Everything I Never Told You – Discussion Questions (spoiler alert)

July/August 2015

July/August 2015

Let’s begin at the beginning.

As the book begins we are aware that “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . .”

The novel begins by telling this.  Did revealing this information right away influence the way you read the novel?  

Some have said that they expected the novel to be more of a mystery. The novel is many things but I wouldn’t consider it a mystery.   Was this what you expected?  Were you disappointed?

It is revealed at the end of the book what actually did happen to Lydia but I won’t reveal that right now because I fear that many have not reached that point yet.  I will revisit this later on but I’d like you to ponder these questions. As you delve into the story do you find it important to actually find out what happened to her?  If it is revealed to her family do you think it would allay or worsen their grief?



More to come!  If you haven’t picked up a book yet give us a call and we can put it on reserve for you.

Invisible City – Discussion Questions – Part 4 (Spoiler Alert)

Onto the murder.

May/June 2015

May/June 2015

If you’ve finished the book (and I hope that you have by now because I’m going to ruin it if you haven’t) we must talk about the murder(s).

After Saul is arrested Malka and Sara take the notes about Shoshanna and Rivka’s murders to Rebekah.  There had been talk earlier in the book about the death of Rivka’s daughter but up until now it was just blown off as accidental.  Given the brutal death of Rivka were you surprised that the two deaths were connected?

Before Malka hands over the evidence it is important to her to explain why her community is so protective and insular when it comes to policing (it is not the first time that Dahl has a character convey this).

We know that to survive we must rely on one another, we must support and protect our fellow Jews.  We do not do this because we do not believe that sin should be punished.  We do this because the strength of the community is vital to our survival. (page 249)

Malka wants Rebekah to understand – do you? If one does come from such a community can an outsider truly learn about the deep-rooted fears from being told?

Do you think that, given the nature of the crimes, Shomrim should have investigated murderfurther?  Were they protecting the community?  Do you think that there connection with the Mendolssohns clouded their judgement?  Do you think that they suspected Miriam’s responsibility, or do you think that they were covering for Aron?

While Aron was not primarily responsible for the death of his daughter or his wife he did suspect how dangerous Miriam was.  While he may have to live with his culpability, what if anything do you think his punishment should be?

When Malka brings the information she says,” I do not wish to invite scrutiny by people who do not respect our way of life, but the secrets have to stop.  The community can heal, but individual people, boys and girls, they cannot.”

Can a community heal when wounds like murder, infanticide, etc. are hidden?  Do you think any community can truly police itself? Can a police force that doesn’t understand the inner workings of such a community fairly oversee them?

Invisible City – Discussion Questions Part 3 (Spoiler Alert)

failedDrat and double drat.

I have failed technology and technology has failed me.  I was in the middle (and oh so close to the end) of a blog post and didn’t hit “save draft” and it didn’t auto-save, so here I go again.

Rebekah has come a long way from Florida to become a reporter.  She insists that her need to begin her career in the toughest place to find a job doing that has nothing to do with her mother.

While she tries to convince herself how much of this do you buy?

Not only is she conflicted about her reasoning for heading to NY, but she manages to come in contact with many who, like her mother, have questioned Hasidic tenants and practices.

In a community that requires strict adherence to traditional beliefs Rebekah manages to find herself surrounded by those who are questioning.  How easy do you think it would actually be to, as an outsider, quickly connect with such individuals.  Did Rebekah’s story ring true?


The Snow Child – Discussion Questions – Setting Part One (Spoiler Alert)

Western PennsylvaniaI took a vacation to Western Pennsylvania last week to visit relatives.  It’s not quite the cross-country trip that I would have had to make to visit Alaska but it did get me thinking about The Snow Child.  The hills and people of Western Pennsylvania are very different in so many ways that my flat landed, overpopulated Nassau County.

As I drove along I 80 headed West and watching for my exit I thought about how far away from family that Mabel and Jack had actually traveled.  A trip to see family that I put off because of distance, 362 + miles that took me over six hours by car means that I just can’t manage to see them as often as I would like.  I couldn’t help but ponder moving away from family knowing that I would in all likelihood never see them again and yet Jack and Mabel did just that.  Would you be able to pull up your roots and leave everyone in your life knowing that you might never see them again?  Why do you think Jack and Mabel made this decision?  Did you get a sense from any of the characters that they regretted leaving kit and kin?

Given their ages (around 50 at the beginning of the novel) do you think that either gave much thought to the possibility of being abandoned and alone in this desolate area should one of them die?  Do you think that Mabel would have been able to carry on in the wilds of Alaska?  What do you think she would have done had this occurred?  Was Jack better suited to the wilderness?  Would he have remained or do you think he might have been tempted back to Pennsylvania?

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey Discussion Questions (Spoiler Alert)

snow childWe’ve entered the magical world of 1920’s Alaska and have met Mable and Jack.

Were you shocked to learn that it was Mable that suggested that they move to Alaska?

Why do you think that, having lived so long as a childless couple, they decided at nearly 50 years old to leave the comfort of home and family?

On page 5 we begin to see the desperation that Mabel feels

” There were guns in the house, and she had thought of them before…She had never fired them, but that wasn’t what kept her.  It was the violence and unseemly gore of such an act, and the blame that would inevitably come in its wake.  People would say she was weak in mind or spirit, or Jack was a poor husband. And what of Jack?  What shame and anger would he harbor?”

She decides to commit suicide by river, how does she justify this?  How would her death have been easier for Jack?

As she travels across the icy river why do you think that she changed her mind?  Did she change her mind?

There is a chill between Mable and Jack yet on the night of the first snowfall they play like children.  It’s not until this night that Faina appears.  What is the significance of her appearance at this point?

More to follow.

A Land More Kind Than Home – (Spoiler Alert)

MP900341322[1]Today we’re going to finish the discussion of  A Land More Kind Than Home.  We’ve seen the death of both Chambliss and Ben in that startling scene at the Hall place.  Julie and Chambliss were set to run off, but Julie decided that she wanted to retrieve her belongings (no mention of taking Jess with her.) Ben greets them on the porch with a shotgun and blows Chambliss away. Having had a modicum of sense, Julie has called and requested the police to be present, but Clem arrives too late to save Chambliss. Clem does try to get Ben to put down his weapon.  Ben too angry to hear reason is shot and killed.  Julie injured by the shotgun blast that Ben sent into the car recovers and runs off.

We need to talk about Julie!  A few chapters ago Adelaide Lyle tried to explain why Julie is so fervent in her beliefs.  Should her behavior be forgiven because of her religious beliefs?  Do you believe that her motives for bringing Stump to that service were pure?  Why doesn’t she consider taking Jess with her?  How could she leave him behind? What do you think were the motives of Pastor Chambliss?

Julie knew that there was going to be trouble.  What motivated her to go back to the house? Was what happened inevitable?

Julie, Jess and Adelaide knew things about what had gone on that might have prevented the deaths of Stump, Ben and Chambliss, yet all three have survived.  There was plenty of blame to go around, but do you think that justice was served?  Did you get a sense that any of them took a lesson from the mistakes that were made?

After the death of Chambliss Addie claimed, “But in the Old Testament, when God’s chosen people called out, “Save us, Lord!” He heard them, and they were saved.  He was there for them because they believed.”  Do you think any of the characters in the novel were saved?

Clem and Jimmy were each instrumental in the deaths of each others son.  Why do you think Wiley Cash wrote the events this way?  Was it just poetic justice?

I’ve finished with the book and my portion of the discussion.  I hope that you enjoyed the novel and the discussion. Even after reading it for a second time I still enjoyed it. I found aspects that I could reflect upon that I missed the first time. Please comment below if you would like to share your thoughts on the book.

While we might be finished with A Land More Kind Than Home the discussion continues.  I’ll be back to announce our next selection and other book related topics.

Stay tuned!



A Land More Kind Than Home (Spoiler Alert)

land more kind than homeWell, I’ve made it past the death of Stump. Even though I did see it coming the “wrongness” of it still stings.  We as the reader know why Chambliss needed to silence a boy who had no words. I had forgotten that during the laying on of hands at the afternoon service many participants believed that he had spoken his first word “Mama.”  How might the events of the story have unfolded differently if Jess had told his mother the truth about what she heard at the Sunday afternoon service?

Just after the death we meet the final “voice” of the book, Clem Barefield.  Beyond being the Sherriff of Madison County for 25 years Wiley Cash utilizes his voice as that of the outsider.  How does this impact the way he sees this place and its people?

There are going to be many revelations and much action coming up.  I hope you’re enjoying your visit to the mountains of North Carolina.  Please feel free to share your thoughts with the group.

Burial Rites – Discussion Questions III (Spoiler Alert)

Burial RitesWe’re nearing the end of the discussion.

The story revolves around the murder of Natan. Agnes is found guilty of his murder, but it’s not until very late in the novel that Agnes is able to discuss the events surrounding the murder.  What do you think about her take on the murder? Do you believe her version? Given the bleakness of her situation, do you think she could have extricated herself from his household?   Do you think that given the opportunity that she would have taken it?

I know it’s not proper to speak ill of the dead but I must.  If Natan was truly depicted in the novel he was an unlikeable creature who lied to Agnes.  Do I think he deserved his fate? No, but would I mourn him? No! Given the little bit we know about Natan what do you think of him?

Related links:







Burial Rites – Questions Part II (Spoiler Alert)

Let’s talk about character development.

We begin the book by meeting the family Steina, Lauga and Margret. Oddly enough even though the father, Jón Jónsson, was the main motivation for Blondel to house Agnes in the Jonsdottir household he was rarely at home.  It was the three women who feared and then grew to accept Agnes.  Even though we do learn about Agnes from her own inner thoughts I think we learn so much about her from the observations of these three women.  It is through Margrets’ observations that the reader learns of the inhumanity and mistreatment that Agnes experienced during her incarceration.  We can’t know how much time Jon spent at home during the time that Agnes was present. Why do you think that Kent wrote the story is such a female centric manner? 

Agnes begins the book as an unknown, abandoned, mysterious feral creature who has been locked up in a dark hovel.  Does Agnes change over time, or are we just seeing her become who she was prior to her arrest?  Are Steina, Lauga and Margret changed by Agnes’s time with them?

Even though this is truly the story of these four women we can’t ignore Tóti and his relationship with Agnes.  Thrust  into the position of being the spiritual advisor for Agnes on her journey to her execution, Tóti is forced to grow into his religious life prematurely.  Do we see him mature and grow?  As a man not fully grown, is he the best that Agnes could have found to advise her? When he is chosen by Agnes the reader and characters in the novel wonder about the randomness of her choice.  It is much later in the story that we find out the connection that the two share.  In your opinion was there an underlying cause for Agnes’ choice of Tóti?

Apropos of nothing really. During my Internet mining regarding Burial Rites I found a blog written by an author, James Thompson,who delivers a succinct history of Iceland, mentions the execution and provides a glimpse into what it’s like to live in Iceland.  I thought you might be interested as well. Follow this link  – Jimland.