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The Hiding Place Reader’s Guide

By David Bell

The Hiding Place by David Bell


Questions and Topics for Discussion


Twenty–five–years ago, the disappearance of four–year–old Justin Manning rocked the small town of Dove Point, Ohio. After his body was found in a shallow grave in the woods two months later, the repercussions were felt for years..

Janet Manning has been haunted by the murder since the day she lost sight of her brother in the park. Now, with the twenty–fifth anniversary of Justin’s death looming, a detective and a newspaper reporter have started to ask questions, opening old wounds and raising new suspicions. Could the man convicted of the murder—who spent more than two decades in prison—really be innocent? Janet’s childhood friend and high school crush, who was in the park with her that day, has returned to Dove Point, where he is wrestling with his own conflicted memories of the events. And a strange man appears at Janet’s door in the middle of the night, claiming to know the truth.

Soon, years of deceit will be swept away, and the truth about what happened to Janet’s brother will be revealed. And the answers that Janet has sought may be found much closer to home than she ever could have imagined.



David Bell is currently an assistant professor of English at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He received an MA in creative writing from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and a PhD in American literature and creative writing from the University of Cincinnati. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize twice. His previous novel is Cemetery Girl.


  • There are a number of parent–child relationships in The Hiding Place. What is the nature of these relationships? Do any of them seem healthier than others?

  • If you are a parent, how do you feel about the decision to leave Janet in charge of her little brother on the day he disappeared? Is there ever a time when this is okay? Was this fair to Janet?

  • Janet is haunted by and feels guilty about the disappearance and death of her brother. Do you think this contributes to her intense desire to believe that the man on the porch is really her brother as an adult?

  • Everyone in the story has a secret he or she is keeping. Why do people who are close to one another—people who are even in the same family and intimately related—so often keep secrets from one another?

  • Are the men in the story—Bill Manning, Michael Bower, Steven Kollman, Frank Stynes—less capable of dealing with their emotional pain and torment than the women? Do any of the men deal with their emotions better than the others?

  • In many ways, Ashleigh is the most physically courageous character in the story. Is that just because she’s young, or is something else driving her to do the things she does?

  • Ashleigh is withdrawn from her mom emotionally, but she also possesses an intense desire to make her mother happy, even going so far as to risk her own safety to do so. Is this typical teenage behavior? Why or why not?

  • Discuss Janet’s complicated feelings for Michael. Does she really care for him, or does she just intensely associate him with her past? Or does Michael simply represent the freedom Janet has never had?

  • Like Janet, Detective Stynes feels guilt and regret over events in the past. Why is Stynes attempting to finally deal with these things? Why couldn’t he do it right the first time?

  • Why is Steven Kollman so drawn to Janet? Do you sympathize with him at all or understand why he approaches Janet the way he does?

  • Discuss Dante Rogers. Do you feel any sympathy for him? Is it possible for him to ever have a normal life? Will he ever get over or deal with the inappropriate feelings he has toward young children?

  • How do you think the Manning family will move on after the end of the book?

  • Will Janet ever see Michael or her mother clearly, especially after what she learns about them at the end of the book?

  • Whom do you blame the most for what happened to Justin—Michael or Ray Bower? Why?

  • Why is the book called The Hiding Place?
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