20 A Flicker in the Dark Book Club Questions For Discussion

“A Flicker in the Dark” by Stacy Willingham is a dark and twisty novel that will make you think. 

And think. 

And think. 

It’s about this woman named Chloe whose life gets turned upside down when a new wave of kidnappings starts to happen in her town. The thing is, something similar happened years ago, and her dad was the one blamed! 

This book is all about secrets, trauma, and how the past can come back to haunt you.

We’ve got some discussion questions to get you thinking about the book. 

Whether you’re ready to argue with your friends about it or just want to understand it better, these questions will definitely help you get the conversation flowing.

Let’s go.

A flicker in the Dark book club questions

A Flicker in the Dark Book Club Questions

  • Chloe, deeply scarred by her father’s crimes and her own harrowing experiences, struggles with mental health and addiction. Her reliance on medication and her fragmented memories lead the reader to question her reliability as a narrator. How does Willingham use Chloe’s perspective to explore the impact of trauma on memory and perception? Does the unreliable narrator technique enhance or detract from the suspense of the story?

  • The book explores the chilling possibility that Chloe’s brother, Cooper, might share their father’s violent tendencies. Chloe wrestles with the question of whether evil is inherited or a product of one’s environment. How does the novel challenge stereotypical portrayals of “good” vs. “bad” within the dynamics of family? In the end, how does the author resolve the debate on nature vs. nurture in the context of Cooper’s crimes?

  • Aaron Jansen, the persistent journalist, represents the public’s fascination with true crime stories. His desire to sensationalize Chloe’s story raises ethical concerns about the exploitation of trauma. How does the novel critique the public obsession with true crime? Does it offer any insights into the psychological appeal of these narratives and the potential consequences for the people involved?

  • Chloe is driven by an unwavering need to protect the young women in her community. Yet, she repeatedly finds herself in positions of vulnerability, jeopardizing her investigation. How does the novel portray the tension between female strength and society’s perceptions of women as victims? Does her journey ultimately empower her, or does it underscore the limitations faced by women seeking justice in a dangerous world?

  • Despite the horrific crimes committed by her father and brother, Chloe eventually works towards a sense of forgiveness and reconciliation. Is the novel’s ending satisfying in relation to the concept of forgiveness? Can such deep-rooted trauma ever be fully healed, or is Chloe destined to forever carry the scars of her past?

  • Secrets weave a complex web throughout the novel, shaping relationships and driving the plot forward. From Chloe’s mother’s hidden affair to Daniel’s family history, buried truths have destructive consequences. Discuss the ways in which secrets manipulate and control the characters. Does the novel suggest any circumstances where secrets can be justified, or are they ultimately always damaging?

  • Fueled by grief and a desire to protect those she cares about, Chloe repeatedly takes the law into her own hands. Her actions range from justified self-preservation to more morally ambiguous choices. Do you believe her desire for justice excuses the risks she takes and her disregard for proper procedure? Does her willingness to cross legal boundaries make her a more compelling or less sympathetic character?

  • Chloe’s single-minded focus on uncovering the truth consumes her life, jeopardizing her relationships and well-being. In pursuing the copycat killer, does she become more like her father? How does the novel portray the dangers of obsession? Could Chloe have solved the case without becoming so deeply immersed in darkness?

  • While Chloe is the central figure, several supporting characters play crucial roles. Consider the actions of Daniel, Cooper, and Chloe’s mother. Do their behaviors feel believable and consistent? How could their choices have been different to change the trajectory of events? Are any of the secondary characters more than what they seem on the surface?

  • The title, “A Flicker in the Dark,” carries symbolic weight. Chloe’s fear of the dark embodies her constant struggle against the trauma that surrounds her. Explore this motif of darkness and light. What instances symbolize Chloe’s struggle to find “light” in her life? How does the novel resolve the conflict between these opposing forces?

  • While Daniel appears as a positive and loving figure, his lack of transparency ultimately damages his relationship with Chloe. Explore his motivations – does his secrecy stem from a desire to protect Chloe, a desire to protect himself, or a lack of faith in her abilities? Could Daniel have been a more effective partner by being open with Chloe?

  • Cooper’s complexity makes him a fascinating and disturbing character. Consider why Chloe remains drawn to Cooper despite her anxieties about him. What elements of his personality and their shared history create this tension of loyalty and fear? Does Cooper exhibit any genuine concern for his sister, or are his actions purely motivated by self-preservation?

  • Mona Davis, a largely silent figure of the past, nonetheless exerts influence on the narrative. Discuss the ways in which Mona is both a victim and a symbol of resilience. How does the novel portray societal expectations of mothers, and how is Mona both condemned and vindicated by the events of the story?

  • The novel is replete with powerful symbols like Chloe’s fear of the dark, her childhood home, and the recurring firefly. How do these symbols trace Chloe’s emotional and psychological journey from fear and avoidance to acceptance and action? Does Willingham use these symbols effectively to convey the complexities of Chloe’s internal struggle?

  • Chloe initially relies on unhealthy coping mechanisms like prescription drugs and a rigid focus on controlling her environment. Why do Chloe’s attempts to manage her trauma through external means ultimately fall short? How does the novel illustrate the contrast between destructive avoidance and the transformative power of confronting one’s fears?

  • Despite enduring significant trauma, Chloe displays remarkable resilience and ultimately takes charge to protect herself and others. How does the novel grapple with the complexities of female strength? Does Willingham challenge stereotypical portrayals of women as passive victims, particularly within the true crime genre?

  • The novel raises questions about how childhood trauma affects individuals long into adulthood. How does “A Flicker in the Dark” explore the multi-generational impact of trauma? Does it suggest that the past can be overcome, or does it convey a sense that trauma’s effects are inescapable?

  • Chloe’s actions sometimes cross ethical lines, like drugging her brother to extract a confession. Does the end justify the means in Chloe’s situation, given the horrific nature of the crimes? How does the novel’s portrayal of Chloe’s questionable choices affect the reader’s perception of her as a character?

  • Chloe’s character embarks on a transformative journey throughout the novel. Initially, she is controlled by fear, isolating herself and relying on medication to survive. Discuss the moments that propel Chloe’s development into a more empowered, independent figure. How does directly confronting past traumas contribute to her growth, and could she have found healing without this painful confrontation?

  • Lena and Sophie represent contrasting paths for Chloe. Analyze the impact of Lena’s memory on Chloe – how does it both haunt and inspire her? Discuss ways Sophie demonstrates a life Chloe could have had, and how this contrast shapes Chloe’s decisions in the novel. Does the novel offer a clear perspective on whether it’s better to escape one’s past, as Sophie did, or confront it directly as Chloe ultimately chooses?

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