from Clara to Heidi following their falling out
    • Write Heidi's work appraisal / final warning letter /resignation letter
    • Write a one line synopsis / sales pitch for the book or one line selling the book to another book group
  • A copy of the book 
  • A list of suggested books you might want to read next if you enjoyed this one - several copies so people can take them away if they wish (see below for full details) 

Questions for Book Group:

·       How effective do you find the inclusion of a prologue in this book?

·       Does one single event have the power to shape and define a person?

·       What does the book have to say about the parent / child connection? Was there anything you particularly agreed or disagreed with?

·       Is there ever an instance where it is right to do the wrong thing? 


·       How did you feel towards Heidi? Is she a reliable narrator and how far can we trust her?

·       “What happened to my daughter now defines who I am.” (Heidi). Is this true? To what extent does Heidi fight this definition? Is it possible to not be defined by it?

·       How convincing did you find Heidi and Jason’s relationship?

·       Why is Heidi attracted to Tommy? What does he give her that Jason cannot?

·       Heidi refers to her weight a lot. It is used in descriptive detail as well to reveal character, relationships and her mental state. Did you find this an effective metaphor in the novel? If so, why? If not, why not? 

·       If Jason were to get his kid back, how long do you think it would be until he realises you and he no longer have anything in common?” (Tommy). What do you think about Tommy’s comment? Does Heidi have Jason’s best interests at heart?

·       How did you feel towards Vicky? 

·       Jason is always searching for something “concrete” or for “an answer, any answer”. He clings to “a fable” and the belief that a bond between parent and child can never be broken or lost. How convinced are you by Jason’s search? Does he want to find his son? Is Jason really able to recognise the truth amongst the myths, false sightings, police findings and years of searching?


·       “Family is who or what you make it.” “We raised him, we’re family.”(Tommy) What might the author be saying about family in this book? 

·       “You don’t have a conscience. Your sort never do.” What did you think about the presentation of the media and journalists in the novel? 

·       Some of the key revelations in this book come a little early than in many conventional thrillers. How effective did you find this? How effective did you find this book as a thriller or would you put in another genre?

·       The epilogue has the final twist. Did you enjoy this? Did you like it? Dislike it? Was it needed? 

Quick Fire:

·       Did you like the ending?  How plausible did you find it? 

·       Do you like the title of the novel? Why is it effective? (or not?!)

·       If you were Heidi, would you have made the same decision? 

·       What motivates Heidi? What is her overall goal?

·       Where do you see Heidi and Jason in five years time?

·       Who is the villain in book? Who is the victim?

·       “Life is series of trade offs, of choices considered and choices made.” Do you agree with this?

·       What was the thing you liked best about the book?

If you liked this book, try:

Gone Astray by Michelle Davis
Lesley and her husband Mack are the sudden winners of a £15 million EuroMillions jackpot. They move with their 15-year-old daughter Rosie to an exclusive gated estate in Buckinghamshire, leaving behind their ordinary lives - and friends - as they are catapulted into wealth beyond their wildest dreams. But it soon turns into their darkest nightmare when, one beautiful spring afternoon, Lesley returns to their house to find it empty: their daughter Rosie is gone.

Only Daughter by Anna Snoekstra
In 2003, sixteen-year-old Rebecca Winter disappeared.
She’d been enjoying her teenage summer break: working at a fast food restaurant, crushing on an older boy and shoplifting with her best friend. Mysteriously ominous things began to happen―blood in the bed, periods of blackouts, a feeling of being watched―though Bec remained oblivious of what was to come. Eleven years later she is replaced. A young woman, desperate after being arrested, claims to be the decade-missing Bec.

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
1976: Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children and listening to her mother's grand piano, but her pretty life is about to change.Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions for the end which is surely coming soon, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared.Her life is reduced to a piano which makes music but no sound, a forest where all that grows is a means of survival. And a tiny wooden hut that is Everything.

After Anna by Alex Lake 
A girl is missing. Five years old, taken from outside her school. She has vanished, traceless.The police are at a loss; her parents are beyond grief. Their daughter is lost forever, perhaps dead, perhaps enslaved.But the biggest mystery is yet to come: one week after she was abducted, their daughter is returned.She has no memory of where she has been. And this, for her mother, is just the beginning of the nightmare.

The Missing by C L Taylor 
When fifteen-year-old Billy Wilkinson goes missing in the middle of the night, his mother, Claire, blames herself. She's not the only one. There isn't a single member of Billy's family that doesn't feel guilty. But the Wilkinsons are so used to keeping secrets from one another that it isn't until six months later, after an appeal for information goes horribly wrong, that the truth begins to surface.Claire is sure of two things – that Billy is still alive and that her friends and family had nothing to do with his disappearance.A mother's instinct is never wrong. Or is it?

The Good Mother by A L Bird 
Susan wakes up alone in a room she doesn’t recognise, with no memory of how she got there. She only knows that she is trapped, and her daughter is missing.
The relief that engulfs her when she hears her daughter’s voice through the wall is quickly replaced by fear.
The person who has imprisoned her has her daughter, too.
Devising a plan to keep her daughter safe, Susan begins to get closer to her unknown captor. And suddenly, she realises that she has met him before.

Madeleine: Our Daughter’s Disappearance….. Kate McCann
'The decision to publish this book has been very difficult, and taken with heavy hearts ... My reason for writing it is simple: to give an account of the truth ... Writing this memoir has entailed recording some very personal, intimate and emotional aspects of our lives. Sharing these with strangers does not come easily to me, but if I hadn't done so I would not have felt the book gave as full a picture as it is possible for me to give. As with every action we have taken over the last five years, it ultimately boils down to whether what we are doing could help us to find Madeleine. When the answer to that question is yes, or even possibly, our family can cope with anything ... Nothing is more important to us than finding our little girl.'

Ben by Kerry Needham
In 1991 Kerry and her son Ben followed Kerry’s parents to live on the Greek island of Kos. On 24 July, she was at work when her mum Christine arrived crying uncontrollably. Ben had been playing outside, and then disappeared. Someone had taken Ben.
In her heartbreaking memoir, Kerry describes the agony of being initially suspected by the police, which meant the closure of airport and ferry terminals were delayed, the early sightings that raised their hopes and the hoaxes which dashed them completely. And the unbearable pain of knowing her baby boy was alone somewhere without his mum.

And don't forget.....

Best snacks to accompany this title:

Rich tea biscuits taken from the staff room
A packet of crisps or nuts grabbed from behind the pub counter 
Take Away selection of starters 

Best drink to accompany this title:

Coffee / tea
Chilled White Wine 

Best venue for this title:

College staffroom 
Canteen (college / school hall style) 
Wine bar 

Deborah O'Connor can be found on Twitter @deboc77 
Deborah O'Connor is a writer and TV producer. Born and bred in the North-East of England, in 2010 she completed the Faber Academy novel writing course. She lives in London with her husband and daughter.

For more recommendations please follow @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk) 


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