Discussion Questions

Chapter discussion questions for individual or group reflection.

88 Chapter Questions

I recommend you read the entire book before going to the questions. That way you will not interrupt the flow and will have more context.

  1. OK Google – An editor changes the course of Rosie’s life by recommending that she start a new writing project and scrap the novel she’s been working on for over a decade. Rosie questions the woman’s credentials. Why do you think Rosie listened to her advice? Do you think Rosie should have given up writing her novel, based on what she was told?
  2. Ticket to Ride – Rosie won Ticket to Ride, but she still claims she is not better than Denny at it. She says she just has a better strategy. Throughout the book you will pick up clues about Denny’s life strategy. Does Rosie have a strategy as well?
  3. Spanakopita – When it comes to her job, we see Rosie has trouble setting boundaries. Denny tries to help her with this and advises Rosie to get keys made as part of her hours. Sometimes we can’t solve a person’s problems but we can make the journey more pleasant. What does Denny do for Rosie in this chapter that helps her in this way?
  4. The Vacuum Cleaner – We talked about Rosie’s boundaries when it comes to her job. Here she struggles with boundaries around finding time for her writing. Rosie compares Denny to a rock and herself to water. Water flows around a rock. Relationships require a balance of flowing and standing firm. How well do you think Rosie navigates this?
  5. Wild at Heart – At the end of the Chapter Rosie decides not to mention the Fearless seminar or the books, Wild at Heart and Measure of a Man to Denny. Do you think she should have brought up the subject with Denny? Why do you think she chose not to?
  6. One Good Book – In the story we see the interaction between two very different personalities. Denny adds levity to Rosie’s more serious life. Denny appears to think Rosie could take a leaf out of his book and not take life so seriously. What do you think?
  7. Volunteering – Denny does not complain about the volunteer hours he puts in at the non-profit where Rosie works. After he helps her, he goes home and to finish roasting a turkey. But while he is helping her he also creates a dilemma and they are not able to lock the safe. Rosie doesn’t want her boss to come back from his trip and discover an unlocked safe. What would it matter? We are told there is nothing of value in the safe. After work Rosie returns home to a perfect turkey dinner. What do you think the moment she walked in the door felt like to Rosie?
  8. Relatives – Discuss some pros and cons to having large families compared to small families. How might a marriage be impacted if one comes from a large family and one from a small family?
  9. Shoes – Denny expects good customer service. While he lodges a complaint Rosie decides to look at more shoes. She thinks maybe the ones she bought look like old lady shoes. What does this reveal about Rosie?
  10. Water shoes – For Denny, shoes are a big deal because he struggles with sore feet. He seems to have found a solution in flat shoes. He doesn’t appear to care what people will think about the shoes Rosie calls “sunshine shoes.” How do you think Rosie feels about the shoes? What do you think about her response?
  11. Halva – “Sometimes we get the things we want and sometimes we don’t,” Rosie tells herself as she is looking for halva, her favourite treat. How did you feel when she found the halva? What do you think about the little pep talk she gave herself? She was preparing herself for the possibility that she might not get what she wanted this day.
  12. After Christmas Shopping – Denny buys Rosie discounted slippers as a Christmas gift but he doesn’t immediately grasp that he needs to pay for them out of his end of the budget. We notice that Denny didn’t buy Rosie a gift in time for Christmas. Rosie bought SoftMocs for their adult children for Christmas. Why did Rosie not simply buy herself the same slippers she bought for their children?
  13. Not Much is Changing – Denny steps on the scale four times. Rosie observes this. She is humored and teases Denny. Why do you think she finds this amusing?
  14. Happy Writing – “I’m glad to see that you’re happy when you’re writing,” Denny comments to Rosie. Denny wants Rosie to be happy. In Chapter 12 Rosie said that she thinks she married Denny for his laugh. What do you think about the old adage, “Happy Wife, Happy Life” in relation to Denny and Rosie? Does it apply to husbands too? Do we have an obligation to set a good tone in our homes?
  15. Skeet Shooting – Rosie has a moment of triumph. She impressed her uncle with her surprising skeet shooting skills. We see a different side of Rosie here. How did you feel about Rosie’s “mastery” of the video game?
  16. Vanity- Although Denny doesn’t care what people think of the shoes he wears, we get the sense that he takes more consideration of his facial hair. Rosie’s opinion of his beard did not seem to influence him. But he shaves his beard when he sees himself through the eyes of others. Rosie and their sons find this extremely amusing. Why is that?
  17. Higher Education – Rosie evidently put a lot more effort into her assignments than Denny, but she relates that the end result was not significant. The chapter concludes with Rosie surmising that Denny is now content to study shoes and cell phones—things he is interested in. How do you think Rosie feels about this?
  18. Storage – Rosie holds the elevator while Denny brings more boxes of Christmas decorations to take down to their storage locker. The locker doesn’t have much room to spare. What do you think the locker would look like if Rosie was not in Denny’s life?
  19. An Old Spark – We all have a past. How does it make you feel when Rosie remembers Giovani who once lived in New York? Rosie likes saxophone but she’s used to banjo now. What do you think she means by her comment?
  20. Smiling – Denny notices Roșie is smiling again. What happens in Denny’s life when Rosie is not smiling? At the end of the chapter we see Rosie does not remember what the keys in her wallet are for. We discover they are for her studio. What kinds of dreams does Rosie have? Do we know?
  21. A Mouse Story – There are several mouse stories in this chapter. Do you think putting a screen in the window above the kitchen sink was a reasonable request or do you side with Denny?
  22. God is Smiling – Rosie relates a dream she thinks is about her rewards in heaven. Once in awhile I have to latch onto Denny’s faith, we read. What does Rosie mean by that? Rosie tells us her grades were adjusted down for handing in assignments late. She ponders the possibility that Denny will get a huge reward in heaven for regulating her life. Does Denny regulate her life?
  23. Blinkers – Rosie says she avoids saying, “I told you so.” Marriage partners will try to help each other make wise choices but wether we “obey” is still up to us. Sometimes our differences create tension. Do you think Denny and Rosie give each other sufficient freedom to make choices according to their individuality?
  24. Prius – Denny buys a new car that he says is a better deal than the offer Rosie made for a used car. Rosie says Denny could never be a used car salesman. Why might that be?
  25. Leg Press – Denny likes cabinet doors closed and the lids on bottles tightly secured. Does Rosie plan to properly close her heartburn medication from now on? What does this tell you about Rosie?
  26. Five Guys – Denny and Rosie do a lot of walking because they don’t have much money for entertainment. Are there things in this chapter that appealed to you? Why do you think Denny and Rosie’s children didn’t tell them about Robo until they asked them to babysit their pet six months later?
  27. Vicks – Rosie is mostly accepting of the differences between her and Denny. Yet at his parents’ home she hands him slippers. For a moment Rosie considers the possibility that she might not know Denny as well as she thinks she does. Do you think Rosie has a pretty good understanding of Denny? Does he still surprise her?
  28. We Live Till We Die – Rosie thinks Denny’s life is pretty centred around seeing her smiling. She says she tries to be more like Denny, and have fewer aspirations. We notice a gentle push and pull in their relationship – Rosie wanting one thing, Denny wanting another. This evening it is about which movie to watch. Denny wins this one. This is a minor decision, but how do you propose they resolve the matter of Rosie wanting a bigger house?
  29. No Cheating – Although Rosie trusts Denny, she needed to hear him say she is his “one and only.” How did you feel about his response to her question?
  30. Understanding – “I am responsible. I pay for the things I buy. It just takes me a bit of time.” These are Rosie’s thoughts. Are you more like Denny or more like Rosie when it comes to finances? The issue of not paying off the piano on time is not resolved here. Rosie concludes, “Life doesn’t have to be perfect.” In other words, not everything will be neatly packaged. How does the chapter ending make you feel? Why do you think Rosie begins to laugh?
  31. Target – Denny and his son have coffee together. Rosie observes their interaction. This little family scene is focused around a simple pleasure like sharing a cup of coffee. Denny baked biscuits, “scones.” Are you surprised that he is so handy in the kitchen? Do you think Rosie may have had a role in Denny learning to bake scones? What might that have looked like?
  32. A Perfect Rainy Day – Denny and Rosie have regular date nights on Friday nights. They don’t feel compelled to go out, though. Do you think a weekly date night is important for couples? Rosie has had a rough day at work. Do you think more “paid” hours will help Rosie be happy at her job? What might be some underlying issues at her job?
  33. Cute Ears – We see a playfulness between Denny and Rosie as they tease one another. In what way do you notice they are still protective of each other? Hint: Most people are self conscious about their nose.
  34. Google Docs – Denny fully understands Rosie’s frustration with text disappearing on her computer but he also thinks it is hilarious. Do you think Rosie has a fairly good self-concept? Is she easily embarrassed? Can she laugh at herself?
  35. Fleece Pants – Denny tells Rosie she doesn’t need another coat. We learn that Rosie wanted to buy a coat in Whistler, but it appears she was swayed by Denny’s opinion. However, she takes responsibility for her decision. What does this tell you about Rosie and her relationship with Denny? Are there any other reveals you noted in this chapter?
  36. MacBook Pro – Rosie bought a new computer for her office. Until now she was taking her own computer to work and using it in addition to the “dinosaur” computer that is no longer supported. Did you notice Rosie bought the computer while her boss was away? We see she has a lot of responsibility but we are not sure she has the authority to make such a major purchase on her own. Do you find her actions surprising? How do you imagine her boss responded when he learned what she had done?
  37. White Spot – Rosie has “trained” Denny not to look at his phone in a restaurant, yet she is breaking her own rule and working while they are eating. Notice how Denny obeys her rule. What do you think about Rosie’s refusal to sign a second code of conduct?
  38. Boundaries – Rosie second guesses herself when Denny wants her to give in to the request of the tenant at work. How does her thought process make you feel? What do you think about her conclusion?
  39. Redneck – As a child Rosie would skate in the gravel pit when it iced over. She didn’t have much opportunity to skate and doesn’t skate well. She is afraid of falling, especially after her friend broke her wrist while skating. Can you relate to her caution or do you think she should have taken a risk and accepted the invitation to go skating?
  40. The Jogger – We see a domestic scene where Rosie is preparing to wash the floor while Denny fills the dishwasher. Rosie comments that they don’t dance together because they are not good at following yet they seem to do this domestic dance well. There is also the dance of adaptation to technological advances. Who can you better relate to in this area, Rosie or Denny?
  41. Focus on Victories – Rosie wonders if the reason Denny is easily surprised at her is because he doesn’t have very high expectations of her. She glows with satisfaction under Denny’s praise. On the other hand, Denny says, “Don’t ever underestimate your role in that place.” Denny sees the difference she is making. What do you think about Rosie’s speculation about Denny’s expectations? Does Rosie see her value at her work?
  42. Thrift – More than once we note Rosie’s longing for a house on a property. With the rising cost of real estate, condo living is becoming more common. Do you have any recommendations for Denny and Rosie? What do you think of the conclusions Denny’s friend came to regarding owning property?
  43. The Entertainer – What is it about Denny that makes him a good children’s entertainer?
  44. Incompatible – Roșie is remembering losses in her life. We are not told about these losses here. While Denny apparently rises above his circumstances, Rosie likes to analyze things. What is good about each approach? Do you think Denny and Rosie are compatible? Why?
  45. Archival Quality – What do you think about the artist who did not aspire to becoming well known? Would you be the one to use archival quality paper or cheap paper?
  46. Valentine’s Tomatoes – Part of the intended charm of A Happy Life is the attention to the ordinary things in life. To find just the right carrying case for Denny’s larger, new phone is important to him. Rosie knows just where to look for the things Denny asks for. How does being able to find things and finding the right things contribute to a “happy life”?
  47. A Hard Copy – Rosie has a pretty good understand of Denny. She tells him he would have done squats in the past because he is thorough. She finds the notebook with the “evidence.” What do you think about how Rosie’s handled Denny’s denial? Rosie decided to discontinue attending “Denny’s church.” Were you surprised at the solution the usher offered when she mentioned the volume bothered her? This is based on a true story.
  48. Embarrassing Surgeries – Rosie is still working on her book. Like a “job” it can be tiring to keep at it. She asked for more paid hours at work, for a job that “was and should still be a full-time position.” Now we understand why she is struggling to get her work done each week. Do you have any suggestions for Rosie at this point?
  49. Cross-Cultural – This chapter is full of little tidbits of information about Denny and his career as a musician. Rosie encourages Denny to start a kid’s show of his own. Knowing what you know about Denny, why do you think this does not appeal to him?
  50. My Mother – A Happy Life is a collection of snapshots of life. It is a peephole into the life of a couple. Rosie finds a letter from her mother. Why did Rosie not mention her health or her struggles at work in her conversation with her mother?
  51. Reports – What do you think of Denny’s take on writing reports?
  52. The Nexus 6 – Denny thought other guys would get “suckered into” paying more for real roses when they saw the $9.99 sign for wooden roses. Does Denny get suckered into things? =)
  53. Virtual Files – Can you relate to Rosie’s battle accepting new technology or are you more like Denny?
  54. A Phone Watch – Rosie likes quality. She is happy with a watch purchased two decades ago. Do you think Rosie will ever progess to a phone watch?
  55. Unity Candle – A unity candle is to represent a man and woman becoming one. Normally two candle lighters each light a candle, leaving the middle one unlit. The couple then light the middle candle together and blow out their candle, signifying a new life together. What might Rosie mean that by each lighting their own candle and blowing out the middle one this was symbolic of their life together?
  56. Domain Name Server – At last Rosie is able to impress Denny with how she navigated her way through a challenging technological transition. How do you feel as you read this episode?
  57. Play Some More Banjo – Denny thinks the man who came to the non-profit where Rosie works and asked for a gift card is taking advantage of Rosie. Do you think the man is making up a story?
  58. Let’s Party – Why would people not suspect Rosie of wearing a fake diamond?
  59. Fences – How did Rosie get from talking about fences to talking about speeding? What motivated Denny to speed and get a ticket?
  60. Ordinary People – In an interesting twist, Rosie signs up for the “hardcore” gym. What does the question about whether there are a lot of ordinary people at Rosie’s gym tell you about Denny?
  61. Listen to the Birds – It’s another ordinary and beautiful day in the life of Denny and Rosie as they listen to the birds singing. Rosie notices a small inequality when she asks Denny to clean her glasses and realizes that although she has cleaned his glasses for him many times, this is the first time she has asked for the favor. Rosie says you can live with a man for thirty years and still not understand him. What role does the unexpected play in a marriage?
  62. Impression Management – As Rosie writes her bio she laments the fact that all the interesting “spices” go back on the shelf, unused. Her boss says she is the “face” of the organization but Rosie determines she will just be herself. What does Rosie think about impression management?
  63. Best Auntie Ever – There are a lot of tech details in the book which illustrate the difference between Rosie and Denny when it comes to technological advances. Rosie is willing to learn but she struggles to keep up. She has other things to attend to, like being an auntie, a friend, a wife, a grandmother and an artist! How are Denny and Rosie each managing to navigate the challenges in this unprecedented technological age? How are are you managing? Why causes Rosie to tear up?
  64. Hashbrowns – In this chapter we witness an endearing conversation between Denny and his mother. We also learn his technique for making hashbrowns. What is the other recipe in this chapter?
  65. Celebrating – Denny reluctantly decides to accompany Rosie to West Van. On another day he said no. How does Rosie handle Denny’s reluctance?
  66. A Girl Dreams – Occasionally we see Rosie’s longings. How does it make you feel as she is on the verge of cancelling her trip to New York? Do you think she will still go?
  67. A Waste of Money – A couple’s retreat at the hotsprings sounds heavenly to Rosie, but Denny isn’t buying it. Rosie wants to add a little romance to their life. Have you ever had this kind of experience? If so, how did you handle it? How does Rosie handle it?
  68. Phone Plans – What is the interesting observation Rosie makes at the end of the chapter?
  69. Car Dent – Rosie compares the varied sensations of backing into things. Rosie talks about the foolish things we do in our youth. How do you think Rosie felt as she watched the car back into them while Denny sat on the horn?
  70. Mr. Denny Is That A Purse – Here is a glimpse into the start of Denny and Rosie’s day. What is your favourite mini-story in this chapter?
  71. Calipers – Denny is very focused on actual weight loss with his gym habit. Now he has switched to Rosie’s gym. How did that happen when we know he objected to this earlier?
  72. Not Costco Jeans – Once in awhile Rosie saves her story and plans to tell Denny at a later time. In a sense she crafts the narrative of her life. Why would she wait to tell Denny this particular story? How did it make you feel when you realized she may have lost the expensive jeans she bought?
  73. Think Happy Thoughts – What do you think of the comment that Denny, “keeps his wife very well”? Rosie likes Denny’s positive nature and yet she cannot help looking at real estate even if she knows it bothers him. Rosie is surprised when she discovers Denny has kept up with real estate prices. Why does this surprise her?
  74. Don’t Look Back – In what ways might it be selfish to pursue happiness? What do you think of Denny’s philosophy of happiness being a by-product? How might not looking back contribute to happiness? Impede happiness?
  75. Looking Good – We picture Denny flexing his muscles and looking at himself in the black TV screen. He finds a smaller T-shirt. Every T-shirt has a story. By the end of the chapter do you feel lighter and more comfortable too?
  76. No Ordinary Water Bottle – Denny discovers Rosie has not read the small print on her water bottle. She bought the bottle when she was rushing to get to a Finance Committee meeting. A Happy Life is about making adjustments. What age-related adjustments do you read about in this chapter?
  77. The Log – What motivates Denny to lose weight?
  78. Unscented – Scent is an irritant to people. What influenced Rosie to wear perfume when she was young? What are your thoughts?
  79. Car Wash – Rosie needs time alone and goes to the car wash. Then she goes for a drive and looks at “ridiculously expensive” houses. Why does Rosie need to be alone with her thoughts? How is her job going?
  80. Free Flowers – Denny brings Rosie the flowers he received at work. His boss said Denny is getting better at recitals with the groups of children he teaches. Rosie teases him but Denny isn’t amused. Why do you think children love Denny?
  81. Gullible – Do you think Rosie is gullible? What in her character makes her more susceptible to people asking her for money?
  82. I Really Quit – How do you feel about Rosie quitting her job? Denny has long encouraged her to remain at her job yet she quits as a result of his insistence. What made Denny change his mind? Until this point we have heard only brief allusions to Rosie’s work as an artist. Now she intends to use her studio as well as finish editing her book in time for a writers’ conference. Do you think she made the right decision by quitting? Was this job a good fit for her?
  83. Sisters – Rosie says life seems to work better when you go with the flow. What did not go according to plan in this chapter? Things still worked out in the end. Rosie alludes to Denny sometimes seeing her seedling of faith as foolishness. Why would she say that?
  84. Clean Glasses – When Denny’s new glasses arrive they are the ones that remind Rosie of her grandfather. Was Denny really listening to Rosie’s preferences? Does it matter in this case?
  85. Good Times Camping – Here is a flashback to camping when Denny and Rosie were first married. We see Rosie’s dry humour as she surmises that the survival of civilization itself could depend on a fading memory. She may have forgotten exactly what camping was like, but it couldn’t have been that bad. Why does Rosie want to go camping?
  86. Speaking of Forgetting – What would you suggest in the case of the damage done to Denny’s car? Did Denny’s decision surprise you?
  87. A Gift Card – There are many times in the book where Denny and Rosie allude to finances. How do you feel when you learn they enjoyed a nice dinner out with a farewell gift card from Rosie’s work? Do you think things will work out for Rosie now that she no longer has her job?
  88. A Happy Life – Pork chops are on the grill. A soft breeze is blowing. The scent of recent rainfall lingers in the air. You get the sense that this evening is just as special as dinner on the patio at The Keg. Do you believe that Denny and Rosie do indeed have “a happy life”?