Reading Group Center

If Morning Ever Comes

By Anne Tyler

1. Why does Ben Joe go home to Sandhill? What is the
triggering incident that makes him get on the train?
What are some of the other underlying reasons that send
him home?

2. One reviewer described the Hawkes family home as
“loveless.” Do you agree? In what ways is the family conventional?
In what ways is it unconventional?

3. What are the things that you’re not allowed to talk
about at the Hawkeses’ house? Who enforces the no-talk

4. How do you think Ben Joe feels being the only man
in the house? How do his sisters treat him? His mother?
His grandmother? What is Ben Joe looking for in his
childhood home?

5. Who was Dr. Phillip Hawkes? What do we learn about
him over the course of the novel? How does Ben Joe feel
about him?

6. Who is Jamie Dower, and why is he in the book at all?
Why does his death affect Gram so deeply? What does
her reaction to his death say to her family?

7. This book is about alcoholism, love, family, adultery,
divorce, money, and grief—and yet it is not at all heavyhanded
or lugubrious. How does Tyler keep the pages
turning? How does she use humor and quirkiness? What
does she have to say about all these “issues”?

8. Why does Ben Joe go to visit Shelley? Do you think
he knows why at the time? How do you feel about
Shelley? What is troubling about Ben Joe’s relationship
with her?

9. Why do you think Ben Joe’s father left his wife and
family? Do you have sympathy for him? How do his
children feel about his lover, Lili Belle, and their half
brother? What does Lili Belle have to offer them?

10. In some psychological circles, it is said that children
act out their parents’ relationship. If this is true, how is
Ben Joe “acting out” his parents’ relationship. How is
Joanne? Jennifer? How do the siblings do it as a group?

11. This is a book by a young novelist; Anne Tyler published
it when she was twenty-two—three years younger
than her male protagonist. Does it read “young”? How do
you think she was able to embody the thoughts and language
of her hero?

12. Joanne has left the family to marry—and returned
after seven years with her daughter, Carol. Why do you
think Joanne comes home? What are the possible problems
in her marriage? Do you think she will stay married
to Gary?

13. Anne Tyler is the author of sixteen novels, all of
which are thematically related and address character and
story in not-dissimilar ways. If Morning Ever Comes is her
first novel—for those who have read some or all of the
author’s other novels, in what ways is it a true Anne
Tyler novel? In what ways is it unique and different from
some of her other books?

14. When Ben Joe leaves North Carolina for New York
again, how has his life changed? How has it stayed the
same? How do you feel about Shelley and Ben Joe leaving
together? Is Ben Joe realistic in his assessment of
their potential life together?

15. Would you classify this as an optimistic novel? A
realistic novel?