Ladies of Horror Fiction Readalong of The Between by Tananarive Due
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The Between Readalong: Week 1

Ladies of Horror Fiction Readalong of The Between by Tananarive Due

We have reached the end of week 1 in our community wide readalong of Tananarive Due’s The Between. We will be reading The Between through February 24 so you still have time to jump in and join us. (Check the full readalong schedule for all of the details.)

Please be aware this week’s discussion post will contain spoilers for the first 10 chapters.

The Ladies of Horror Fiction team has come up with some discussion questions, and we’d love to hear your thoughts as well!

Discussion

1. Why do you think writers so often place ‘do-gooders’ as coming from a traumatic experience? Is there a belief that some people just don’t do good things unless they’ve experienced bad shit?

Emily: I think that Hilton is a bit different than the standard person doing good things…he’s an overachiever & his good deeds almost cost him his marriage. His situation seems to be more about going overboard trying to atone.

Tracy: I think that, generally speaking, it’s hard to find a person that does good deeds without having some underlying reason. Guilt, poor childhood, trauma, paying it forward, etc. in Hilton’s case I agree with Emily – his overpowering desire to effect change / “do good” is actually harming him and I think it stems from some desire to “pay back” or “pay forward” what Nana sacrificed so he could live.

Lilyn: I think writers give do-gooder sad backstories to make them a more appealing character. It’s like the dead baby trope in horror. Instant way to add sympathy for your character is to make sure it’s clear they went through something horrible in the past.

2. Did you feel judgmental toward Hilton, or do you think this is normal marriage stuff?

Emily: I felt a little judgmental toward Hilton for openly flirting with the girl he was helping while he was supposed to be at his wife’s event. Once again, he’s putting his family second to his “good deeds”. I think he has some boundary issues – he’s involved in her recovery, yet tells her he would sleep with her if he wasn’t married.

Laurie: Yes, I will freely admit that his staying too long with the girl he was helping when he knew it was wrong and he was missing an important event for his wife didn’t sit right with me. It’s one thing to be attracted to a beautiful person, another to let your family down so you can flirt. It made him look like a bit of a dick if you want my honest opinion

Tracy: Hilton better watch himself. I get the attraction, I do. For me, the instance in which he says “if I wasn’t married” crosses the line into creepy jerk married man. Just my opinion

Lilyn: No, I don’t feel judgmental toward him. We all look. We all have thoughts. It’s what we actually do that matters. Yeah, he shouldn’t have said “If I weren’t married” but c’mon. I’ve looked at a few guys and girls and thought “If I wasn’t in a committed, I’d hit that.” Does that mean I’m ever going to act on it? No. I’m not gonna screw up stability for a quick roll in the hay.

3. What do you think happened to his grandma the first time? Do you think Hilton can heal things?

Emily: When Hilton talked about touching his grandma & then she was back to life a little bit later, it made me think that he might have some sort of healing gift. The second time he wasn’t able to touch her, and she was really dead that time.

Laurie: I think grandma died the first time. He said she was cold. I don’t know if he can heal things. I’m thinking there is some strange parallel universe thing maybe going on.

Tracy: I think she did die the first time. The description of the way her skin looked and felt was too detailed/creepy for it to just be someone who is unconscious. Lady was ice. And she was somewhat “altered” when she returned.

Lilyn: I think either the grandma wasn’t really dead OR there was some sort of supernatural stuff involved, but I don’t think it’s on Hilton.

4. How realistic do you believe the relationship between doctor and patient is between Hilton and his therapist?

Emily: Again, I think there are boundary issues. If Hilton wants to be best friends, the therapist needs to be more assertive about shutting Hilton down when he wants him to play therapist. I didn’t really think of it as unrealistic.

Tracy: Realistic? Sure. I think he’s crossing a line in seriously asking his therapist/friend to be his therapist again. It was beyond just asking a friend for help, I think. Me thinks he has issues with boundaries. Again, as Emily stated as well. Perhaps this will come into play with the boundaries between his nightmares and his real life as well

Lilyn: There are definite boundary issues, but I lay blame on both Hilton and the therapist. However I don’t blame Hilton for reaching back out to him to seek help either. You instinctively seek help from people that you know have helped you before. Especially if the groundwork is already there.

5. Do you think there’s some sort of parallel universe thing happening? (For example, maybe Nana died in one, but not the other, and then the therapist not having the hat that Hilton swore he had been wearing.)

Emily: Yes, I think there’s a parallel universe aspect. The little glitches mentioned in the question made me think of Fringe. I can’t wait to see what happens!

Laurie: Yes. Somewhere between sleep and wakefulness. Definitely. I hope I’m not wrong because that “definitely” will come back to haunt me

Tracy: See the end of my answer for 4. I think the title, The Between, will hold significance in regards to this question.

Lilyn: Well, with a name like “The Between” one has to assume there’s something funky going on, don’t they? and calling the space in between worlds/realms/life and death isn’t exactly a new thing.

Quotes

Here are some of our favorite quotes from the first 10 chapters of The Between:

Hilton was seven when his grandmother died, and it was a bad time. But it was worse when she died again.

Hilton felt something changed, maybe forever.

So what the gifted old folks, the seers often say is true: Sometimes the dead go unburied.

We’re always closest to death when we’re asleep.

Do you think you can keep dying forever?

Do you have any favorite quotes from this section? We would love for you to share them!

Giveaway

We are very excited to have you guys reading The Between along with us. We would like to host another a giveaway as a thank you for joining in!

Prize: We will be giving away one copy of a horror book written by a woman author (to be announced at the end of the readalong!) to one randomly selected participant.

How to enter: Comment on our discussion posts throughout The Between readalong to be entered into the giveaway. You will receive one entry each week you join in. In your comment, share your thoughts on the current week’s section of The Between, share your favorite quotes, or post a link where we can find your thoughts on the current week’s section.

51 Comments

  • Art-and-stories

    1. I think it is often the case that people who live through trauma feel guilty for a reason or another that they have survived. I was just watching the three girl survivors who had been kidnapped for a decade in Ohio and in all their interviews they mention wanting to help victims. I think writers juxtapose these “do gooders” with trauma because it is often true and also makes for interesting back story.

    2. I don’t feel judgemental, but his flirtation hints that while he loves his wife, there is a disconnect or underlying issue in their marriage.

    3. From his dreams, I think that Hilton found his grandma dead but I feel there was foul play. He continually uses phrases like “drowning in darkness” and other phrases about darkness, as well as reference to that mean neighbor. I sense that he witnessed foul play that resulted in Nana’s death and he can’t quite remember.

    4. I think Hilton just really needs a life and a friend. Also, Hilton’s desire to choose his therapist as a friend could be due to him being in denial of his underlying issues.

    5. Interesting. I didn’t think of a parallel universe per say, but I get the feeling that Hilton is floating somewhere between life and death. He should have died (right?), so maybe what he experiences as his real life is a shadow of what his life should have been and certain forces (like his dreams) tether him back to where is supposed to be, which is drowned and dead. Sort of a “fate catching up with you” type of story. That’s my guess at this point.

    • Alex | Finding Montauk

      I also think some sort of foul play was involved with Nana. Not sure who what when where or why… but something out of the ordinary happened and I think Hilton is repressing!

  • alicejblack

    1. I think characters who have a backstory, someone who knows what they’re talking about and why, it can feel more effective. For example an ex alcoholic supporting people at an AA meeting. They’ve been there so they understand. They understand the trauma and how their journey has been and they’re keen to make sure others don’t suffer the same.

    2. I did feel a little judgemental towards Hilton. I think more from the point of view that it’s a breach of trust. It shouldn’t have gotten to the stage where they can flirt. Their relationship should remain platonic. However, it is common for people to appreciate the attractiveness of others, even when in a relationship so that bit made him very real.

    3. So I thought there was definitely something going on. His grandma was definitely dead, but I didn’t necessarily put that together with Hilton potentially having healing powers. I don’t like to assume things when I’m reading and I just didn’t get that vibe. It did leave me wondering though.

    4. I found the relationship between Hilton and his therapist difficult. I’d like to think a therapist wouldn’t cross that line from professional to friendship. I don’t necessarily think it’s doable either. As a professional I think he’d always be questioning things. HIlton would have told him things at his most vulnerable and that would put their friendship on an uneven keel.

    5. I’ve got to be honest, a parallel dimension hadn’t even crossed my mind but I am sure there’s a supernatural element. There has to be!

  • Meredith L.

    I’m really enjoying the book so far! I admit, the almost-adultery parts really turned me off and I almost had to quit reading due to some personal issues. I *did* feel judgmental towards Hilton in that scene. He’s a grown man who has worked with recovering addicts before and he should know better by now. That boundary should be rock solid for him. But I’m glad I kept going.

    I also think that there might be a parallel reality going on, maybe a bleeding between worlds, that began with Nana’s first death. It reminds me of the show “Counterpart,” which I’ve only just started watching, but also deals with parallel universes that split at some point. I think that this would explain the hat/no hat thing at the basketball game; perhaps Hilton’s realities are crashing into each other.

    As for Hilton being a do-gooder, I think is definitely going overboard. It’s like he’s in a race to do as much good as possible in a short amount of time. Some of it may be due to his feelings of guilt over Nana’s death, but he has a lot more fire than that. It’s almost like he’s racing against some unseen force to get this all done as quickly as he can.

    As for his relationship with Raul, I think it is entirely out of line. I don’t understand why he can’t socialize with people from work, unless he’s looking for free therapy.

    I don’t mean to sound so harsh towards Hilton: I think he’s done the right thing by going to counseling for his marriage and I think he’s a good father to his kids. A lot of dads might freak out about their daughter’s first periods and distance themselves from her, but Hilton used it as an opportunity to bond with her even more. I like that he took her to see his AIDS client; I think that was a good lesson for Kaya. And I absolutely loved the way he handled those bullies with his son. I really look forward to seeing more of his paternal instincts at work as he sinks deeper into whatever is haunting him.

    • Lilyn G

      All good points here. I really liked how Hilton dealt with his daughter’s period and the bullies too. He’s a good dude. Not perfect, but good.

    • Alex | Finding Montauk

      I agree with so much you’ve said – and I think we have to find out more about Hilton that will try to explain his motives or intentions. I need to know why!

    • Laurie | Bark

      I think Hilton is a good dad but not a very good husband right now, lol. We’ll see how this all plays out but I’m guessing there are some major marriage troubles in their past.

    • kimberlykay3

      Great point about his parenting! While I’m not thrilled with how he is as a husband, I didn’t even think of how well he was dealing with his children in those instances!!

      • Meredith L

        Yeah, he could be a better husband. I get the feeling he’s trying, but I also feel like maybe he’s put his wife up on this pedestal and he’s kind of doing what he thinks is the right thing as a husband – maybe going through the motions?

        This is a theme in one of Tananarive Due’s other books, “My Soul To Keep,” where the husband is this immortal creature and keeps his secrets from his wife. He loves her, but she’s clearly just a small part of his very long and secretive life. I do like the twist in “Between” with Hilton not quite knowing what’s really going on yet.

          • LoHFAdmin

            The Good House has a main character going through a storyline that made me want to step inside the novel just to have a beer with her and tell her I knew what she was going through. – LG

        • kimberlykay3

          I haven’t read any of her other novels yet, although I’ve heard THE GOOD HOUSE mentioned more than any other. I love the fact that Hilton is not quite sure what’s happening–it gives us more time to come up with our own theories. The big thing in my mind, is how this past is going to merge with the present day harassment.

  • kimberlykay3

    1. I feel that authors, in general, tend to portray do-gooders as having a traumatic past, as Lilyn commented, in order to make us sympathize more with them. “Oh, THIS happened to him, so that explains why he’s doing such wonderful things for others now”. However, in this case, I feel that Hilton is “paying forward” because he feels guilty about his grandmother dying to save him. She died BECAUSE of him, so he feels the need to “save” as many people as possible in the hopes of alleviating the internal guilt he feels.

    2. I feel very judgmental towards Hilton–not because of him finding the other woman attractive (everyone “looks”)–but because he had very important plans with his family, and you have to have your priorities in check. Work is work–your family should come first though, especially when it’s something as big as his wife’s speech.

    3. I believe that Hilton’s Grandmother died and was in this “BETWEEN” state where she was able to see that he was going to drown a year later. Somehow, she was able to make a bargain to be able to come back long enough to save him, and THEN forfeit her life. (The details made it sound like once she saved him, she didn’t attempt to swim back herself–she just gave in to the water and death). I don’t believe that Hilton had anything to do with saving her, except for the fact that she loved him enough to want to stay alive to give HIM a longer life…. at what cost, we really don’t know yet, although I suspect that Hilton is not “fully” on this plane all of the time (as evidenced by his dreams). Perhaps part of him DID die that day, and he is on borrowed time because of it. So far, this is the most interesting aspect to think about. (I despise those letters his wife is getting–I know it happens, but it makes me sick that there are still people with that mentality out there).

    4. I think that the therapist is truly Hilton’s friend now, but maybe Hilton chose him for a friend because he made him feel “safe” by getting the dreams to stop for a while. Almost a “Mother/Grandmother” replacement, mentally…someone to reassure him that “everything will be okay”.

    5. I don’t think there’s any doubt of a parallel universe thing here–the title alone tells us as much. Seeing the therapist with and without his hat was a major hint that I feel we’ll be seeing more examples of in the future. I think his grandmother was “in-between” for a while–she was able to live long enough to save Hilton, but she was different…the dreams probably reminding her constantly that she didn’t belong there (with the living) anymore. I think Hilton is on borrowed time as well, although in his case I believe his grandmother made the decision for him by saving him when he was “supposed” to die. There has to be a balance somewhere. I hate to think it, but I wonder what will happen to his kids… If he was supposed to die before they were conceived, are they supposed to be there at all? In the beginning, I think he was more fully “alive”, but the dreams are showing him that his time is coming, and he already belongs to another side.

    The quotes you used–except for one, I copied all of those down during my reading for possible inclusion in my eventual review! GMTA!

  • Alex | Finding Montauk

    Eek I missed posting these internally so I want to share my thoughts here on the official forum!

    1. I think that we are shown so many do-gooders as rising from the ashes or being the survivor of a traumatic experience because, as humans, we are skeptical that people can be selfless and do good for others without some ulterior, selfish motives. We tend to see the faults in people from the get-go whether we mean to or want to. Showing them as once being a victim of a bad situation helps the reader believe they can actually be credible, thoughtful, and maybe even a little selfless without any agenda.

    2. I just feel like he is not being honest with his wife and perhaps even himself if he is going to be so flirtatious in this situation. Being attracted to other people can be natural; we’re humans. But to say something like ‘if I wasn’t married’ etc. just shows he knows he’s placing himself in a bad situation.

    3. I think she did die the first time and the second time was her spirit helping him and is what kept him from drowning. But part of me wonders if he is repressing some sort of memory about her death the first time. Was he involved, either directly or indirectly? Was it an accident? I think he has major guilt issues – whether they stem from her “first” death or the second time where he thinks she died to save him from drowning.

    4. Total boundary issues and needs to be nixed immediately. Be a therapist. Or be a best friend. I think it’s a total conflict of interest and I am expecting something negative to result from this relationship/friendship.

    5. I think The Between is a place between sleep and death – and spirits may be able to roam there. It make me think of The Further a little bit. But I think both Hilton and his Nana have/had some connection and insight into The Between that will be further explored as the book progresses.

    I am absolutely loving this book SO much and I NEED all these answers now! Can’t wait to read and discuss Part Two!

  • Flossie

    I think Hilton and his grandmother have some kind of special power that gives them access to this “in between” space–like it’s something that runs in the family. There’s that scene at the basketball game where Hilton starts hearing voices, one of which alludes to a mother leaving her child. It made me wonder if his mother was also touched by this power in some way, and had to leave because of the way that power affected her–possibly like a mental illness? I also think water is clearly a sensitivity. Water often represents the subconscious, so “diving too deep” can run you into trouble. Final thought: maybe I’m just into the zodiac, but I thought it was interesting that Due mentions offhand that his birthday is in March…which would likely make him a Pisces? So again, water. Excited to see where this goes!!

  • Flossie

    Oh also, I think it’s pretty interesting that Dede wakes up Hilton from a nightmare and expresses concern that he stopped breathing–it’s a definite callback to when he found his grandmother on the kitchen floor, “dead.” It seems likely she was traversing whatever dreamscape they go to that stops their breathing and presents them to others as dead. I don’t have any real point I’m trying to make except to say there are A LOT of interesting parallels, and often with water. The pots boiling away on the stove, his grandmother surrendering herself to the water, the unconscious, the abyss…

    • LoHFAdmin

      There are a lot of interesting parallels indeed. I never even considered that his gramma could have been in *that* space! good call!

    • Alex | Finding Montauk

      So many water references! I love it and my mind will be searching for these things in Part Two now!

    • Meredith L

      “I think it’s pretty interesting that Dede wakes up Hilton from a nightmare and expresses concern that he stopped breathing–it’s a definite callback to when he found his grandmother on the kitchen floor, “dead.””

      I love this.

  • Mia L.

    1) I think some people just find it hard to believe that people would just do that out of the kindness of their hearts. There just has to be some reason behind why they do what they do. In Hilton’s case he is overachieving his do-gooder role to try and extinguish his guilt. 2) A little of both. Judgment in the sense that yes he had crazy hours before marriage but marriage is about comprise so he should have emptied his plate a little once he got married. They have been married now for a while so its typical to see little spats every now and then. However if a relationship isn’t feed by both parties it will fail. So I also judge her because she had ambitous goals before and during their marriage which I am sure lead to some of their fights. 3) I really would like to know! I hadn’t thought about him healing things. That is an interesting theory. 4) Not realistic at all. It seems like crossing a line to me even if the session have been over for awhile. 5) Dang, another intresting theory! Hmm, it would explain so much.

    • LoHFAdmin

      You are right about the fact that he should have emptied his plate a little bit. Also, yeah, both of them being very driven in their work lives probably makes things a bit difficult.

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