Check It Out Category: Book Discussion Questions

Book Discussion Questions: Killers of the Flower Moon

TCover of Killers of the Flower Moonitle: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
Author: David Grann
Page Count: 338 pages
Genre: Nonfiction
Tone: Disturbing, Richly detailed

Summary: Presents a true account of the early twentieth-century murders of dozens of wealthy Osage and law-enforcement officials, citing the contributions and missteps of a fledgling FBI that eventually uncovered one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.

 

 

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: 2019 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

    1. 1. Before reading this book had you ever heard of the Osage Native Americans? If not, why do you think it would be that many of us never heard of a tribe of Native Americans who were among the wealthiest people in the world? “The world’s richest people per capita were becoming the world’s most murdered.  The press later described the killings as being as ‘dark and sordid as any murder story of the century’ and ‘the bloodiest chapter in American crime history’.” (p. 103)  So why isn’t it better known?

 

    1. 2. How did the Osage come to be so wealthy? What tactics did the government employ to inhibit the Osage from freely using their money?

 

    1. 3. The subtitle is “The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI”  – obviously they are intertwined, but are these topics given equal weight?  Were you more involved with one than the other?

 

    1. 4. Mollie is quickly established as the central character.  How would you describe her?  Did your opinion change during the story?  Why did Grann use her as a focus?

 

    1. 5. Is it difficult to believe such an intricate web of deeds and people went undetected for so long?  How do we explain this?

 

    1. 6. Did you like the inclusion of photos throughout the story?  How did that add to your understanding?  Was there anything in particular that made an impression?

 

    1. 7. I’m supposing we have some veteran mystery and history readers in here.  Did any of you guess who was responsible for many of the deaths?

 

    1. 8. Can you recall your first impression of William Hale?  How does the author bring to life his strengths and appeal, as well as the darker side of his nature?

 

    1. 9. How did you respond to the description of law enforcement in America during the 1920s?  Did anything shock or surprise you?  What made the situation in Osage Co. particularly chaotic?

 

    1. 10. In what ways does Tom White combine the qualities of the Old West and of the modern bureaucratic system Hoover is trying to create?  Would you define him as the hero of the book?  What about his post-investigative life?

 

    1. 11. Perhaps the most chilling aspect of KotFM is the marital and familial connections between murderers and their victims..  What explains EB’s actions even as he remained married to and had children with Mollie?  How does Grann bring to life the particular horror of crimes committed within a family and a close-knit community?

 

    1. 12. Part two seems to draw the story to a close, but then we’re teased for part three.  Did this surprise you?  Were you glad?  What do we learn in Part 3?

 

    1. 13. In Part three the story was told differently, in that the author inserted himself.  Was this the right technique to use?  Did it enhance the story?

 

    1. 14. Were you satisfied with how the book ended?

 

    1. 15. How might you describe the experience of reading this book?  Was it easy to delve into?  Fast-paced?  Dull?

 

    1. 16. Did anything in the book make you angry?

 

    1. 17. Would you recommend this book to a friend?

 

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

 

    1. OTHER RESOURCES:
    2. The New York Time’s February Book Club Pick
      LitLovers Guide to Killers of the Flower Moon
      David Grann’s Official Website
      PBS Newshour Interview with Author David Grann

 

  1. READALIKES:
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Book Discussion Questions: The Paris Architect

Tthe paris architect book coveritle: The Paris Architect
Author: Charles Belfoure
Page Count: 388 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Tone: Suspenseful

Summary: A Parisian architect is paid handsomely to devise secret hiding spaces for Jews in his Nazi-occupied country but struggles with risking his life for a cause he is ambivalent towards, until a personal failure brings home their suffering.

 

 

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: 2019 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

  1. 1. The story begins with Lucien Bernard rounding a corner at the Rue La Boetie and a man almost collides with him. The man is almost immediately shot down by the German soldiers.  What did you think of Lucien’s reaction to this and did it set a tone for his character?
  2. 2. Lucien is an out of work architect, desperate for work. He meets with Auguste Manet who asks him to build a hiding space for a Jewish man being hunted by the Gestapo.  Let’s talk about this interaction.
  3. 3. What did you think about Celeste and Lucien’s relationship?
  4. 4. Collaboration was a very sensitive topic for the French. Let’s talk about this
  5. 5. Let’s talk about Adele, Lucien’s mistress.
  6. 6. “The Occupation hadn’t just bred hatred of Jews; it had brought out the very worst in human beings, neighbor against neighbor and even friend against friend. People would screw over each other for a lump of butter”.  Let’s discuss.
  7. 7. It was dangerous to hide Jewish people. What did you think of anyone hiding a Jewish person? Would you?
  8. 8. What did you think about Celeste’s reaction when Lucien admitted that he had saved two Jewish people?
  9. 9. Let’s talk about some of the German characters, did any stand out? If so why?
  10. 10. Most WW2 fiction, including this book, seems to portray most Germans in a less than pleasant light. What do you think of this?
  11. 11. The book is a series of vignettes describing the plight of Jewish people that were hiding. Did any of the stories particularly strike you?
  12. 12. Did you imagine yourself in any of the situations the Jewish people found themselves in? What would you have done if Captain Bruckner lined up the people in your neighborhood or you were forced to hide under a set of stairs?
  13. 13. We meet Adele’s right-hand “man”, Bette Tullard. Let’s talk about her.
  14. 14. Why do you think it was so important to Schlegel to find any hidden Jews?
  15. 15. Let’s talk about Father Jacques, the priest that took in Pierre.
  16. 16. Lucien ended up loving Pierre like a son. Why do you think Lucien took Pierre in?
  17. 17. Pierre realizes that there is something “off” about Alain and follows him. Let’s talk about this chapter.
  18. 18. Lucien’s attitude about helping Jewish people has an abrupt change, let’s talk about this
  19. 19. Lucien is approached by the Resistance. What is/was your opinion of France’s Resistance?
  20. 20. “The Resistance does its best under extremely difficult conditions.  But we must fight back.  To live defeated is to die every day”.  Do you agree, or do you think it is better to choose your battles?  Which side do you believe you would end up in, Resistance or Collaborator?
  21. 21. What did you think of Lucien helping the Resistance to sacrifice his factory?
  22. 22. Let’s talk about the ending.
  23. 23. “When all this Madness if over, I hope we meet again,” said Lucien to Herzog. Do you think they will?  If so, what do you think would happen if they did meet after the war?
  24. 24. Did you have a favorite character?
  25. 25. Do you think history could repeat itself in today’s world?

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 Journal of Books The Paris Architect: A Novel
Reading Group Guides Guide to The Paris Architect
Charles Belfoure’s Official Website
Lit Lovers Guide to The Paris Architect

READALIKES:

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Book Discussion Questions: Born a Crime

Tborn a crime book coveritle: Born a Crime
Author: Trevor Noah
Page Count: 288 pages
Genre: Memoir, Humor Writing
Tone: Reflective, Engaging, Candid, Witty

Summary: The story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty.

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: 2019 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. Were you familiar with Trevor Noah before reading this book? Have you seen The Daily Show?
2. Trevor’s experience growing up seemed similar to the experience of people growing up in our country more like 60 years ago than 30 years ago. Does his youth resonate with you in the ways that racism affected him and in the childhood that he had growing up not very long ago?
3. How does language play a role in Trevor’s life and what he observes in human culture?
4. What role does being mixed play in Trevor’s life? How do Americans see him?
5. How did Trevor’s Mom raise him? What were the impacts of her not putting limitations on him and raising him unlike any example she had of how to raise a child? How would you describe Noah? Patricia?
6. What did you think about Trevor’s Mom’s discipline?
7. Where did Trevor fit in? Who accepted him? Why did Trevor always feel like an outsider? How did he cope with that?
8. Do you think Noah had a good childhood? How do you think his childhood is unique from others who grew up in South Africa? What types of danger did Noah face in his childhood?
9. What did you think about Trevor’s relationship with his biological father, Robert? What was Trevor’s father like? How did you view him as a person?
10. How was apartheid similar to American Jim Crow and how was it different?
11. What did you think about the way Trevor’s Mom tried to raised him to treat women, and how does that reconcile with her marrying Abel? Why did she marry Abel when she said she wouldn’t consider marrying Trevor’s father?
12. A lot of what happens in this story is told with humor, even though many things were very dark. Would you consider Trevor an optimist and how did his attitude and views of his own life influence the person he became?
13. Even though he’s only 34, did him sharing his story of his life affect your views on things such as regret and taking chances and the choices that you make?
14. How does this book compare to other memoirs/autobiographies you have read? What do you think of Noah’s writing style? Do you like his voice?
15. What did you think of how he structured the book?
16. Who do you think Noah had in mind as the audience for his memoir?
17. How can this book contribute to understanding current state of race relations in United States?
18. Are there any quotes from book you’d like to share? Any passage or line that was particularly memorable? Favorite chapter?
19. How did you respond to Trevor’s use of humor in telling stories from his youth? How did humor shape his experience growing up?
20. What kind of impact did this book have on you?
21. Did you like the book? What surprised you? Would you recommend it to friends?
22. Do any of his stories / comments challenge your beliefs? Do you think any of his opinions are provocative?
23. Do you think you’ll want to see the upcoming film adaptation? What passages from the book will make good scenes?
24. Noah is reportedly working on a second book, picking up where Born a Crime ends and about his journey as a comedian in South Africa. Will you be interested in reading it?

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 New York Times Books of the Times
The Guardian review of Born a Crime
Trevor Noah’s official website
NPR interview with Trevor Noah

READALIKES:

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Book Discussion Questions: The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper

the Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper book coverTitle: The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper
Author: Phaedra Patrick
Page Count: 331 pages
Genre: Mainstream Fiction
Tone: Bouncing-back, Relatable, Heartwarming, Engaging

Summary: Sixty-nine-year-old Arthur Pepper lives a simple life. He gets out of bed at precisely 7:30 a.m., just as he did when his wife, Miriam, was alive. He dresses in the same gray slacks and mustard sweater-vest, waters his fern, Frederica, and heads out to his garden. But on the one-year anniversary of Miriam’s death, something changes. Sorting through Miriam’s possessions, Arthur finds an exquisite gold charm bracelet he’s never seen before. What follows is a surprising and unforgettable odyssey that takes Arthur from London to Paris and as far as India in an epic quest to find out the truth about his wife’s secret life before they met– a journey that leads him to find hope, healing, and self-discovery in the most unexpected places.

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: 2019 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

  1. 1. How is Arthur set in his ways? How does his journey change his attitude toward daily routine and the comforts of home?

2. Arthur feels comfortable in his house and finds security in his daily routine. Are there any problems with this? If someone wants to stay home a lot, is that in and of itself a bad thing? How does one find the right balance of being home and going out, and can this change over time? What are the downsides of being a “homebody” as people age?

3. Is it more difficult to break out of routines (and comfort zones) as we age? Is it more difficult to open our minds to new possibilities?

4. How much does daily routine factor into the experience of marriage? How is Arthur’s routine disrupted after he loses Miriam? How can routine be helpful in coping with the loss of a spouse? How can it become a hindrance?

5. How does this book capture the experience of being a widow?

5. Speaking of their neighbor Bernadette, Miriam had remarked once to Arthur that “bereaved people act in one of two ways…” (pg. 32). Based on your observations and life experience, what do you think? Do you believe Miriam would have accurately predicted how Arthur handled bereavement?

7. How many secrets did Miriam keep from Arthur? Which revelations are most surprising?

8. How do Arthur’s discoveries affect his view of their marriage? How does Arthur’s view of Miriam change by the end of the book?

9. How does Arthur view the bracelet as he learns more about his wife? How does he balance his curiosity with the frustration of not knowing Miriam as well as he had thought? Several times he said he wished he never found the bracelet. Do you think by the end of the story he still wished that?

10. There are popular wedding shower games based on discovering how well the engaged couple knows one another – how would Arthur have fared in such a party game? If a fiancé doesn’t perform well on such quizzes, should it be a cause for concern? (How important is it for a couple to know details about their lives before they met?)

11. What are the different ways in which a relationship can change over time? Is it bad if the relationship doesn’t change? How are Miriam and Arthur similar to other lifelong couples that you know?

12. Ponder some of Arthur’s concerns about his marriage after he learns more about Miriam’s past – do you think Miriam was bored with Arthur and/or with married life? Did Miriam feel trapped? Had she settled? Did he keep her from doing things she enjoyed?

13. Did Miriam’s secrets prevent them from having a successful marriage? Were Arthur and Miriam happily married? (Was their marriage a good one?) Were they a good match for each other? Was Arthur a good husband to Miriam?

14. Does the novel provide enough info about their marriage for you as reader to form an opinion of it?  Are you curious about Miriam’s perspective on her marriage with Arthur?

15. If he could start over again, what would Arthur do differently in his marriage with Miriam?

16. “They should have visited new places together” (pg. 112 ) —  Do you think it is common to have some elements of regrets when looking back on a long, seemingly successful marriage? Even if they had traveled more, if Arthur and Miriam were always together is that another form of being “sheltered”?

17. How important is it for couples to get out of the house and do (fun) things together? How important is it for people to get out and do things (on their own or with friends) without their partner? Should couples encourage each other to pursue their own interests and strengthen connections with others?

18. Whether you are married or not, why is it important to seek out novelty, such as exploring new places and meeting new people?

19. Do you strive to seek variety and new experiences in your life? How do you balance the comfort of the old with the fun of the new? Has reading this book inspired you to shake up your routine, seek new experiences, meet new people, and/or travel?

20. Through his adventures seeking info about his wife’s charms, how is Arthur pushed out of his comfort zone? Do these experiences contribute to any personal change? How is Arthur better able to connect with other people by the end of the book?

21. Do you believe Miriam left the bracelet in a place where she knew Arthur would likely discover it?

22. When Arthur looks at the photos hung for his birthday celebration, what is the significance of his noticing Miriam wearing the bracelet in a photo when the children were young? How long ago do you think she stopped wearing it? (How long do you think it had been in the boot?)

23. If her illness hadn’t been so sudden, do you believe Miriam would have ever told Arthur about her past?

24. What’s next for Arthur after he returns from Goa? What kind of daily routine do you think he’ll develop, and how will it differ from before he discovered the bracelet? How do you see him interacting with village residents/neighbors/ acquaintances/friends? How about with Lucy and Dan? Do you see him becoming good friends with Bernadette?

25. Why can it be difficult for adult children and their aging parents to connect and relate to one another? Do you believe Lucy and Dan are emotionally distant? What about Arthur?

26. There are two chapters focused on Lucy. Would you have liked to read more from her point of view? Do you believe there should have been a chapter or two focused on Dan for balance?

27. How would you describe the interactions between Arthur and Nathan? How do they view each other?

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 Nolan Show audio interview with Phaedra Patrick
Publisher’s Weekly book review
Phaedra Patrick’s official author website
LitLovers discussion guide
“Why I Write” article by Phaedra Patrick

READALIKES:

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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:

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