By David Erik Nelson

Join the conversation! We've put together a chapter-by-chapter list of discussion questions for Expiration Date, to share with friends, book clubs, or for your own introspection. This page will be updated every Thursday (June 22 - August 17) with questions related to that week's chapter. Please note: they *will* contain spoilers, so if you're not caught up, read this page with caution! 

Chapter 1 Discussion Questions
Chapter 2 Discussion Questions
Chapter 3 Discussion Questions
Chapter 4 Discussion Questions
Chapter 5 Discussion Questions
Chapter 6 Discussion Questions
Chapter 7 Discussion Questions
Chapter 8 Discussion Questions
Chapter 9 Discussion Questions


Chapter 1

In Chapter 1 of Expiration Date we are introduced to Bram, Lizzie, and Lizzie’s brother Chet. Bram manages a local cafe, Lizzie is a brilliant young Professor involved in tardigrade research, and Chet is, well, Chet. While playing an “ice-breaker” card game, a seemingly innocent question about time travel leads to a more serious discussion.

Discussion Questions

How would you answer the question "If you could travel through time, forward or backward, would you do it? If so, when would you travel to?”

Chets asserts that "Traveling back in time is strictly White Male Patriarchy business..." How do you feel about that statement? If you are interested exploring this theme further, you may want to read "Kindred" (1979) by Octavia Butler.

If given the opportunity, would you want to know your "expiration date?" Why or why not?

Interested in knowing more about the fascinating tardigrades that Lizzie studies? Check out these links: Microbial Life: Tardigrades; and Live Science: Facts About Tardigrades



Chapter 2

Chapter 2 takes us to Lizzie and Chet’s family reunion, where Bram meets the inscrutable Granny Gin. Given an opportunity to be alone with her, Bram makes the bold decision to ask Granny Gin if she can actually tell him when he is going to die.

Discussion Questions

Granny Gin is slightly scary, sarcastic, and fascinating. Is she someone you would like the chance to talk to? Or would you steer clear?

Do you think Bram is brave or foolhardy to ask Granny Gin for his expiration date?

Bram uses the term Touché in his conversation with Granny Gin, who then proceeds to ask him if he knows what that term means. He does not. Touché is a fencing term used to acknowledge a hit. It is French for "touched." It is also used as an acknowledgment during a discussion of a good or clever point made at one's expense by another person. Are there any terms and/or idioms that you commonly use which leave you guessing about their original meaning?

“Tell me more about telomeres” you say? Check out this link to learn more.


Chapter 3

In Chapter 3, Granny Gin calls Bram and tells him that her computations indicate he will die a natural death on October 10 around 8am, just a short 16 months from when she received his spit sample. It is further revealed that October 10 at 8am is also Lizzie’s expiration date -- from unnatural causes.

Discussion Questions

At the young age of 15, Lizzie was told by Granny Gin that she would die of natural causes at age 35. How do you think it would have changed Lizzie's life if Granny Gin had told her the full truth, that she would in fact die by misadventure at only 26 years old?

Bram and Lizzie share the same expiration date. Do you feel this is coincidence or fate?

Is it surprising that Bram is so delighted to have Lizzie back in his life, that he quickly overcomes his own shock at being told he will die in about 14 months?


Chapter 4

In Chapter 4 of Expiration Date, Lizzie struggles with bouts of depression, and Bram, spurred by sudden paranoia, takes an opportunity to do some private research on Granny Gin’s credentials.

Discussion Questions

Lizzie does not appear to be a “people person,” but it is clear that she truly needs Bram in her life. Does this make her appear weak, more relatable, or simply more human? Would she have been able to manage on her own?

Was Bram being wise or overly paranoid when he wrapped up his phone in foil and ran off to the library to investigate his new companions? Were you surprised it took him a week before he had serious qualms (doubts? suspicions?) about his situation?

Granny Gin uses some questionable means to gather samples for her research. If the knowledge gained has the potential to be for the greater good, do you think some deception is ok?

While talking to Bram, Granny Gin declares that ”... it is indeed often quite useful to know who will die when, and if foul play can be reasonably be eliminated.” It is intriguing to think about the implications of this statement and how the government could use such knowledge to its advantage. Can you think of additional situations where knowing someone’s expiration date would be advantageous?



Chapter 5

In Chapter 5 of Expiration Date, Bram accepts his fate, and resolves to simply live his life and help Lizzie live hers. He tells his mother he is terminally ill, and receives an unexpected response. Lizzie is hit hard by having to pre-grieve her own death a second time, and we learn about her curious nightly training runs.

Discussion Questions

Do you agree with Bram that Granny Gin is a last-laugh kind of lady?

Why do you think Bram’s mother handled the news of Bram’s “terminal diagnosis” the way she did? Was it surprising to you?

Bram does some further research on taridigrades, and discovers that in their “cryptobiotic state” tardigrades can survive for a century or more, but when active and fully-hydrated, only a few months. Does this information gives us a window into Lizzie’s motivation for her avenue of study? A possible path for circumventing her expiration date?

Lizzie’s nightly running seems to serve a therapeutic function. For a person who very much lives a cerebral life, does this physical exertion simply provide a needed balance? Or is is just another example of her very strong internal drive? Is it notable that Granny Gin was a runner too?



Chapter 6

In Chapter 6 of Expiration Date, Brams tells Lizzie about his dad’s death by stroke at age 29, and his talent for giving “just right” gifts. Bram and Lizzie compare their differing situations in relation to their desire (or not) to know their expiration dates, and the benefits of insurance policies are discussed.

Discussion Questions

Bram’s father dies unexpectedly when Bram is only 8 years old - which in turn influences Bram’s feelings about wanting to know his own “expiration date.” Lizzie receives her fatal information completely unasked for - at a pivotal (and also young) age. And, Chet, he got to choose. Compare and contrast their stories and situations. Which do you find more relatable/desirable?

Do you feel that Granny Gin was honestly trying to do Lizzie a favor by telling her her expiration date, or did she just “turn to talc”? Was it ultimately kind or cruel not to tell Lizzie that she would die sooner by unnatural causes?

What do you think is going to happen in Columbus, Ohio?



Chapter 7

In Chapter 7, a casual game of pool between Bram, Lizzie, and Chet turns into a deep discussion of the Boltzmann Brain Paradox. Chaos, entropy, and physics - Oh my! Meanwhile, back in present day Columbus, things are getting weirder…

Discussion Questions

Bram walks into his local hangout and has unsettling new awareness that everyone in the bar is white. This is a “woke” moment for him. Have you ever had a similar experience when a change in personal perspective suddenly allows you to see a familiar place/group in a different light?

The Boltzmann Brain Paradox certainly gets one thinking about chaos vs an organized universe, and the question of whether our existence is simply a random fluctuation. If you are interested in delving deeper into these topics, check out this Ted Talk by Sean Carroll: Distant Time and the Hint of a Multiverse.

A mysterious military presence and swells of fake news are putting the city of Columbus, OH on edge. How do you think this is affecting the people in the city? Are they being manipulated to be more fearful? Or to question their view of reality?

Chet is dealing with the impending demise of Lizzie by withdrawing into his alternate world of online gaming. When Lizzie tracks him down, he accuses her of having messed-up priorities. Do you think this a fair accusation? Or, is this also self-reflective?



Chapter 8

Chapter 8 covers Bram and Lizzie’s final day and early morning. As Bram and Lizzie prepare to leave the city, they are stymied by the tense gridlock of polite pandemonium on the streets. Chet joins the couple, katana in hand, and they settle down with bowls of noodles to wait out the chemical event, and watch the scene outside unfold. The next morning, eerily clean and clear streets allow the trio to leave the city, but as they join other drivers on the Main Street Bridge, Bram notices something gigantic falling from the sky.

Discussion Questions

If you knew your end was near, how would you want to spend your last few days on Earth?

Chet calls the people who follow orders about the chemical event “sheeple.” Are you the sort of person who would try to flee, fight, or simply follow orders?

Do you think our characters make the right decision for their situation? Is the chemical event strategic misdirection?


Chapter 9

The final chapter of Expiration Date takes a turn for the unexpected and surprises Lizzie, Bram, and Chet with gigantic tardigrades from outer space. And, the tardigrades are hungry! Bram and Lizzie heroically spend their final moments fighting to save the lives of those around them.

Discussion Questions

Time has run out for Bram and Lizzie. United in their efforts to help the people on the bridge, their last minutes are actually quite full of life. If given the option, do you think they would have swapped for a quiet moment in the park?

We now know how Bram and Lizzie meet their end. But, how do you think Chet survives the Giant Tardigrade Invasion of 2017? And what do you think the rest of his 80+ years of life hold in store for him?

Why do you think the government completely shut down all communication systems for the people of Columbus? Do you find this disturbing or problematic? Would it be better to have an aware and prepared populace, or would it have contributed to the pandemonium?

© Copyright 2017 David Erik Nelson. All rights reserved.