Amen, Amen, Amen by Abby Sher
Photo: Ben Goldstein/Studio D

1. Abby provides a number of examples of early compulsive behavior. Are these innocent childhood habits or do they indicate a predisposition to OCD? Do you think her father's and aunt's deaths in some way led to her OCD?

2. Discuss Abby's experiences with death as a child, a teenager, and an adult. How does David's death make the imagined accidents more real? How do her ideas about guilt and responsibility evolve with each new experience?

3. Discuss the role of prayer in Abby's life and the different things she prays for. How are her fears of death and danger related to what she prays for? In what ways do her prayers help her and hinder her?

4. Abby's various compulsions/obsessions evolve and take shape over the course of her life. From singing the cement mixer song to picking up sharp objects to kissing her bike to pounding her head. List and discuss her rituals and compulsions. How do these rituals relate to the circumstances of her life at different times? What are the motivations behind each of them?

5. After going on medication, many of Abby's compulsions are eased but, she writes, "I had the sense that G-d was not pleased with my decision to medicate." Why does she feel that acknowledging her OCD undermines her piety? Is her faith distinct from her illness, or is it connected? Does the medication make her less devout?

6. How does Abby's intense friendship with Ruthie challenge her notions of self? How is their relationship similar to that of Abby and Ellyn or Abby and her mother? Consider the ways that Ruthie both broadens Abby's horizons and becomes an unhealthy obsession.

7. What does Abby relish about being on stage? How do her feelings about performing change over time and why?

8. What factors contribute to Abby's progression from counting calories to over-exercising to self-mutilation? Why do you think her adult compulsions are more self-directed than earlier ones? How do her prayers change as these behaviors manifest?

9. Consider Abby's romantic relationships with Will, Tristan, Mark, Ben, and Jay. How does her reverence for G-d, and for her father, complicate these romances? What expectations does she have of the men she loves and what expectations does she have of herself? Ultimately, she and Jay find happiness together; what compromises and epiphanies allow them to make it work?

10. Abby relies on and adores her mother, but their relationship isn't always close. How does it shift over the course of the book? Which events draw them together or pull them apart? Does her mother help with or enable Abby's illness and her compulsions? Discuss the significance of the chapters "the incredible shrinking truth" and "start spreading the news."

11. Abby's mother values restraint, she writes, and rarely reveals distress. How does her restraint affect Abby and the way they communicate? In what ways does Abby follow her mother's example or reject it?

12. How do the lists, prayers, and photographs help to frame Abby's story? Does the way she writes about the formation of new prayers and the manner in which she must say them help you understand her thinking?

13. Abby's love for her parents shapes many of her beliefs and experiences. How does the advent of her own parenthood change her outlook on her past, her faith, and her health?

14. Discuss the various ways that Abby is "faithful." Faithful to G-d, to her father, to her ideal of family, and others. Does faithfulness or loyalty become an obsession for her?

15. Look for passages in the book in which Abby describes her feelings about G-d and her relationship with Him. What does she believe He wants from her? How do those passages change over the course of the book? At the end of the book has she found a balance between her understanding of Him and her illness?

Expand Your Book Club

1. We all have rituals, routines, and superstitions. Have each member of the group describe one of theirs. Have any of these habits become compulsions? Discuss the borderline between the two.

2. Visit to learn more about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Have one group member present the technical definition of the disorder to the group.

3. Produce some lists of your own, in the same spirit as the author's. Can you come up with 10 things you believe fervently? Or five things that you do every day?

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