The Nine: A Novel

January 1, 2013

Han­nah Web­ber fears she will nev­er be a moth­er, but when she gives birth to a son, her prayers are answered and she names him Samuel. In an era of high-stakes par­ent­ing, nur­tur­ing Sam’s spir­it and intel­lect becomes Hannah’s life pur­pose. She invests body and soul into his devel­op­ment, much to the detri­ment of her mar­riage. She con­vinces her­self, how­ev­er, that Sam’s accep­tance at age four­teen to a most pres­ti­gious New Eng­land edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tion, over­seen by an illus­tri­ous head­mas­ter, jus­ti­fies her choices.

When he arrives at Dun­ning, Sam is glad to be out from under his mother’s close watch. And he enjoys his new­found free­dom — until, late one night, he stum­bles upon evi­dence of sex­u­al mis­con­duct at the school and is unable to shake the discovery.

Both a com­ing-of-age nov­el and a por­trait of an evolv­ing moth­er-son rela­tion­ship, The Nine, is a mod­ern day allu­sion to the Han­nah sto­ry from the Book of Samuel. It is a tale of mater­nal sac­ri­fice and ulti­mate­ly, rec­on­cil­i­a­tion around let­ting go of a child and redefin­ing one’s role.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Jeanne Blasberg

  1. What is the his­to­ry behind the Han­nah and Samuel story?

  2. Why does Han­nah grap­ple so with how to moth­er Sam once he starts high school?

  3. What is Hannah’s moti­va­tion for push­ing Sam so?

  4. How are Han­nah and Edward dif­fer­ent in this regard, and how are they the same?

  5. Why do schools like Dun­ning Acad­e­my turn into breed­ing grounds for scandal?

  6. Dis­cuss the role of priv­i­lege, both per­son­al and insti­tu­tion­al, in the novel.

  7. What role do clubs, fra­ter­ni­ties and soci­eties play on a cam­pus? Why do they crop up?

  8. How is the oth­er” or the out­sider” por­trayed in The Nine?

  9. Dis­cuss how lives are led dif­fer­ent­ly in the nov­el under­ground ver­sus above ground, online ver­sus in real life, on cam­pus ver­sus off campus.

  10. Dis­cuss the role of pas­times such as swim­ming, base­ball, and robot­ics in the novel.