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By Mary Perrine


Discussion Questions



Oxytocin and dopamine are called love hormones. Oxytocin is the chemical that produces a warm, fuzzy feeling, and dopamine is responsible for the high derived from pleasurable activities. Together, they are responsible for the deep, unconditional love between a parent and a child.

  1. Norah, Colton, and Grace all loved their children fiercely. The same cannot be said about Seth (Norah’s ex-husband) and Dr. Daniel Fischer (Grace’s ex-boyfriend). What kept them from loving their children as deeply?

  2. Why are some people able to bond with children when others cannot?



In theater, a tragedy has at least one main character who has many redeeming characteristics but also has one tragic flaw. 

  1. What was the tragic flaw of each of the main characters? (Norah, Grace, and Colton)

  2. Everyone has a personality flaw. Consider yours. How has it affected you or others?



Simplified, a person’s identity is created by a lot of little boxes they put themselves in (culture, upbringing, personality, education, experiences, etc.). That identity affects the way they think and act.

  1. Norah, Colton, and Grace’s identities took a huge hit when they lost their child. They were parents, but they weren’t parents. What events in their past caused them to respond the way they did when they lost their child?

  2. What events from a person’s past can affect their identity? What happened in your past that has affected who you are today? 



It is said that time heals all wounds. 

  1. According to Norah’s columns, the pain one feels after losing a child lessens with time. Other than time, what helped Norah, Colton, and Grace heal?

  2. Consider something in your past that caused you great emotional pain. Did time help? Besides time, what else helped?



Family is supposed to be a built-in support system. However, not everyone comes from a family willing to be there when needed. 

  1. In Life Without Air, at what point did each character’s support system fail them? How could Norah, Colton’s, and Grace’s families (childhood or adult) have supported them better?

  2. Think about your own family. Are there people who are always there for you no matter what? Are there others who are not? What do you think the difference is between those who are and those who aren’t there when you need them? What are/were their support systems like? 


Power is the ability to impact change in both situations and people. That change may not be in the best interest of anyone except the person wielding that power.

  1. Seth and Dr. Fischer both had tremendous power (at least in their minds). What gave them their power? Did the other characters feed their power? If so, how?

  2. Why do we allow others to have power over us? What things do we do that give them that power?



Manipulation is one type of power. It is defined as twisting an individual's emotions, coercing them to behave in a certain way. Often, the manipulator feels there is something to be gained by doing this.

  1. What did Seth and Dr. Fischer have to gain by manipulating Norah, Colton, and Grace? 

  2. Have you ever been manipulated by someone? How long did it take you to realize that what the manipulator was doing to you wasn’t for your benefit? How did you handle the situation? 



In simple terms, survival is defined as the act of continuing to live on earth. However, in a deeper context, survival can also be situational. Someone may survive a family reunion, basic training, a job interview, a bad date, or the death of a child.

  1. After their daughters died, neither Norah nor Grace wanted to live. From early on, what would have helped them do more than just survive? 

  2. Why do some people survive bad situations while others thrive? What do thrivers have that survivors do not?



Humans are hardwired to trust others. Therefore, once a person experiences betrayal, the brain short circuits and rewires itself, making trust very difficult to rebuild.

  1. In Life Without Air, which of the characters struggled with trust? Who or what did they distrust? Explain.

  2. Think about someone who broke your trust. How did you deal with their betrayal? Did you ever trust that person again? How did their disloyalty affect your relationship?



Forgiveness isn’t about forgetting, approving of, or excusing someone’s past behaviors. It is about letting go of the hurt that continues to dwell inside. Forgiving someone allows the victim to move forward without feelings of resentment or revenge.

  1. In Life Without Air, which of the characters had to exercise forgiveness? Who did they forgive? How did they benefit from it?

  2. Why are some people able to bestow forgiveness much easier than others? What is it about them that makes them that way? How does forgiveness benefit the victim?



Rose Kennedy said, “Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments.” In 1398 A.D., Cornish writer John of Trevisa first referred to the idea of there being 40 moments every hour (90 seconds each). Today, we still recognize that belief. So, with 960 opportunities to make a difference each day, what are five things you can do in the next week to positively impact someone else?


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