Check It Out Category: Book Discussion Questions

Book Discussion Questions: Behold the Dreamers

behold the dreamers book coverTitle: Behold the Dreamers
Author: Imbolo Mbue
Page Count: 382 pages
Genre: Mainstream Fiction
Tone: Fast-Paced, Compelling, Immigrant Experience

Summary: In 2007, Manhattan-based Cameroonian immigrant Jende Jonga gets a job chauffeuring for Lehman Brothers executive Clark Edwards, easing the financial strain on his family. At first, all goes well, but problems in the Edwards’ marriage lead to problems for the Jongas, and when Lehman falls, both families are caught up in the terrible aftermath. The Jongas — at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, fearing deportation — have much more to lose than the wealthy Edwards family, but together provide a perspective on the accessibility (or lack thereof) of the American Dream, as well as a poignant look at globalization and immigrant life.

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

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2018 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. Jende is trying to get a green card and stay in the U.S. We learn that that he is seeking asylum, using an invented excuse (his girlfriend’s father wants to kill him). What did you think about this?

2. Why do you think Jende wanted to come to the United States?

3. Jende’s cousin Jende was helping Jende to come here. What do you think differentiated their experiences in the U.S.?

4. What was your initial impression of Jende’s lawyer, Bubaker?

5. While Jende is driving Clark, they are having a conversation wherein Jende extols the virtues of Limbe. Clark then asked him why he wants to stay in America:

Jende: “Because my country is no good…..I stay in my country I would have nothing. My son will grow up and be poor like me, just like I was poor like my father. But in America, Sir? I can become something.”

What do you think of Jende’s comments? Does his view change by the end of the story?

6. We are introduced to Lehman Brothers and right away, start seeing the cracks. Clark seemed to know what was happening with Lehman Brothers. Do you see any culpability on his part? What do you think he should have or could have done?

7. Did you feel empathy for Clark?

8. Jende and Neni get married at city hall. Jende told Clark that it wasn’t the marriage certificate that made him feel married; it was the bride price he paid. Your thoughts.

9. Let’s explore Jende and Neni’s relationship. What did you think about their marriage?

10. Can you compare Clark and Jende? What do you see as the differences between how their diverse cultures treat women.

11. What were your thoughts initially about Cindy? Were you surprised by how her character developed?

12. Jende’s brother called for him to send money because he couldn’t afford tuition for his kids. Cindy gives him $500. He sends $300 and pockets the rest. What should he have done with the money?

13. Let’s look at the children; we’ll start with Vince Edwards. He turned down a prestigious internship, wants to drop out of law school and move to India to “find his truth.” What did you think about that? Did Vince like the United States?

14. What did you think of Mighty? Do you think the Jongas genuinely liked him?

15. Let’s look at Neni’s character. What did you think of her as a mother? How do you think her parenting style compares with a typical American born mother? Jende as a father? The Clarks as parents?

16. When working for Cindy Edward at the vacation house, Neni finds Cindy passed out in her room and doesn’t know what to do. Jende tells her to pretend she sees nothing. What did you think about this?

17. Anna the housekeeper wants Neni to talk to Clark about Cindy’s drinking. Not knowing what is going to happen to Cindy, if you were in Neni’s position, what would you have done?

18. What did you think about Neni’s desire to join a church?

19. Jende was very upset that Neni told the church about their immigration status.

“For the first time in a long love affair she was afraid he would beat her…and if he had, she would have known that it was not her Jende who was beating her, but a grotesque being created by the sufferings of an American Immigrant life.”

What did you think about Jenda’s reaction? What about how Neni response to Jende’s anger?

20. Cindy approaches Jende and wants him to spy on Clark. What should Jende have done? What did you think of Winston’s’ suggestion that Jende blackmail Cindy, with her drug use, in order to get her to stop pushing him to spy on Clark?

21. Ripped from actual headlines, comes a scandal. An “escort” is interviewed by the paper and mentions Clark by title and said that her services were being paid for by bailout money. What were your thoughts?

22. After Lehman collapses, who was affected most by it? Victimless?

23. Clark fires Jende. How did you feel about that?

24. Neni went to Mrs. Edward to try to get Jende’s job back, let’s talk about that? Could you sympathize with Neni’s blackmail attempt because of her situation?

25. Do you think this was something Neni would have done when she was living in Limbe? Did America change her? What did you think of Jende’s reaction to the money Neni got from Mrs. Edwards?

26. Why do you think Neni was so desperate to stay in America? Was her experience so different from Jende’s?

27. What did you think of her idea of divorcing Jende and marrying her friend’s cousin? What were your thoughts at her idea to let her professor adopt Liomi?

28. Let’s talk about Neni’s conversation with Dean Flipkins. She wanted his help with a scholarship and he denied her. What did you think about that?

29. Let’s talk about Cindy’s death. Do you believe that Neni was complicit? Were you surprised at how guilty she felt?

30. Vince called Neni to step in as Mighty’s nanny. What did you think of Neni’s decision not to help?

31. Jende makes the decision to go back home. What did you think about that? Why did he make this decision? Do you think Neni had a choice about leaving the country?

32. At the end of the novel, there were several characters that seemed to change their opinions of living in the U.S.:
a. Winston said, “one day …there will be no more Mexicans crossing the border to come to America”
b. Fatou said, “after 26 years, she was ready to stop braiding hair for a living and go back home”, her children wanted nothing to do with West Africa and she wondered if they thought they were better than her.
c. Natasha said, “remember when we welcomed our visitors at Ellis Island with lunch boxes and free medical checkups. They (the Jongas) are returning home because we as a country have forgotten how to welcome strangers.”

What were your thoughts?

33. Jende went to see Clark at the end to thank him for all he did and told him he was a good man. Thoughts. Why do you think Jende never went to Clark for help?

24. Do you think the Jonga’s will be happy back in Limbe? Why/Why Not? Did America change Jende?

35. Is New York a good place for immigrants? Did this book give you any insight into immigration in the United States?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

NPR’s Book Review
The New York Time’s Book Review
Imbolo Mbue’s official author website
LitLovers discussion guide
Lithub interview with Imbolo Mbue

READALIKES:

Cover of AmericanahAmericanah
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

little bee book coverLittle Bee
by Chris Cleave

Homegoing book coverHomegoing
by Yaa Gyasi

Book Discussion Questions: The Woman in Cabin 10

The Woman in Cabin 10 book coverTitle: The Woman in Cabin Ten
Author: Ruth Ware
Page Count: 340 pages
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Tone: Menacing, Uncertain, Tense

Summary: An intruder in the middle of the night leaves Lo Blacklock feeling vulnerable. Trying to shake off her fears, she hopes her big break of covering the maiden voyage of the luxury cruise ship, the Aurora, will help. The first night of the voyage changes everything. What did she really see in the water and who was the woman in the cabin next door? The claustrophobic feeling of being on a ship and the twists and turns of who, and what, makes it difficult to know what to believe.

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

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2018 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. The book starts with a prologue, “In my dream, the girl was drifting, far, far below the crashing waves and the cries of the gulls in the cold, sunless depth of the North Sea. Her laughing eyes were white and bloated with salt water; her pale skin was wrinkled; her clothes ripped by jagged rocks and disintegrating into rags.” How did this set the tone of the book for you?

    1. 2. The story dives right in. Chapter 1, as we are introduced to the books’ protagonist, Lo Blacklock; we are immediately thrust into a home invasion. It was a short chapter but a lot happens. How did this opening feel to you?

3. Did you have any initial opinions of Lo?

4. We go from Lo’s apartment being broken into, to the scene in Jude’s flat where Lo accidentally knocks out Jude’s tooth. Let’s talk about this and their relationship?

5. What were your initial impressions of Jude?

6. Lo goes on the cruise. Do you think she should have gone? What did you think of the ship?

7. Lo wakes up at 3am. “Something had woken me up. Something that left me jumpy and strung out as a meth addict. Why did I keep thinking of a scream?” She picked up her book and then heard something else, “something that barely registered above the sound of the engine and the slap of the waves, a sound so soft that the scrap of a paper against paper almost drowned it out. It was the noise of the veranda door in the next cabin sliding gently open.” She believed that she heard the splash made by a body hitting water. What did you think?

8. What did you think about Lo’s interaction with the ships security Johann Nilsson?

9. We start to see emails/texts from Jude wondering if anyone has heard from Lo. How did this affect the story for you?

10. The morning after “the murder,” Lo checks out the entire staff of the ship looking for the woman she saw in Cabin 10. She told the staff that she heard a scream and then felt the mention of the scream had been a mistake; she felt “the staff had closed ranks.” What do you think of that? Did you think the staff was hiding something?

11. No staff seemed to be missing, no passengers were missing, and Lo’s career could be on the line.  Why do you think she pursued her line of inquiry? Would you?

12. As the story continues, it is clear that Nillsen seemed to doubt Lo’s suspicions of foul play.  Thoughts?

13. Lo approached Lord Richard Bullmer about her belief of a possible murder. Did you think this was a good idea? Let’s talk about their interaction.

14. Ben Howard, Lo’s ex-boyfriend, becomes an important character in the book. What did you think about him?

15. In the middle of the book, the prologue comes into play. Lo goes to the spa and gets a mud wrap, as she goes into the shower, she sees written across the steam mirror the words “stop digging” and on the very next page, we read that Lo’s body was found by a Danish Fisherman. Where did the story go for you at this point?

16. Lo asked Karla (her cabin attendant) if she knew anything. Karla said she felt sorry for Lo and that Nillson thinks she is paranoid. Karla proceeds to tell Lo that the staff all needed their jobs and that she (Karla) has a son. “Just because perhaps someone let a friend use an empty cabin, that doesn’t mean she was killed, you know” and Lo shouldn’t “make trouble if nothing happened.” What did you think about this conversation?

17. Ernst Solberg was an investor who was supposed to be in Cabin 10, we find out that he was not on the cruise because his home was burglarized & his passport was stolen. Was this related to Lo’s break in?

18. There is an online “Whodunit” thread discussing Lo’s disappearance. What did you think about that?

19. Lo sees the girl from Cabin 10 outside her door and goes after her. Lo is then “kidnapped.” By this time, did you have your list of suspects? Who did you think was the Woman in Cabin 10?

20. Lo starts pumping her kidnapper for information. The kidnapper said, “You’re digging your grave, do you get that?” What did you think of Lo at this point?

21. What was your opinion of Carrie?

22. By the end of the book, what did you think of Lo?

23. Lo is home with Judah. They are in bed and she starts crying. Lo says “I can’t stop thinking of her, I can’t accept it, it’s all wrong.” Let’s talk about this.

24. Why do you think Lo had such a hard time accepting what happened to Lord Bullmer?

25. Why do you think Lo had a change of heart at the end of the novel and decided to move to New York?

  1. 26. What did you think of the last page of the novel, a deposit of 40,000 Swiss Franc went into Lo’s account with the reference “Tigger’s Bounce?”
  1. 27. Were there unanswered questions in the plot? If so, what wasn’t covered or finalized in the ending?
  1. 28. How effective were the email messages and articles in moving the story forward?

29. What did you think of Ruth Ware’s writing style? Were there any passages that struck you?

  1. 30. How would you describe the book?
  1. 31. What do you think of the following statement?: “We mostly don’t believe women, especially angry women.” (A 2015 study from Arizona State University that focused on jury reactions showed how angry men gain influence while angry women lose it.)

32. Would this have been a different read if it had been a male protagonist?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

YouTube Book Trailer
Book of the Month
Ruth Ware’s official author website
LitLovers discussion guide
Culturefly interview with Ruth Ware “Interview with Ruth Ware”

READALIKES:

I See You book coverI See You
by Clare Mackintosh

The Couple Next Door book coverThe Couple Next Door
by Shari Lapena

Every Last Lie book coverEvery Last Lie
by Mary Kubica

Book Discussion Questions: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

mr. penumbra's 24-hour bookstore book coverTitle: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
Author: Robin Sloan
Page Count: 288 pages
Genre: Tech Fiction, Adult Fiction for Teens
Tone: Likeable, Quirky, Offbeat

Summary: The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco web-design drone and landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, and never seem to actually buy anything. Soon he ropes his friends into helping him figure out just what’s going on.

 

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

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2018 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. Why did Ajax Penumbra hire Clay?

2. What is the purpose of recording everything about the customer’s physical features? (p. 19, “…were there button on his coat made of mother-of-pearl? Or were they horn? Some kind of metal? Copper?”)

3. What do you think of Clay? Was he an accessible protagonist? How was he uniquely able to help Mr. Penumbra on his quest?

4. How does the novel deal with old and new technology? What do you think about that?

5. As the “information superhighway” began to really take off, many predicted that there would no longer be any use for libraries. What do you think about that? What has happened? Can the old ways coexist with the new? What does the book say about the idea that you can find everything on Google?

6. What did you think was happening in the bookstore? Did you think there was something nefarious happening?

7. What role does Corvina play in the story? What does he represent? How do you feel about him? Is he right to act as he does?

8. Kat introduces the concept of Singularity – “the hypothesis that the invention of artificial superintelligence will abruptly trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilization” – on p. 58 (Wikipedia). She says you have to be an optimist. Is our feeling toward the future regarding technology’s role dependent upon how optimistic or pessimistic we are?

9. Mr. Penumbra tells Clay he didn’t know young people still read books. (p. 65) He looks at Clay’s Kindle, noticing things that are good about, such as being able to make the font bigger. He also notices the font is a very old one, Gerritszoon. Is/was the Kindle a positive example of a new way to interface with the old?

10. Why is the book set in San Francisco? What role did that city play in the story? Why did New York make an appearance?

11. There was a lot of concern during the time of Guttenberg and Manutius, as people worried printing houses would take work away from monks, and would replace skilled labor with unskilled labor, and take away the prestige of books as they became more accessible to common people. Was that concerned founded? What is the similarity between that and what is happening today as far as books and technology?

12. What role did The Dragonslayer Chronicles play in this book? Would you publish the third book or leave it hidden forever?

13. Describe Clay’s friend Neel and their relationship?

14. Which character did you most relate to? Why? Which character did you least relate to?

15. What do you think about the answer to “our greatest question”/how to live forever?

16. Why does the Festina Lente company embrace technology but the Unbroken Spine does not?

17. Society’s reaction to the advent of the printing press was somewhat similar to society’s reaction to the Kindle. Why? Were the opponents of printing houses correct to feel as they did? What about those who felt the Kindle and ebooks would destroy reading and book culture?

“ChurchHatesTucker points us to a wonderful historical analysis of a 15th century luddite, abbot Johannes Trithemius, who was no fan of the printing press, because of what it was going to do to those poor monks. It wasn’t just that it would put them out of work, but that it would impact their souls. He worried that the printing press would make monks lazy.

It was okay that the act of copying was hard. It built character, in Trithemius’s opinion, the same way as chopping wood (though to this “interior exercise,” i.e. exercise of the spirit, he assigned far more importance). For monks, labor was part and parcel of devotion, and if you weren’t good at writing, you could do binding, or painting, or for heaven’s sake practice. And it goes even further: the labor of manuscript writing was something for monks to do — for there was no greater danger for the devout soul than idleness.

For among all the manual exercises, none is so seemly to monks as devotion to the writing of sacred texts.

He also pulls out the typical “but this new fangled thing just isn’t as nice as the old stuff”: He does spend some time talking about practical reasons that printed books weren’t anything to get bothered about: their paper wasn’t as permanent as the parchment the monks used (he even advocates the hand-copying of “useful” printed works for their preservation); there weren’t very many books in print, and they were hard to find; they were constrained by the limitations of type, and were therefore ugly.” (Predictions by Mike Masnick, www.techdirt.com February 25. 2011)

18. There were many opposing reviews of this book. How many of you found the book to be charming? Overly-convenient? Clever? Implausible? Fun? Did you think ever-present synchronistic elements add to or detracted from the plot?

19. Would you recommend Mr. Penumbra to a friend? What other books would you recommend to a fan of this book?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

New York Times review, “Bookworms and Apples”
Slate review “Scanners”
Robin Sloan’s official author website
LitLovers discussion guide
NPR interview with Robin Sloan “‘Mr. Penumbra’ Bridges the Digital Divide”

READALIKES:

The Invisible Library book coverThe Invisible Library
by Genevieve Cogman

S book coverS.
by Doug Durst and J.J. Abrams

Book Discussion Questions: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale book coverTitle: The Handmaid’s Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Page Count: 311 pages
Genre: Dystopian Fiction, Literary Fiction
Tone: Complex, Introspective, Disturbing, Reflective

Summary:
Offred, a Handmaid, describes life in what was once the United States, now the Republic of Gilead, a shockingly repressive and intolerant monotheocracy. It is set in the near future in which women are no longer allowed to read and are valued only as long as they are viable for reproduction.

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

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2018 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. Did you find this book relatable and believable, or did you find it far-fetched as Mary McCarthy did in her 1986 New York Times’ book review? What triggered the rise of this theonomy in the pre-Gilead United States? What part did infertility and declining birthrates play? Is this a realistic premise?

2. Let’s talk about taking away the credit cards and freezing the bank assets. Did you understand Offred and her husband Luke’s reaction to the situation? Did you understand Luke’s reasoning that he would be able to help her in spite of the government restrictions? In times of sudden conflict, do people generally try to rationalize rather than react swiftly? Could Offred and Luke have done anything to stop what happened after the coup? As the U. S. government was collapsing, why didn’t Luke and Offred do more to escape?

3. If you read this in 1986 when it was written, would anything resonate differently for you? Did anyone read this long ago? Is history repeating itself, or why has this story made a comeback?

4. What accounts for the Commander’s interest in Offred? Is it genuine? Is genuine possible in Gilead?

5. What do you think of Moira’s placement at the brothel? Why was she not simply killed or made to work in the radioactive fields? What happens to strong women who don’t follow the crowd? Is it different than what happens to strong men who don’t follow the crowd?

6. In this novel handmaids no longer have unique names, but are given the name of the male head of the household, e.g. Of-Fred, Offred. How is that effective in eliminating these women’s identity? Is there any modern day custom in our culture that is similar? What are your thoughts about that?

7. Author Margaret Atwood said, “I didn’t put in anything that we haven’t already done, we’re not already doing, we’re seriously trying to do, coupled with trends that are already in progress… So all of those things are real, and therefore the amount of pure invention is close to nil.” What means of effective oppression previously used in history did the rulers of Gilead use to keep their system in place?

8. Why, if many of the novel’s plot points were literally true, would people have difficulty finding them believable or relatable?

9. Let’s talk about Serena Joy, the commander’s wife. How did you feel about her? What made her who she was? Talk about her life before Gilead? Was this what she wanted, did she “buy into” the premise of Gilead? Did she have more of voice that the handmaids? Did she have a better position?

10. Ofglen is the first character Offred meets who is a part of the resistance. How does she know Offred would be a potential member of the resistance? Why would any handmaid not be a part of the resistance?

11. How did you feel religion was handled in this book? It is a missive against religion? Atwood said the people running Gilead are “”not really interested in religion; they’re interested in power.” Do you agree?

12. How would you classify this book?

13. As Anna Sheffer writes in “The Epilogue of the Handmaid’s Tale Changes Everything You Thought You Knew About the Book,” “Pieixoto himself describes the process of naming the transcribed document, saying that “all puns were intentional, particularly that having to do with the archaic vulgar signification of the word tail; that being, to some extent, the bone, as it were, of Gileadean society.” The two male researchers take full advantage of their ability to title the manuscript and bestow on it a cheeky name that alludes to and, by making a pun, mocks Offred’s sexual servitude.” How does that make you feel?

14. Offred’s true identity was never discovered, but the commander was believed to have been one of two men, both of whom were glorified for their services to Gilead. How does that resonate with the way in which history is communicated? Does that weaken Offred’s story?

15. This book was written in a way that was less polished and more disjointed than other Atwood books. Why might that be? What is the book supposed to be? How did Offred communicate her story?

16. There was not much written about the powerful people at the top of the government who ran Gilead? Why would that be? In this story we are looking back a couple hundred years in the past. How does that vantage point affect what we’ve learned? How is history illuminated or distorted by the way it is told? Who usually writes history?

17. Are you glad you read this story? Why or why not?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

Why The Handmaid’s Tale Is So Relevant Today” via The BBC
“The Epilogue of The Handmaid’s Tale Changes Everything You Thought You Knew About the Book” via Electric Lit
interview with Forbes: “Author Margaret Atwood On Why ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Resonates in 2018
New York Times 1986 book review
SparkNotes literary guide
Margaret Atwood’s official author website
LitLovers discussion guide
Literary Hub interview with Margaret Atwood

READALIKES:

When She Woke book coverWhen She Woke
by Hillary Jordan

1984 book cover1984
by George Orwell

The Silence of the Girls book coverThe Silence of the Girls
by Pat Barker

The Swallows of Kabul book coverThe Swallows of Kabul
by Yasmina Khadra

Future Home of the Living God book coverFuture Home of the Living God
by Louise Erdrich

Brave New World book coverBrave New World
by Aldous Huxley

Book Discussion Questions: News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Title:  News of the World
Author:  Paulette Jiles
Page Count: 213 pages
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Tone:  Compelling, Lyrical, Character-driven

Summary:
In the aftermath of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, an elderly widower and itinerant news reader, is offered fifty dollars to bring an orphan girl, who was kidnapped and raised by Kiowa raiders, from Wichita Falls back to her family in San Antonio.

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

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2018 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. What might the experience of coming to hear a news reader be like? Did the author’s choice of having a news-reading scene be our first moments of the book help you move into the world of the story?

2. What was your initial impression of Captain Kidd? What details contributed to that impression?

3. Several commentaries offer the observation that News of the World is deceptively simple. What might this mean? Is it a compliment, or is it a neutral observation? Do you agree?

4. Which elements of a traditional Western are evident in News of the World?

5. What do we learn of Kidd’s youth? How does this inform the story? Were you glad to know more about his past?

6. From the first scene in which Johanna is introduced, we are treated to brief moments of her perceptions. How do these glimpses enhance the story? What do we learn?

7. How would you characterize Johanna’s behavior? Is it believable?

8. In what ways does Kidd try to help Johanna become ready for re-assimilation into her new life?

9. Conversely, what does Johanna teach Kidd?

10. Jiles did a great deal of research on captives. Does it show? Does her work make this a better story in any way, or would it not have been much different to either make it up or leave in the background?

11. From what we learn around the edges and from Johanna’s thoughts, would you say the Kiowa are depicted sympathetically?

12. What were some of the memorable encounters along the journey?

13. Describe the reunion between Johanna and her people. How does the Captain try to help? How is he treated?

14. After he left her with family, was the Captain right to intervene?

15. What was your reaction to the lives they created for themselves? Were you surprised? Satisfied?

16. Was John Calley a good man? How would you describe him? What were the three circumstances in which they encountered him?

17. What purpose did the talk Captain and Johanna have on her wedding day serve?

18. Several of the characters, including Britt Johnson and Captain Kidd, are based on true historical figures. Is this surprising? Does this change your perception of them at all?

19. Would you describe this as a realistic story?

20. Where in the novel does the title appear? Does it have significance beyond the literal?

21. What is the primary draw for you about this story: the setting, the bond of characters, the journey?

22. Would you describe this as a quiet novel? Why or why not?

23. What will you take away with you from this novel? What will you remember?

24. What is the significance of the line, “The bones of the Kiowa warriors did not lie in the earth but in the stories of their lives, told and retold – their bravery and daring, the death of Britt Johnson and his men, and Cicada, the little girl taken from the by the Indian Agent, Three Spotted’s little blue-eyed girl”?

25. Jiles asserts that, “using quote marks is like surrounding human speech with barbed wire.” Was the omission of quotation marks distracting or confusing?

26. Does it surprise you to learn Jiles is also a poet? Why or why not?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

Paulette Jiles Rides the Dangerous Trails of 1870s Texas” via The Sacramento Bee
Can a 10-year-old Girl Ever Recover from Years in Captivity?” via The Washington Post
interview with The Dallas News: “Paulette Jiles Explains the Apocalyptic Influence on Her Acclaimed Texas Frontier Novel
National Book Award Finalist content, including author reading, interview, and judges’ citation
New York Times book review
Paulette Jiles official author website
LitLovers discussion guide

READALIKES:

Bohemian Girl book coverBohemian Girl
by Terese Svoboda

True Grit book coverTrue Grit
by Charles Portis

Far as the Eye Can See book coverFar As the Eye Can See
by Robert Bausch

Book Discussion Questions: Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

Title: Lucky Boy
Author:  Shanthi Sekaran
Page Count: 472 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction, Multiple Perspectives
Tone: Sympathetic, Moving

Summary:
A wrenching emotional battle ensues between Soli, an undocumented Mexican single mother, and Kavya, an Indian-American chef who cannot have children, when Soli’s infant son is placed in Kavya’s care during an immigration detention.

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

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2018 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. How would you describe Soli as a character? How would you describe Kavya? In what ways were they similar?

2. Did you relate to one woman more than the other? If so, why?

3. What was Kavya’s reasoning to keep Iggy? What was Soli’s reasoning to keep Iggy?
Who do you think Ignacio should have ended up with?

4. Do you agree with this statement? “This story, this fight for a boy—it wasn’t about the boy. It was about his mothers.”

5. Did Iggy adjust between the change in family okay?

6. Why did the author spend so much time developing the characters on their own before we get into the fight for Ignacio?

7. What makes a person privileged? How does this relate to Kavya and Soli’s stories?

8. What was Soli’s desire to move in the first place? Did anything surprise you about her journey?

9. What did you think of Soli’s employers, the Cassidy’s? Why did they have such a weird relationship with Soli?

10. Does Kavya’s love for Iggy change her understanding of heritage? Does it change her husband’s and parents’ understanding of heritage?

11. Is Silvia a good role model for Soli? Why or why not?

12. Is Silvia’s lie forgivable?

13. Was this an accurate portrayal of motherhood?

14. We explore a lot about Soli and Kavya as mothers. What about their own mothers? How do they act as mothers?

15. Between all of the characters, is there any version of motherhood not shared?

16. How did Rishi plan for Iggy? How did they bond?

17. Was there any symbolism with Rishi’s work with Weebie?

18. How did Kavya’s relationship with Preeti change?

19. What did you think about the scenes with the immigration detention center?

20. Does this story remind you of any stories from the news?

21. From the publisher: “Lucky Boy is an emotional journey that will leave you certain of the redemptive beauty of this world. There are no bad guys in this story, no obvious hero.” Do you agree with that?

22. Was Ignacio a lucky boy?

23. Was there anything that surprised you about this book?

24. What made these characters real rather than just symbols? Were there any characters that felt like just symbols?

25. Does the author make a moral claim/vote for what she believes is right?

26. Which character developed the most?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

NPR article, “Immigration and Infertility Bring Two Mothers Over One ‘Lucky Boy'”
Public Radio International article, “The Novel ‘Lucky Boy’ and a Timely Story of Immigration and Motherhood”
Q&A with author Shanti Sekaran
Discussion Guide from LitLovers
Video: author Shanthi Sekaran shares at UC Berkeley
Book review from New York Journal of Books

READALIKES:

A House for Happy Mothers book coverA House for Happy Mothers
by Amulya Malladi

Lawn Boy book coverLawn Boy
by Jonathan Evison

The Same Sky
by Amanda Eyre Ward

Book Discussion Questions: $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer

2.00 dollars a Day book coverTitle:  $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America
Author:  Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer
Page Count: 210 pages
Genre: NonfictionSocial Justice, Call-to-Action
Tone:  Eye-Opening, Anecdotal, Sobering

Summary:
A revelatory assessment of poverty in America examines the survival methods employed by households with virtually no income to illuminate disturbing trends in low-wage labor and income inequality.

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

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2018 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

  1. 1. Think back to when you first picked up this book. What kind of book did you expect to read? Is that the book you read? How was it different?

2. In what ways did this passage from the introduction strike a chord: “Recent public discussions of rising inequality in the United States have largely focused on the biggest winners of the past decade, the top one percent. But there is a different inequality at work at the other end of the income scale” (xxiii)?

3. As you think back over the experience of reading the book, what made the biggest impression? Are there stories or issues or feelings that will stay with you months later?

4. How accessible was the book? Did you feel you understood what the authors were trying to communicate?

5. Would you describe this as a heavy read? A depressing one? An inspiring one? What words would you use?

6. Several of the illustrative narratives are set in Chicago. Do you think that affected your experience of them? In which way(s)?

7. “[Representative surveys] have consistently shown that between 60 and 70 percent of the American public believes that the government is ‘spending too little on assistance for the poor.’ However, if Americans are asked about programs labeled ‘welfare’ in particular, their support for assistance drops considerably.” (14) Is this understandable? Fair? What might be done?

8. After reading about the mischaracterization of welfare recipients (e.g., the ‘welfare queen’) and ongoing perceptions, how does this compare to our the current buzz phrase of ‘fake news’?

9. “How is it that a solid work ethic is not an adequate defense against extreme poverty?”(45) How might you answer this question based on what you’ve read?

10. Have any of you ever applied for a job via an online application? Did the scenario described in the book (pp. 50-51) seem reasonable?

11. How is lack of schedule flexibility a complicating factor once employment is found?

12. Were you surprised to read how extensive the selling of food stamps can be? If you were in that position, what would you do?

13. What roles can the library play in the lives of families who struggle? Give examples from the book – or from those you know.

14. Contrast the situations of the extreme poor in cities with those in rural communities such as the Appalachian regions. Did this surprise you? How accurate is the chapter title, “A World Apart”? Are there commonalities?

15. How do the families portrayed in the book find the will to keep going? Do they have hope? Are they happy? What does this tell us?

16. According to the authors, what has gone terribly wrong in welfare reform? Has anything gone right?

17. What role might the government play in creating and supporting job opportunities?

18. What issues were raised about housing? Are there viable solutions?

19. Several sources take issue with the premise and statistics cited in this book, and one is included in the resources below. What is the counter-position? How convincing are these arguments? Is there truth on each side?

20. Does the book have potential to bring about real change?

21. Does this book have potential to spark real empathy? What good does that do?

22. How did you respond to this statement: “Yet despite all they’ve been through, despite the abuse and trauma, the hunger and fear, despite the anger they carry with them at what they have endured, many of the everyday experiences of the $2-a-day poor are – truly—American to the core”?

23. Were you confronted with any personal preconceptions and/or misperceptions? Are you different for reading this book? Did it change your mind about anything?

24. What, if anything, can we do? Do you see opportunities? How do we not forget?

25. What did you learn from this book?

26. Are you glad you read this book? That it was chosen for discussion?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

Detailed Group Discussion Guide from official book website
Video: Author Kathryn J. Edin on PBS NewsHour
Counterpoint: “The Number of Americans Living on $2.00 a Day Is Zero” via Forbes
Interview with Edin and Shaefer via The Atlantic
The Washington Post reports “What It’s Like to Live on $2 a Day in the United States
Reviews from The New York Times, Kirkus, and The Boston Globe

READALIKES:

Book Discussion Questions: Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

Necessary Lies book coverTitle: Necessary Lies
Author:  Diane Chamberlain
Page Count: 343 pages
Genre:  Domestic Fiction
Tone:  Compelling, Haunting

Summary:
Set in the 1960s, the little-known North Carolina’s Eugenics Sterilization Program is brought to light as twenty-two year old Jane Forrester defies societal pressure and begins work as a social worker. Although they seem worlds apart, she becomes linked with fifteen-year-old Ivy Hart as both are haunted by tragedy and are confronted with the question, “How can you know what you believe is right, when everyone is telling you it’s wrong?”

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

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. In the first chapter, a woman named finds “Ivy & Mary was here” carved in the wall. Where did you think this book was going?

2. Initially we are introduced to Jane, a young woman who is getting married and is applying for a job as a social worker. What did you think about her? Did you find her character relatable?

3. What were your initial thoughts of Robert? Did you feel the same way about him throughout the book?

4. Robert desperately wants Jane to fit in, why do you think that is?

5. Out of Ivy, Nonni, Mary Ella, and baby William, who did you find to be the most sympathetic? The most interesting?

6. If you believe that Mary Ella was mentally challenged, do you think it was in Mary Ella’s best interest to have the procedure?

7. What did you think of Nonni’s ability to raise the family?

8. What did you think of Baby Williams care?

9. Did you think that Baby William should be taken away?

10. Mr. Gardiner did not want the police coming out to look for baby William (he said this was “private farm business”). Why?

11. Initially we did not know who Baby William’s father was, although fingers pointed to Eli. Did you believe that or did you have other theories?

12. Were you surprise Eli was Mary Ella’s brother?

13. How could you compare the Jordan family to the Harts? Which family was better off?

14. Lita had 4 sons and a daughter. People said all her children had a different daddy. Did that line in the book leave you with preconceived notions of her?

15. Why did you think Lita sent Sheena away?

16. What did you initially think of Henry Allen’s relationship with Ivy? Did your perspective change?

17. Jane did not love the idea of eugenics and she definitely didn’t want to do it behind her clients back.  In response to this, the director said “your self-righteousness is getting in the way of your duty to your clients.” What did you think of his comment?

18. Mary Ella wanted more children. She had no idea she had been sterilized. Jane decided to tell Mary Ella that she had been sterilized. Should she have? Why/Why not?

19. Why did Mary walk in front of Mr. Gardiner’s truck?

20. Do you think Ivy would be a legitimate candidate for the procedure?

21. When Ivy is told that she is pregnant she is please by this news after the shock. She says, “thank God for this little baby”. What did you think of her reaction?

22. What did you think of Henry Allen’s reaction to the pregnancy?

23. It seems the only real difference between Henry Allen and Ivy was a class distinction. Do you think things would have worked out differently if they were both of the same socioeconomic background?

24. There was a lot that come out at Mary Ella’s funeral. What did you think when Eli disclosed that Mr. Gardiner was Baby William’s and Rodney’s father?

25. What did you think of Jane taking Ivy to her home?

26. Why was the social worker, Paula, so insistent on finding Ivy and prosecuting Jane?

27. A side story was Jane’s relationship with Lois Parker. What drew her to Lois? What did you think about their relationship?

28. How did you like the ending?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

Readers’ Guide for Necessary Lies.
Discussion Questions written by Tosa Book Club
Discussion experience by Whitney Book Bistroy
Book Reporter’s compilation of readers’ comments
Victims of State Sterilization Tell Their Story” (video)
Interview with Diane Chamberlain
“Unwanted Sterilization and Eugenics Programs in the United States”

READALIKES:

Before We Were Yours book coverBefore We Were Yours
by Lisa Wingate

Plain Truth book coverPlain Truth
by Jodi Picoult

The House Girl book coverThe House Girl
by Tara Conklin

Book Discussion Questions: The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

The Nest book coverTitle:  The Nest
Author:  Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
Page Count: 353 pages
Genre:  Contemporary Lit, Dysfunctional Family Fiction
Tone:  Sardonic, Moving

Summary:
Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point after an ensuing accident endangers the Plumbs’ joint trust fund, which they are months away from finally receiving. Brought together as never before, Leo, Melody, Jack, and Beatrice must grapple with old resentments, present-day truths, and the significant emotional and financial toll of the accident, as well as finally acknowledge the choices they have made in their own lives.

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

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. Is this book funny? Is it romantic (in world-view)? One review compared it to Nancy Meyers movies – (e.g., Something’s Gotta Give, It’s Complicated); would you agree?

2. Multiple reviews compared the opening chapter in some way to a movie-ready hook with action, sex, and drama. Was this an effective way to set the story in motion? Did you find it irresistible or off-putting?

3. In an interview with BookPage, Sweeney says she’s always described the book as being about family and that it surprised her to hear it described by other people as a book about money. Does it surprise you that she didn’t predict others’ perception?

4. In that same conversation, Sweeney points out the book has given people the opportunity to talk about something that is important in everyone’s life but rarely discussed in public. In your opinion, is this true?

5. Did you happen to learn the idea that sparked this book?

… she got the idea for the book while walking through Manhattan one day, on her way to meet her own family for brunch. “I was noticing all of these people sitting in the window with their drinks, on every street corner,” she says. “And I just had an image in my head of family members who are about to get together, but they’re having a separate drink …and the image really stuck with me. And I just started thinking about who the people would be and why they needed courage to see one another, and why they couldn’t drink in front of one of another, and what was difficult about this meeting they were about to have. And once I started started answering those questions, that’s how the story started to take shape. (NPR: All Things Considered)

What did the moments in the story prior to the lunch meeting reveal about each character?

6. Did you like spending time with the characters? Does that matter? Were there those you were more excited to read about or with whom you could better identify?

7. Were the siblings wrong to make plans for the anticipated money? Do you blame them?

From The Washington Post: An organization called Wealth-X (world’s leading ultra-high net worth intelligence firm) issued report about what it calls “looming wave of wealth transfers”.  Baby Boomers are expected to bequeath some $16 trillion to their children over the next three decades…For rich, this holds little suspense, but for upper-mid-class Americans balancing mortgage payments, tuition bills, and retirement plans on a brittle tower of monthly paychecks, this bounty looms with the promise of salvation.

      Does this frame change your answer at all?

8. Is Leo believable as a character? Do you have any sympathy for him?

9. Are the Plumb characters well-rounded?

10. What about the siblings’ partners? Are the non-Plumb characters too idyllic?

11. Many readers express an affinity for Stephanie. Why do you think that is? Were you rooting for her and Leo to be together? Would you have wanted to read even more about her?

12. What about the subplots with Miranda, Vinnie, and Tommy? Were you invested in these stories as much as those of the Plumbs?

13. The New York Times Book Review piece on The Nest opens with this line: “’The Nest’ is a novel in the Squabbling Sibling genre.” Do you think of this as a genre?

14. Another behind-the-scenes tidbit:

Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s agent sent her novel to publishers the Monday after Thanksgiving. As readers who had likely spent long weekends with their own dysfunctional families, he told her, they would be especially receptive to her book’s dysfunctional Plumb clan. The plan worked, and the 55-year-old’s debut landed a seven-figure advance. (The Atlantic)

Do you admire the calculated timing, or does it seem coincidental?  In your opinion would the book have been just as well received without the proximity to the holidays?

15. The Nest is about a group of privileged group of people – upper-middle-class white siblings – yet would you say that it is successful in touching on issues more universal? How so?

16. It’s also been described as a “New York novel”, a category that though lauded in literary circles is criticized for being too navel-gazing (esp. with authors and agents included!). Would you place it in this category? What makes it so? What transcends those boundaries?

17. The Nest is about inheritance, and upon hearing that word we immediately think of money, objects, or property. What about the intangibles we inherit from family? Consider the siblings and what is illustrated about how we inherit a place in a family and all that entails. What do you think?

18. Walker is fascinated that a group of adults could use the term ‘the Nest’ in all “earnestness and never even casually contemplate the twisted metaphor of the thing, and how it related to their dysfunctional behavior as individuals and a group.”(260) What did he mean?

19. Walker also observes that the issue with Leo and the money sparked a different dynamic between the siblings, that they were “making casual forays into one another’s lives”…and held out hope that they might ”…move on, try to forge relationships with one another that weren’t about the inheritance.”(261) Did you notice this, too?  Do you think this would have happened without the situation with Leo?

20. Late in the book, Melody asks, “when did Leo start hating us?…How was it so easy for him to leave?…Was it really just about money? Was it about us?”(291)  We’ve seen things from Leo’s perspective; can we answer those questions?

21. How did the scenes with Louisa and Nora add to the overall story? What, if anything, do the sisters – both individually and together (esp. as twins!) illuminate regarding family and individual dynamics?  Did you see these forays into the ‘next’ generation as distraction or complements?

22. Melody has an epiphany about herself (with Walt’s help) at the Chinese restaurant outing (300). Do you remember what she realized?  Do you think her life will be different going forward?

23. How did you feel about the final scenes of looking for Leo? About the scene from Leo’s perspective?  Should Paul or Bea or Leo have acted differently?  Did you understand their actions?

24. Were you hoping that Leo would redeem himself? Does the author’s choice seem believable?

25. Did the epilogue resolve everything a little too neatly, or did you find it satisfying?

26. NYT Critic “Janet Maslin argued that the primary flaw of the novel was that it was unable to break out of the tropes of dysfunctional family literature.” Would you agree? Whether or not you agree, did this affect your experience of the book?

27. One book podcast recommended this title for a woman who doesn’t read but who loves reality TV such as the Real Housewives franchise. In your opinion, is this a good fit?

28. To whom might you recommend this book?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

website of author Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
LitLovers discussion guide of The Nest
MPPL-created character map (contains mild spoilers)
from NPR: “Humor and Heart Fill The Nest
In The Nest, a Family Pot to Split Sets Sibling Relations to a Slow Boil” via The New York Times
The Nest: A Tale of Family, Fortune, and Dysfunction” via The Atlantic

READALIKES:

Seven Days of Us book coverSeven Days of Us
by Francesca Hornak

This Is Where I Leave You book coverThis Is Where I Leave You
by Jonathan Tropper

Vacationers book coverThe Vacationers
by Emma Straub

Book Discussion Questions: The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan

Title: The Girls of Atomic City
Author: Denise Kiernan
Page Count: 309 pages
Genre: World War II Nonfiction, History
Tone: Informative, Atmospheric

Summary:
The story of several women who worked in various positions at the Clinton Engineering Works in Oak Ridge, Tennessee during World War II to secretly make fuel for the atomic bomb.

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

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. Chapter one opens with women riding on a “train to nowhere”. What were some of the things made these women open to doing this? How hard was it on people to leave? Was it harder for some than others? What about those who had families?

2. How did secrecy affect the community at Oak Ridge?

3. How did privacy affect the community at Oak Ridge? How did the residents feel about the fact that anyone could be watching them or listening to them at any time? Was this different than the broader United States at that time?

4. How did the earlier residents of this area feel about their land being taken from them to use for this project (“the taking.”) How did this follow some of the other “land taking” they’d experienced, like the Great Smoky National Park and the Norris Dam? Did patriotism and the war effort affect this? If so, in what ways?

5. How were African Americans treated differently than the white Americans in Oak Ridge? How do you feel about this? (Hutment: 16’x16’ plywood box with a door and a shutter, heated by a potbellied stove, housing 4 women, for $6.50/person/month with no spouses. Whites had dorms for 2 people at $10/person/month. Also trailers, houses, etc where couples and families could live.) What other ways were African Americans discriminated against? Did they sacrifice more?

6. This was an untold story of WWII that the author has brought to light. The part women have played in history has often been overlooked. Why are these important to tell even years later? Have you read other books or seen movies that have told their stories? (Hidden Figures) Why do you think the book is called “The Girls of Atomic City” not women?

7. Before reading this book had you heard of some of the notable female scientists who worked with atomic physics? Have their contributions been given the same weight that males in that discipline have?

8. Lise Meitner played a large part in discovering atomic fission, but when she realized the application of this discovery she decided not to join the Manhattan Project? How do you feel about that?

9. Read these quotes from Albert Einstein and discuss how you feel about them?

He wrote to physicist Niels Bohr in December 1944, “when the war is over, then there will be in all countries a pursuit of secret war preparations with technological means which will lead inevitably to preventative wars and to destruction even more terrible than the present destruction of life.”
Einstein withheld public comment on the atomic bombing of Japan until a year afterward. A short article on the front page of the New York Times contained his view: “Prof. Albert Einstein… said that he was sure that President Roosevelt would have forbidden the atomic bombing of Hiroshima had he been alive and that it was probably carried out to end the Pacific war before Russia could participate.” (“Einstein Deplores Use of Atom Bomb”, New York Times, 8/19/46, pg. 1). Einstein later wrote, “I have always condemned the use of the atomic bomb against Japan.”
In November 1954, five months before his death, Einstein summarized his feelings about his role in the creation of the atomic bomb: “I made one great mistake in my life… when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made; but there was some justification – the danger that the Germans would make them.” (http://www.doug-long.com/einstein.htm)

10. Do you think it was acceptable to hire people to work on this project without them knowing what it was that they were helping to make? Who do you think risked exposure to radiation? Any people stand out? (Those who carried the canisters to Los Alamos. Ebb Cade’s experimentation.) How did the statement, everything’s going in, nothings coming out play into this?

11. Talk about the “ordinary” people who worked on the bomb. Who stood out to you and why? What were their jobs? Who did you empathize with? Who were the “extraordinary” people involved in the project? What were their jobs? Did you feel you got to know them?

12. Talk about the physical characteristics of Oak Ridge? Why was it selected for Site X? How did the environmental conditions affect the residents of the town?

13. How did people try to bring a sense of normalcy to the structured and secretive life at Oak Ridge? Why do you think some were successful in adapting to Oak Ridge while others were not?

14. Was Kiernan successful in transporting you to the world of World War II? Why or why not? What things gave you that sense of time or the era? How did you feel about the way in which the book moved from the stories of the “ordinary people” to the stories about the scientists, generals and politicians involved in the highest level of the project?

15. How much did you know about The Manhattan Project before reading this book? Did you learn anything interesting about it you didn’t know before. (One example for me is just this past summer I saw the headquarters of the Bohemian Club in San Francisco, and I knew it was a private, all-male club, but I didn’t know it was involved with the Manhattan Project.)

16. How did WWI and WWII differ from previous wars and subsequent wars the US has been involved in? Are wars unifying or divisive for a country?

17. What did most Americans at that time feel about the war and the use of the atomic bombs? Has our thinking about this changed with time? Why or why not? What have been the ramifications of the atomic bomb and atomic energy, both positive and negative? Let’s talk about how the bombs were used. How were the targets chosen? What were the outcomes? How did the US try to lessen casualties? Hiroshima – August 6, 140,000 killed. Three days later Nagasaki – 40,000 killed. Five days later Japan surrendered.

18. There was a real sense that Americans trusted their government and military leaders and would follow them in this period of time. How is our world different today? Is something this huge, involving so many people, over so long a period of time, with such secrecy possible today? Is that a negative or a positive?

19. How many of you liked this book? How many disliked it? Reasons for or against? Would you have liked this better as a movie?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

The Girls of Atomic City website
PBS feature “Women on a Top- Secret Mission in ‘Atomic City'”
Simon and Schuster Discussion Questions
The Manhattan Project: An Interactive History from the U.S. Department of Energy

READALIKES:

Our Mothers’ War
by Emily Yellin

Rise of the Rocket Girls
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Hidden Figures
by Margot Lee Shetterly