Study Guide

The Usual Rules Abandonment

By Joyce Maynard


In The Usual Rules, Wendy deals with a fair amount of abandonment from the people she should be able to count on the most. Yes, we're talking about her own parents. Her father Garrett is largely absent throughout her young life, and although Wendy's mother would never leave her family on purpose, she ends up dying in the September 11 attacks, and poor Wendy (and the rest of her family) has to learn how to cope with her absence. With her mother gone, Wendy has to grow up quickly and face the hard facts of life—whether she's ready for it or not.

Questions About Abandonment

  1. Why doesn't Garrett spend more time with Wendy during her childhood? Can his abandonment ever be completely resolved?
  2. Why does Janet decide to leave Garrett and raise Wendy on her own? How does this affect Wendy's experience of losing her mother?
  3. How long do Wendy, Josh, and Louie hold out hope Janet is still coming home? Why? What happens to inspire each of them to accept her death?

Chew on This

Even though Wendy is the one who actually decides to leave New York City, she still feels betrayed and abandoned by the fact that Josh and Louie don't try to stop her.

By bringing Wendy to live with him in California, Garrett is trying to make amends for how absent he was before—both to Wendy and to Janet.