1. In the beginning, Andreas defines emptiness as “the normal state of things…nor was it anything he was afraid of–quite the opposite.” Do you agree with this definition? How does Andreas’s idea of emptiness change throughout the novel?
2. Why is Andreas so critical of everyone he knows? Is he equally critical of himself?
3. What prompts Andreas to flee the doctor’s office before he hears the results of his biopsy? In what ways might the story change if he knew whether he was ill or not?
4. What drives Delphine’s immediate attachment to Andreas despite his fickle treatment of her? Why does she accept his apologies without question?
5. Compare and contrast the women in Andreas’s life– Fabienne, Nadia, Sylvie, and Delphine. How are these women portrayed? Does Andreas genuinely care for any of them?
6. Look at the scene when Jean-Marc’s wife, Marthe, tells Andreas the tragic story of the great love of her life that never panned out. Why does Andreas envy Marthe’s love for Philippe? What is the difference between love and possession?
7. Examine several of the passages in which Andreas observes the monotonous and mundane details of everyday life. What themes can you draw from these descriptions?
8. After sneaking into his childhood home, now owned by his brother’s family, Andreas says, “It’s all gone now.” What is Andreas searching for by going back to his hometown? Why is he holding onto the past so tightly?
9. How does Andreas’s memory of Fabienne compare to reality when he finally meets her again? Does their difference in the way they remember their past make a more universal statement about the dangers of glorifying the past?
10. Andreas admits that “he sometimes wondered what life would be like if he had never left the village.” Do you think he regrets his decision to leave? What does this reveal about his character? What events cause him to continually question his choices?
11. From the beginning, Andreas hints that he and his brother are not close and fail to communicate. How is their visit to their father’s grave a catalyst for a greater understanding of each other?
12. In the last scene, Andreas unites with Delphine on a crowded beach and the novel ends with the sentence “Only the crashing of the waves was very near and held him.” How did you interpret this sentence and the final scene? Has Andreas completed his journey? Is he finally content?