Archives for posts with tag: Discussion Questions

The All Good Books group will discuss Allen Eskens’ novel The Life We Bury this Thursday, September 17, 2020 at 7 PM on Zoom.

Possible discussion questions follow:

  1. How would you summarize “The Life We Bury” to a friend without giving away the ending or other important events?
  2. Would you have interviewed a murderer as Joe Talbert did? Why or why not?
  3. How would you describe the main characters in the book? Joe Talbert, Carl Iverson, L. Nash, Jeremy Naylor, Kathy Nelson, Mary Lorngren, Grandpa Bill, Crystal Hagen, Dan Lockwood, Doug Lockwood, Max Rupert, Andy Fisher.
  4. As you read the novel, did you find the characters unique or stereotypes? Believable or implausible? Was the plot believable, predictable, unexpected, or implausible?
  5. Were there concepts, ideas, people or events in the book that you researched further beyond what was indicated in the novel? Did you look up any of the following? The Innocence Project, Pascal’s gambit, Occam’s razor, Dying declaration, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Donner party, Romanesque Revival, or BOLO?
  6. In a conversation between Joe Talbert and Carl Iverson the question of “killing” vs. “murdering“ is raised. Is there a difference?
  7. What did you think the novel’s title indicated about the story and its characters? Whose was the life that was buried and what was buried?
  8. Was there an event or happening in the novel that “stuck with you” or was particularly memorable?
  9. Is guilt a character in the novel? Explain your response.
  10. Why do you think Carl Iverson watched the girl next door so closely? Is his motivation ever explained in the novel?
  11. What is Hillview Manor? How is it described? Does that description match your experiences?
  12. Would you read another murder mystery by Allen Eskens? Explain.

The All Good Books group will meet using Zoom at 7 PM this Thursday, July 16, 2020 to discuss The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce. It’s the sequel to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

Here’s a brief list of characters in the Queenie novel. Twenty-four possible discussion questions follow.

  • Queenie Hennessy: writer of letters to Harold Fry
  • Harold Fry: the walker whose story is told in The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
  • David Fry: He likes unexpected adventure, very smart. “His intelligence is like a knife” (page 118).
  • Napier: Harold and Queenie’s boss at the brewery.
  • Finty – rubs off foil seals to see if she has won a vacation or prize or free vouchers for dining. Coordinates the party for the arrival of Harold Fry.
  • Mr. Neville Henderson – won’t do crossword puzzles, because he may not be around for the answers. “The knuckles poked out and his sleeves hung loose as if Mr. Henderson had no more substance than a coat hanger inside a dogtooth jacket. His mouth was so blue, the lips looked bruised.” He stole a Purcell record and likes Queenie. His wife Mary, hired his best friend as her divorce lawyer. They “took him to the cleaners.”
  • Barbara: Has two glass eyes, Albert Bates once loved her.
  • The Pearly King: receives packages but almost never opens them. Says a lot of women loved him, hope they don’t all come to visit. Has an artificial arm. Never told his family he was in hospice.
  • Sister Philomena: very spiritual nun at the hospice.
  • Sister Lucy: youngest nun, naive, most active of nuns in helping patients, kind, puzzles puzzle her, no idea of distance from Kingsbridge to Berwick-upon-Tweed.
  • Sister Catherine: nosey but always helps Mr. Henderson even when he doesn’t want help. Brought the word of Harold’s phone call to residents of the hospice. She brings in the mail bag each day.
  • Sister Mary Inconnu: (Inconnu means “an unknown person or thing”). Types the letters to Harold for Queenie.
  • The Lonely Gentleman: shows up in the Harold Fry story and on page 58.

Possible Discussion Questions:

  1. How would you describe “The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy” to a friend to encourage them to read it? Would you encourage them to read it?
  2. Are there specific passages that you underlined in the book? If so, what are they? Why do they have significance for you?
  3. How do you imagine the novel be received and interpreted by a teenager? By someone in mid-life? Or by a senior?
  4. Does your view of Queenie and Harold change as you read “The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy?” How?
  5. Can “The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy” stand on its own? Would it be understood without the reader first reading “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry?”
  6. On page 56 Queenie says, “I don’t know why some of these memories must remain so crystal clear. I recall one sliver and the whole picture comes rushing back, while other things, for instance, other things I would like to remember, are completely unavailable.” Why do you think that happens? Do you have a similar experience?
  7. Why was Mr. Henderson so upset with Sister Catherine? See page 72.
  8. Queenie’s mother told her (page 74), “There is no such thing as love at first sight. People get together because the time is right.” Do you agree?
  9. What is bindweed and why does Queenie compare Napier to it? See page 78.
  10. Does your view of Mr. Napier change at all in the second novel?
  11. What is a rockery and how does it connect with Queenie’s statement on page 94, “I’d made my sea garden to atone for the terrible wrong I had done to a man I loved, I said. Sometimes you have to do something with your pain because otherwise it will swallow you.” Do you agree?
  12. What is the color of Harold’s suit and why does the author keep referring to it (as on page 102)?
  13. What is the meaning of the lesson of the peach on page 108?
  14. “Waiting” is one of the themes in the book. What did you learn about “waiting” in the book and from life?
  15. When Sister Lucy unveils the Harold Fry corner on page 122, Mr. Henderson responds, “Good grief…this is worse than Huis Clos.” To what is he referring? Did you look it up?
  16. Sister Lucy is always removing pieces from the puzzle. Why does she keep dissembling the puzzle?
  17. Who had the more difficult pilgrimage, Harold Fry or Queenie Hennessy?
  18. On page 168 Sister Inconnu says, “The sky and the sun are always there. It’s the clouds that come and go. Stop holding on to yourself, and look at the world around you…. Those days are over too. So the only thing left for you to do now is to stop trying to fix the problem.” What’s the message in that exchange?
  19. On page 173-176, Queenie relates the story of the day when the car sputters, she and Harold are lost on the highway and must walk back to Kingsbridge. Why does she describe that as a perfect day?
  20. Queenie says (on page 200), “When you know a thing is wrong, you have to work very hard to stick with it.” What does she mean, and do you agree?
  21. On page 263 Queenie reminisces that “my mind was caught up in thinking of ways to keep it safe. I was wrong, though, about the threat coming from wind or gulls. Five years ago, something else got it.” To what is she referring? Who “got it?” And what’s the life lesson?
  22. Sister Mary Inconnu at one point (page 309) says, “Dear oh dear. We really should sit and laugh at trees more often.” What was that episode about?
  23. Share your opinion: were Queenie’s letters to Harold written in Morse code or shorthand? Explain your opinion.
  24. Besides “waiting” are there other themes throughout the book? Other lessons learned?

The All Good Books group will meet tonight (Thursday, November 9, 2017) to discuss both “The Westing Game” by Ellen Raskin and “The Obsession” by Nora Roberts. We’ll meet in the Church Library at the Community of Christ Mission Road Congregation (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS) at 7:00 PM. Everyone is welcome!

Possible discussion questions for “The Westing Game” are posted online at https://allbooksclub.wordpress.com/2017/10/18/the-westing-game-discussion-questions/
Possible discussion questions for “The Obsession” are listed below:
  1. At the age of almost 12 years old, could you have done what Naomi did?
  2. Wayne, the Sheriff’s Deputy, gives Naomi some juicy fruit gum (page 18) “And she would always, from that morning on, associate the gum with simple kindness.” Is there a smell or product that reassures you or brings to mind an event in your life, either pleasant or unpleasant?
  3. What’s your impression of Naomi’s Mom, Susan? Are you sympathetic or disgusted by her reactions to her husband’s crime (page 26)? Do you understand her reactions or are they incomprehensible?
  4. On page 140, Naomi says to Xander, “People don’t always know people close to them the way they think they do.” Do you believe the family of a criminal, like Thomas David Bowes, can truly be unaware of his crimes? Do you believe his wife, friends and fellow church members were unaware?
  5. There often seems to be, in popular literature and film, a character who is deeply, radically religious and has a dark, secret life that is anything but “Christian.” Do you believe that characterization is fair? Or realistic? Or possible?
  6. Do you believe a “killer gene” exists? Are some people wired from birth to be cruel, sadistic and/or murderers?
  7. There seems to be a theme throughout the novel, that people (society) never consider or are sympathetic to the plight of a criminal’s family. Is that accurate or justified? Have you ever considered the criminal’s family and if so, in what light?
  8. On page 52, the author describes Naomi this way: “She loved movies, and truth be told she liked movies like Spider-Man and The Lord of the Rings more than the love stories her girlfriends sighed over. She liked movies where people had to do something, overcome something. Even if it meant getting bitten by a radioactive spider to do and overcome.” What kind of movies do you enjoy and seek out?
  9. On page 54-57, Mason and Naomi are discussing their father. How would you describe Thomas David Bowes?
  10. On page 58, the author states, “Living with Susan was like carrying around something delicate. You watched every step so you didn’t stumble, drop the delicate so it shattered.” Have you ever met someone like that? Why do you think Susan was so “fragile?”
  11. When talking about Susan’s secret visits to her husband in jail, Harry ( in conversation with Naomi) says “We’re going to stop lying to each other. I knew your mother was lying about going to the prison, about keeping in contact. I knew, and I kept it from Seth. I didn’t tell him because it would upset him. And that’s a lie. Omission is a lie.” Do you believe honesty is the best policy, always? Is an omission a lie?
  12. On page 79, a quote from Robert Frost states “Ends and beginnings—there are no such things. There are only middles.” What does that mean?
  13. On page 233, is a quote by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe: “Where there is a great deal of light, the shadows are deeper.” What does that mean?
  14. Naomi states on page 240, “I’d say the person in the original image knows what’s true and what’s manipulated. That’s the thing about words and images. Once the words are on the page, the image printed, it becomes what’s true.” What does that mean? Do you agree?
  15. Was there a time during your reading of “The Obsession” that you considered various characters as Naomi’s stalker and the murder/rapist? Xander? Mason? Kevin? Sam Winston, the local Sheriff? John James Mooney (realtor) Anyone else?
  16. What was your favorite part of the book? Did you view it as a thriller? A romance novel? A murder mystery? Something else?
  17. There’s a great deal of focus in the novel on Naomi fixing up the old house. Any thoughts on the inclusion of so much remodeling and refinishing in the novel?
  18. Were you surprised by the ending of the novel? Was it satisfying? Too abrupt? Unexpected? Predictable?
  19. What is “The Obsession” of the novel’s title?

StarsAreFireThe All Good Books discussion group will meet this Thursday, September 14, 2017 at 7 PM to discuss the novel Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve. We’ll meet in the Community of Christ (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village) Church Library.

The publisher has posted some discussion questions which we can use as discussion starters. Further, I’ve added a few additional questions below:

  1. Was there a quote in the book that bears discussion? Something you underlined because it “spoke to you?”
  2. What do you imagine it would be like to be a disaster survivor? Have you ever survived a disaster? How has it effected your life?
  3. What would you take with you in the face of a natural disaster or catastrophe? Sentimental items or practical items or a bit of both? Be as specific as you can.
  4. In the marriage vows, what do you consider the limits of “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part?” Is there ever a time when “worse” is so bad the vows can/should be broken?
  5. Assuming every novel has a central idea or thesis statement, what would it be for Stars are Fire?

We hope you can join us!

The All Good Books club will meet on Thursday, May 12, 2016 to discuss Fredrik Backman’s “A Man Called Ove” at 7 PM in the Community of Christ Church Library (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS 66208).

Below are some possible discussion questions for our meeting:

  1. If you underlined or highlighted portions of the novel, share one of your favorite quotes.
  2. What events in the novel define Ove for you? How would you describe his worldview and work ethic? Do you know anyone like Ove?
  3. How would you describe Ove and Sonja’s relationship?
  4. Who are the Pregnant Foreign Lady, the Lanky One and their children? How did they meet Ove?
  5. Why do you think Ove’s three worst words are “batteries not included?”
  6. What do you think the narrator means by the following quote? “He was a man of black and white. And she was color. All the color he had.”
  7. In describing Ove’s relationship with his father, the narrator says “They never had much, but they always had enough.” What does that mean to you? Have you heard that phrase before?
  8. Ove’s father, in one of the few topics he would talk about, said, “Engines give you what you deserve….If you treat them with respect they’ll give you freedom; if you behave like an ass they’ll take it from you.” How do you interpret that message?
  9. Ove’s father said, “We’re not the sort of people who tell tales about what others do.” What is the story behind the quote and how did it affect the person Ove became?
  10. Do you agree with Ove “men are what they are because of what they do. Not what they say?”
  11. Discuss Ove’s opinions about quality, exchangeability, pride and expertise. Hint: he referred to “the unreserved celebration of mediocrity” and that “one should not go through life as if everything was exchangeable.”
  12. What role does the cat play in the novel? And what does Ove mean when he says, “I’m not running a cat repair company?”
  13. Why was it important that Ove feed the bird only every other day?
  14. Why do you think Sonja was attracted to Ove?
  15. Why did Ove have a hatred for the “men in white shirts?” Who are the “men in white shirts?”
  16. Why did Ove hate buses and decide to drive Parvaneh to the hospital rather than let her take a bus?
  17. Why does Nasanin always draw Ove with colored crayons while everyone else is drawn in black? Who is Nasanin?
  18. Why did Ove and Rune, who once were friends, become adversaries? What role did Rune’s purchase of a sporty BMW have in the separation?
  19. What does the narrator mean by the following quote? “Both men, once as close as men of that sort could be, stare at each other. One of them a man who refuses to forget the past, and one who can’t remember it at all.”
  20. How does Sonja find healing after the accident?
  21. What does the author mean by “all people at root are time optimists?”
  22. How is “loving someone…like moving into a house?” as Sonja used to say.
  23. What does the author mean by “broadly speaking there are two kinds of people. Those who understand how extremely useful white cables can be, and those who don’t?”
  24. Do you agree, “The greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone?”
  25. Why is Ove, as Parvaneh says, “UTTERLY LOUSY at dying?”
  26. What are your feelings about Ove’s final note to Parvaneh?
  27. Was the ending of the book expected? Emotional? Incomplete? Satisfying?
  28. Would you recommend A Man Called Ove to your friends to read? Why or why not?

Come join us on Thursday, May 12, 2016 at 7 PM.