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Discussion Questions: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Dark Places book coverTitle: Dark Places
Author:  Gillian Flynn
Page Count:  349 pages
Genre: Psychological suspense
Tone: Dark, Disturbing, Brooding

Summary:
Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas”. She escaped and survived to later testify that her 15-year-old brother Ben was the killer. Twenty-five years later she is contacted by “The Kill Club” and pumped for information they hope to use to free Ben. Libby hatches a plan to profit from her tragic past but ends up being chased by a killer.

 

SPOILER WARNING:
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

1. What do you think dark places refers to?

2. Was it the murders that made Libby who she was? How about Ben?

3. Would the novel have worked if Libby was a kinder, gentler or more sympathetic character?

4. What did you think of Ben and Libby’s relationship as children? In the beginning of the book, Ben dies his hair and while they are all upset by this, Libby seems the most upset. She said, “He hates us” (pg. 26). Why? Later, Libby dies her hair. Is there a significance?

5. What did you think of young Ben?

6. Did you think Ben was guilty? Does the author intend for us to doubt him? Would Ben have ended up in jail regardless?

7. While in jail, Ben thought about his 15-year-old self almost as his son and sometimes he wanted to throttle the kid, the kid who just didn’t have it in him (pg 341). What didn’t he have in him?

8. What do you think would have happened to Diondra and the baby if she and Ben had run off together?

9. What did you think of the Kill Club?

10. What did you think about Lyle Wirth? What was Libby and Lyles relationship?

11. What is the difference between the Free Day Society and the Kill Club? Is one more “palatable than the other?

12. Does Runner have any redeeming characteristics?

13. When Libby got in touch with Runner to ask about the night of the murders Runner wrote her a letter telling her he has cancer and that he doesn’t have long to live (pg 210). He says he was excited to hear from her. What did you think of this letter? Do you think her really knew the real killer

14. What do you think was going on with Diondra and Trey? How about Diondra and Runner?

15. Why is Diondra sleeping with Ben? Why is Ben sleeping with Diondra?

16. Why did Chrissi accuse Ben of molestation? Did you feel sorry for her?

17. Chrissi and Libby seemed to have some common ground, both accused Ben of doing horrific crimes that he didn’t do. In your opinion, which accusation was worse?

18. Chrissi said “No one ever forgives me for anything.” Do you think forgiveness plays a role in in Dark Places? Which characters do you find to be more forgivable? Which characters do you find the least forgivable?

19. Throughout the novel Libby, Patty, and Ben unknowingly echo each other’s dialogue and thoughts. What do you think the author was trying to do with this technique?

20. As you were reading the book did you find yourself finding one theory about the killer more believable? Who did you believe was the real killer?

21. What did you think of Diane’s character? Do you feel you got to know her? Were you curious about her perspective?

22. At the end of the book, Patty starts thinking she’d never have to worry again about commodity prices, operating costs, or interest rates and that she’d never have to see the Cates family again. What did you think she was going to do?

23. In the end it turns out that Patty hired the angel of debt to murder her. What did you think of this? (Was it noble? Or stupid?)

24. What was the Angel of Debts motivation for assisting/murdering 32 people?

25. What did you think of Crystal? Is she a “bad” seed? Is there even such a thing as bad genes?

26. Ben eventually got released from prison. Will Libby ever be able to get out of her prison?

27. Were you happy with the way the ending tied things up?

28. Have you read anything else by Gillian Flynn? How do her books compare? If you have not read anything else by her, would you read her next one?

OTHER RESOURCES:

Discussion questions from author’s website
Gillian Flynn interview article on Dark Places
Discussion questions and answers from the blog Seriously Sarah
USA Today article on the differences between the movie and book

readalikes:
Adobe Photoshop PDF The Accursed book cover In the Woods book cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 9th Girl by Tami Hoag
The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates
In the Woods by Tana French

Staff Pick: Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna Van Praag

Cathleen of Fiction/AV/Teen Services recommends The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag:

The Dress Shop of Dreams book coverOn a winding cobblestone street in Cambridge, there sits an unassuming boutique called A Stitch in Time.  It is destined for one special kind of shopper:  the woman looking for a lost piece of herself.  Whether the customer seeks confidence, courage, beauty, or magnificence, proprietor Etta has a gift for introducing the unique and extraordinary garment to spark the transformation.  The one person resistant to this possibility is her granddaughter Cora, a young scientist whose past tragedy has narrowed her gaze only to the potential found in her work.

Menna van Praag’s The Dress Shop of Dreams is an embrace of expectant promise.  The gentle spell of interlacing characters, secret attractions, and magic found in simple pleasures will inspire faith in what is truly meant to be.

 

For more books that blend fantasy indulgences with the promise of personal revelations:

A Vintage Affair book cover

 

A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff tells the exquisite story of Phoebe Swift, who fulfills a long-cherished dream to open a vintage clothing shop that treasures the history behind each unique garment.

 

The Sugar Queen book cover

 

Books appearing just when you need them is only one of the magical realities of Sarah Addison Allen’s The Sugar Queen, a bewitching and lightly humorous exploration of the courage it takes to change one’s life.

 

Chocolat book cover

 

In Chocolat by Joanne Harris, the truth that others may see us more clearly than we see ourselves is flavored with the rewards of taking bold steps forward and lush descriptions of tantalizing delights.

Lucia, Lucia book cover

 

Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani celebrates a young seamstress’s passion for beautiful things and her willingness to break with convention to follow her dreams in glitzy 1950s New York.

Sweetshop of Dreams book cover

 

In the hopeful Sweetshop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan, Londoner Rosie Hopkins’ impulsive decision to re-open her elderly relative’s old-fashioned village candy store stirs surprising possibilities in both life and love.

Winner of Both the Pulitzer Prize and the Edgar Award: The Sympathizer

Sympathizer book cover“So it was that we soaped ourselves in sadness and we rinsed ourselves with hope, and for all that we believed almost every rumor we heard, almost all of us refused to believe that our nation was dead.”

In other media, award winners are often easily predicted.  Not so in literature. More often than not, even insiders are surprised by those given top honors in any given year, and rarely does it reflect sales or popularity. That changes upon announcement, as the winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, debut novel The Sympathizerleapt in Amazon overall sales rankings from 27,587 to 88 overnight, even enjoying temporary status as #1 in Spies and Political Thrillers.

Viet Thanh Nguyen has penned a fascinating book of intrigue that examines the Vietnam War and its aftermath from the perspective of a double agent, and the author himself has said “my book has something to offend everyone.” It is a meaty, uncompromising story with moments of tenderness and even hilarity, and its new status as a Pulitzer winner may help earn the attention and audience it deserves.

Edited to add:  This week The Sympathizer was announced as winner of Best First Novel from the Edgar Awards, one of the top mystery and suspense honors. Few books can boast this crossover!

Books: You’ve Watched Beyoncé’s “Lemonade”… Now What?

In response to Beyoncé’s latest visual album premiere “Lemonade,” Fusion writer Nichole Perkins noted how much “Lemonade” is steeped in black feminist literature in her article, “What to Read After Watching Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’” offering up a variety of reading suggestions based on black womanhood, the supernatural, and black relationships. Make sure to read the article to see how Beyoncé expands on these themes!

Below are a few of the books the Library own that Perkins suggests. Interested in one we don’t own? Call the Library and we will see how we can get your hands on that book.

The Way Forward Is With a Broken Heart book coverThe Way Forward is With a Broken Heart
Alice Walker
Walker presents a collection of short fiction loosely based on her own life, including “To My Young Husband,” which describes life amid the turbulence of the Deep South at the dawn of the civil rights movement.
In mid 19th-century New Orleans, Marie Laveau was the notorious queen of voodoo. Voodoo Dreams reimagines the woman behind this legend, a mesmerizing combination of history and storytelling.

 

for colored girls who have considered suicide book cover For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide
Ntozake Shange
Passionate and fearless, Shange’s words reveal what it means to be of color and female in the 20th century.
Mama Day book coverMama Day
Gloria Naylor
On the island of Willow Springs, the powers of healer Mama Day are tested by her great niece, Cocoa, a stubbornly emancipated woman endangered by the island’s darker forces. A powerful generational saga at once tender and suspenseful, overflowing with magic and common sense.

 

I, Titube, Black Witch of Salem book coverI, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem
by Maryse Conde
This wild and entertaining novel expands on the true story of the West Indian slave Tituba, who was accused of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts, arrested in 1692, and forgotten in jail until the general amnesty for witches two years later.
Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime book cover Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime (Large Type)
J. California Cooper
Ten stories on black women sorting out their lives including” Yellow House Road” where a mother with 13 children finally leaves her no-good husband and experiences the thrill of having made the right choice and “Sure is a Shame” which is about sisters who made the wrong choice.

New Music Spotlight: Salt as Wolves by Jeffrey Foucalt

Salt as Wolves album coverJeffrey Foucalt intertwines country and blues in his newest album, Salt as Wolves. The twelve songs are all sung by Foucalt and his even-toned voice, which mixed with repetitive lyrics culminates into a soothing exploration of life, death, and relationships. This 2015 album feels like the listener is stepping into a one way conversation, as Foucalt’s songs address various people and moments in his life: his mom in regards to their relationship falling apart, his friend on a death, and even the listener to say, “everything is going to work out.”

We’ve Got You Covered: Books and Rain Boots

Have April showers whetted your appetite for books with rain boots on the cover?
Pull on your wellies and choose a new springtime read from this quirky group:

Belong to Me book coverBelong to Me
Marisa de los Santos
My Best Friend's Girl book cover

 

Everyone She Loved book coverEveryone She Loved
Sheila Curran

Out of the Rain book coverOut of the Rain
Debbie Macomber

Racing Savannah book coverRacing Savannah
Miranda Kenneally

 

Nowhere Carolina book coverNowhere Carolina
Tamara Leigh
Second Sister book cover
 The Second Sister
Marie Bostwick

 

Audiobook: In Their Own Voices – A Century of Recorded Poetry

Century of Recorded Poetry audiobookEver wonder what Walt Whitman’s voice sounded like? Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Gertrude Stein, Jack Kerouac, Sylvia Plath, or e.e. cummings? In Their Own Voices: A Century of Recorded Poetry invites us to be ear-witnesses to history and art in its purest form. This collection of distinguished poets reading well-known works bares inflection, meaning, and musicality of crafted phrase.

These days we might prefer professionally-trained narrators and seamless productions, but there is illumination to be found in hearing even familiar lines read in the voices of those who dreamed them into existence. Celebrate the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month by listening to the natural cadences of William Butler Yeats, Dylan Thomas, Maya Angelou, and a host of other extraordinary voices.

Book Discussion Questions: The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian Book coverTitle:The Martian
Author:  Andy Weir
Page Count: 369 pages
Genre: Science Fiction
Tone:  Humorous, Suspenseful, Fast-paced

Summary:
Mark Watney was nearly killed by a dust storm on Mars and was abandoned by his crew who thought him dead. Now he’s all alone with no way of letting Earth know he’s alive, which doesn’t matter because his supplies would run out before they’d get there. Either way, the environment or human error will likely kill him first. Not giving in, Mark works to survive, battling obstacle after obstacle, but will it be enough?

 

SPOILER WARNING:
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

1. Whether you personally liked the novel or not it definitely resonated with a lot of people. Who do you think was Weir’s intended audience?

2. Why do you think the core audience grew to include a more mainstream base of readers? In what ways does it stay true to its genre base?   How does it swerve away from “typical” science fiction?

3. Did the humor work for you?

4. How did you respond to all scientific detail?

5. When do you think this story takes place? Does the date matter?

6. Andy Weir, painted quite a visual picture of Mars, what are your thoughts? Any interest in going?

7. Delicately put, the very first line in the novel was “I’m pretty much screwed.” How did that set a tone for you?

8. What characteristics did Mark possess that you think helped to save his life? Was one trait more important than the others?

9. What do you think kept him sane? Or, how was he able to maintain his sanity?

10. While reading the story, did you think Mark would survive or not?

11. Do you think Mark thought he would survive?

12. Why do you think you were rooting for Mark to survive (and if you weren’t why not)?

13. Thanks to the author, we feel we know Watney and most of us are rooting for him, regardless of the expense and the risk that the Chinese probe will never be launched.  Would you have felt the same about the rescue effort if we didn’t know Watney so well?

14. What were your thoughts the first time Mark traveled away from Hab? Can you imagine what it would be like all alone on Mars?

15. Were there any characters, outside of Mark, that you really liked or disliked?

16. When mission control realized Mark was alive, they decided not to tell the Ares 3 crew.  What do you think about that decision?

17. When the crew learned that Mark was alive the crew had very different reactions. Most of the crew was ecstatic but Lewis was upset.  What did you think of her reaction?

18. Teddy did not want to risk the lives of the crew and felt the crew was, too emotionally involved to make the decision about whether or not to rescue Mark. What do you think about this?

19. Why do you think the crew decided to go back for Mark? The Hermes would add 533 more days to its mission to save Mark.  What would you do?

20. Commander Lewis picked Beth Johansen to be the survivor if anything happened to the resupply probe. What did you think of this cannabilism arc in the storyline?  What if it was you they picked to survive?  (Don’t forget Johansen was having a relationship with Beck!)

21. Were you surprised that the Chinese government would be willing to help NASA?

22. Read this passage on page 254. Zho Tao said in a conversation with Venkat, “In the end, we built a beautiful probe. The largest, sturdiest, unmanned probe in history. And now it’s sitting in a warehouse. It’ll never fly”…”It could have been a lasting legacy of scientific research.  Now it’s a delivery run…this operation is a net loss for mankind’s knowledge” What are your thoughts on this passage?

23. Who was ultimately responsible for saving Mark Watney’s life? (You can only choose one person!)

24. How would you have ended the novel?

25. Where do you see Watney’s life going?

26. Would you be open to reading the author’s next book?

OTHER RESOURCES:

Schmoop analysis on The Martian
Lit Lovers’ reading guide
Book and movie differences article by Tech Times
Slate’s Audio Book Club discussion on The Martian (audio)
Reddit Q&A with Andy Weir
“Nine Real Technologies in The Martian by NASA
Video of Andy Weir discussing his career
The Martian themed party ideas

readalikes:
Marsbound book coverRedshirts book cover The Explorer book cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marsbound by Joe Haldeman
Redshirts by John Scalzi
The Explorer by James Smythe

Check out the reading map we created for more suggestions!