- If you could be present for and witness one scene from this novel “in the flesh,” which one would it be? Why?
- Why do you think the author chose to set the novel when (1866) he did? How would the story have changed if it had been set earlier or later in time?
- Why do think the author chose to set the novel where (Western North Carolina) he did?
- How would you describe Jake Ballard at the beginning of the novel? Does he change during the course of the story? If so, how and why?
- How would describe Sarah Freeman when Jake first meets her? Does she change? If so, how and why?
- Why do you think the author chose to create May June as a mute? How does her apparent inability to speak affect the action?
- What is Priscilla Cushman’s “role” in the novel? In Jake’s life?
- What is Joseph Lyman’s attitude toward the Southern mountains and the mountain people? How does it compare to Jake’s attitude?
- Who is most seriously damaged (or wounded) character in the novel? How do you know?
- Why do you think the author took such care to portray the wide variety of “voices” in the novel, including a character who is mute, a character who stutters, etc.? Why are these voices so distinct and so important?
- What role does religion play in the novel? Is it positive or negative?
- What or where is the source of healing in the novel?
- What character in this novel do you most identify with? Why?