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Matters of Faith Reader’s Guide

By Kristy Kiernan

Matters of Faith by Kristy Kiernan


Questions and Topics for Discussion


From the author of Catching Genius, a novel of a young man’s search for faith—and its unintended consequences.

At age twelve, Marshall Tobias saw his best friend killed by a train. It was then that he began his search for faith—delving into one tradition, then discarding it for another. His parents, however, have little time for spiritual contemplation. Their focus has been on his little sister Megan, who suffers from severe food allergies. Now Marshall is home from college with his first real girlfriend, but there is more to Ada than meets the eye—including her beliefs about the evils of medical intervention. What follows is a crisis that tests not only faith, but the limits of family, forgiveness, and our need to believe.



Kristy was born in Tennessee and raised on the beaches of southwest Florida, where she still resides with her husband, Richard, and their dog.

Her first novel, Catching Genius, was published in March of 2007 and has become a book club favorite. Her second novel, Matters of Faith, was published in August of 2008 and has garnered great review coverage.


  • After meeting Ada, Cal is surprised when Chloe asks whether there’s a difference between being in love and thinking you’re in love, saying “Well, yes, there’s a difference. Damn, Chloe. That’s pretty cynical.” Do you believe there’s a difference? And, if so, what distinguishes “thinking” from “being” in love?
  • “[Marshall] was pretty sure there wasn’t a thing in the world his father couldn’t whip him at. He’d given up the challenge for good by now.” How does Marshall’s defeatism inform his spiritual pursuits and his relationship with Ada?
  • When Meghan is first taken to the hospital, Chloe finds herself unconsciously competing with Cal to prove herself the better parent. “It was about Meghan, but on another level it was also about us. Ada and Marshall had not just placed Meghan in danger, they had forced our marital hand.” What does Chloe mean? What do you think would have happened to their marriage if nothing had happened to Meghan?
  • After pressing charges against Marshall and Ada, Dr. Kimball attempts to justify her actions to Chloe, telling her, “You will be able to get on with your lives much faster because of what I did.” Do you agree or disagree? Should the death of Dr. Kimball’s son make Chloe more sympathetic toward her?
  • Do you think home-schooling a child with severe allergies is the best way to protect him or her? Why or why not?
  • Grandmother Tobias tells Marshall that he came to her because it was inevitable, saying, “You’re here and you didn’t even know it, if that doesn’t just show you. Some things are in the blood.” Do you think he would have sought her out if he hadn’t needed a place to hide out?
  • Do you think it was Chloe’s leniency or Cal’s uncommunicativeness that allowed Marshall to commit such a grave act? Or are Chloe and Cal responsible at all?
  • Did Cal do the right thing in hiding the full history behind his estranged family with Chloe and his own children? When would be the appropriate time to share a complicated emotional issue with a child?
  • As an art restorationist, Chloe spends her days repairing the mistakes of the past. How do you feel her work affects her response to mistakes in life that she is unable to correct?
  • After Meghan is hospitalized, Marshall is angry with Ada but forgives her soon afterwards. “He could not heal his sister and had been cast from her presence, but he could take care of Ada.” Is Marshall being honest with himself? Is his reconciliation with her a betrayal of Meghan?
  • Chloe does daily battle with her broken screen door, yet she doesn’t replace it, even when it trips her so hard that she fractures her wrist. Why do you think she won’t fix it?
  • Should Meghan ever forgive Marshall?
  • While it is Marshall’s misguided beliefs that allow him to endanger his sister in the first place, it is Chloe’s return to the Church that allows her to cope with Meghan’s condition. What do you think Kiernan is trying to say about faith? What role do you think it should play in our lives?
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