Magnificent Obsession

Magnificent ObsessionMy grandmother had a favorite book and a favorite story: Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd Douglas. Her favorite version of the book was with Rock Hudson (which remarkably is my favorite version). When I was a teenager, my paternal grandmother, Virginia Kathryn Dixon Harrington, passed away. Her death left a hole in my life as I had frequently stopped by her house on the drive back home, sometimes to simply dip my hand into her filled cookie jar! We, my grandparents and I, would sit around the table, munching on homemade cookies and visit about life.

After her death, my mother helped in cleaning the house. She found the book and wrote a letter to me:

March 1991


This book was one of your Grandma Harrington’s favorites if not her very favorite. She told me once that liked the book so much better than any of the three movie versions. After reading the book, I will have to agree.

This book was in the big oak bookcase in the entry room of their house. When I saw it there, the day of disposing of grandma’s personal items, I decided that rather than letting it go to Goodwill I wanted it for you.

The story is incredible and I think it will change your life.



This book quickly became my favorite. I have loved it with all my heart and tried to implement the magnificent teachings within its bindings. Each year, I take a journey back through its pages. Laughing. Crying. Diving in head first only to come out when I close the back cover.

“When Robert Merrick’s life is saved at the expense of the life of an eccentric but adored surgeon, the carefree playboy is forced to reevaluate his own path. Merrick embarks on a course of anonymous philanthropy, inspired by reading the doctor’s private papers. An engaging and dramatic story of personal redemption and private sacrifice, this spiritual tale has served as an inspiration for both the stage and screen” (Amazon summary).


Chapter 1

  • What passion led Dr. Hudson to work himself in great lengths?
  • What would it have felt like for the board to meet behind Dr. Hudson’s back?
  • What propelled Dr. Hudson’s desire to live beyond fear?
  • How do bad influences quickly spread?
  • Is there value to overcoming fears? Why? Why not?
  • What would you say if you learned of such a cost being made to save your life?

    Magnificent Obsession letter
    Mom’s letter to me, attached to the book.

Chapter 2

  • What type of fortitude would it have taken for the Brightwood employees to treat Merrick?
  • What would it have taken for Mrs. Ashford to care for Merrick?
  • Ashford expresses the anxiety of the hospital without blaming Bobby Merrick. What does this encounter say about her character?
  • How did Bobby Merrick’s upbringing determine who he would become as a man?
  • What was the internal impact of the truth on Bobby Merrick?

Chapter 3

  • Why would people resent Merrick having been saved?
  • Why would Bobby avoid Joyce?
  • What secrets could Dr. Hudson be hiding?
  • What does Dr. Hudson’s charity say about his character?
  • What does it mean “I have used it all up myself”?
  • What type of theory or belief could pull Dr. Hudson out of a deep depression?

Chapter 4

Inside cover of my Magnificent Obsession which belonged to my grandmother. The inscription “To Mom. From Chris. Christmas 1965”
  • What plan could have surprised grandpere?
  • How did Bobby’s command of the situation with the stalled car bring peace and comfort to its owner?
  • How did Bobby’s recognition of his rescued maiden alter his perceptions?

Chapter 5

  • Why would Bobby want to learn all he could about Dr. Hudson?
  • Why would Bobby want to keep his meeting of Helen Hudson to himself?
  • What would mandate such secrecy to use a code?
  • What translation can you get out of the copy of Dr. Hudson’s journal?

Chapter 6

  • How had travel solidified the family unit?
  • How did Helen assume a motherly role?
  • Did Bobby owe Dr. Hudson a moral obligation? Why? Why not?

Chapter 7

  • What emotions would have possessed Bobby when he figured out the code?
  • How did Tony compare to Dr. Hudson’s generosity?
  • Why did Dr. Hudson commit everyone to secrecy?

Chapter 8

  • Why would Nancy Ashford anxiously wait for Bobby Merrick?
  • Do coincidences and fate exist? Why? Why not?
  • What would have caused Merrick such despair?
  • What do age and experience have to do with understanding Dr. Hudson’s journal?
  • How does religion bring comfort?
  • How do individuals label things silly and irrelevant help them to make sense out of things they do not understand?
  • What secret could be so powerful?

Chapter 9

  • How can wealth change people?

Chapter 10

  • How does Bobby’s desire to read more than go clubbing demonstrate his change in character?
  • What would Bobby wish to keep his identity ensconced from Helen Hudson?
  • Which experiences in your life have you lived over and over again? Why?

Chapter 11

  • What malaise caused Bobby’s academic drop?
  • Why the secrecy in service?
  • How can work heal a heart?

Chapter 12

  • What desperate situation would Monty’s betrayal mean to Helen’s daily life?
  • How was Merrick’s purchasing the Brightwood stocks mirror Dr. Hudson’s charitable venture?
  • Why would Bobby wish to keep his relationships with the Dawson’s a secret?
  • What emotions accompany betrayal?
Inside back cover. Top writing is my grandmother’s.

Chapter 13

  • Why would Merrick interfere in Helen’s business affairs?
  • What is the cost of a life? At what point would Bobby’s Merrick’s debt be paid in full?
  • Why would Merrick share the story with Monty?
  • What was the purpose of writing a letter to Helen?
  • How did service provide Merrick with inspiration?

Chapter 14

  • What had he invented and how was his invention inspired?
  • How does immortality bother humanity?
  • How and why does Bobby continue to share his theory of service?
  • How does making a connection with people who need you do to someone?
Click on image to read more.

Chapter 15

  • What trepidation would have consumed Helen in returning to Detroit?
  • Why would Helen feel remorse in returning?

Chapter 16

  • What would Helen think and feel having seen Merrick’s name on her stock certificates?
  • Compare and contrast how Bobby would have approached their meeting to how Helen would have approached it?
  • What gossip would Dr. Merrick be worried about?
  • What did Dr. Merrick think would come from the last statement from Helen?

Chapter 17

  • How does Nancy permit Bobby and Helen to keep up a façade?
  • Compare and contrast the depth of the characters Helen and Joyce?
  • What makes Helen wiser despite her approximate age to Joyce?
  • Does Helen’s reaction to the Buenos Airstrip surprise you? Why? Why not?

Chapter 18

  • What would this new publicity mean to Bobby’s philanthropic endeavors?
  • What is an intellectual approach to religion?
  • Is Bobby’s philanthropic endeavors proof to a God hypothesis? Why? Why not?
  • According to Dr. McLaren, what is true religion?

Chapter 19

  • How had Maxine offered Bobby on the altar of humanitarianism?
  • How would How would Helen torment Bobby?
  • How is Tommy the manifestation of what could have been Bobby’s future?

Chapter 20

  • What physical dangers of the surgery are associated with an emotional entanglement?
  • What did Bobby take from her clothes and of what importance would it have had to him?

Chapter 21

Magnificent Obsession
Grandma’s copy of Magnificent Obsession
  • What other means could the nurse have taken to protect Dr. Merrick’s identity?
  • Was protecting Dr. Merrick’s identity a betrayal? Why? Why not?
  • What fears would possess Bobby to go to Vienna?

Chapter 22

  • What trepidations would have consumed Helen, knowing that Bobby was coming?
  • How did Merrick’s devotion to his service drive his happy ending?


  • What do you think of Lloyd Douglas’ blanketing a gospel doctrine in a fictional love story?


By Tracy Atkinson

Tracy Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education and a master’s in higher education. Her passion is researching, studying and investigating the attributes related to self-directed learners. She has published several titles, including The Art of Learning Journals, Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.

Tracy Harrington-Atkinson

Tracy Harrington-Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the mid-west with her husband. She loved storytelling and sharing her stories with her children. As they grew, she started writing her stories down for them. She is a teacher, having taught from elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education, masters in higher education and continued on to a PhD in curriculum design. Her husband, Kerry and Tracy breed miniature dachshunds and love to spend time with their growing family. She has published several books including Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Rachel's 8 and Securing Your Tent.

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