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What Napoleon Could Not Do Reader’s Guide

By DK Nnuro

What Napoleon Could Not Do by DK Nnuro


Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. The novel begins with a tense meeting between the families of Jacob Nti and his wife, Patricia, with both sides launching into explanations of what went wrong between them. As you read, did you trust one account more than the other? What did you see as possible blind spots that each family brought to this discussion?

2. In the novel, the author asks, “What did it mean to dissolve a marriage when there’d been no real marriage?” By the end of the novel, the author has explored an array of relationships, from romantic to platonic. What do you think makes a marriage or a relationship “real”?

3. Alfred often interprets for his deaf parents, but he doesn’t always comprehend the deeper meaning of what’s being said. How does Alfred’s lack of understanding make you think about the ways you communicate in your life?

4. Patricia’s mother has made a name for herself in the city, but the Nti family disdains her. Belinda is praised for her accomplishments throughout the novel, yet she still hasn’t achieved what the Nti family ultimately strives for. What do you think these women have in common? Did you find one of them easier to like or understand?

5. Wilder, despite his wealth and the respect he has earned in his community, never feels fully accepted by the United States and he ultimately decides to make a new home in his wife’s country, Ghana. Do you think he made the right decision? What do you think are the most important aspects of feeling at home? 

6. Jacob is described as bringing little to his failed marriage and by extension to his family as a whole. What connections do you see between his behavior and his family’s opinion of him? What future do you envision for him beyond the novel? 

7. In a conversation Patricia has with Belinda, she speaks of a “darkness,” voicing the hypocrisy of reframing Robert E. Lee’s place in U.S. history while keeping monuments to him throughout the country. How does this darkness affect Belinda? Jacob? How does its discovery impact Wilder as Nnuro moves through his story?

8. Wilder and his squad hear about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination while they are deployed in Vietnam. Though the other Black soldiers lament together, Wilder keeps himself removed from the show of grief. Why do you think he responds this way?

9. Vatsana plays an important part in Wilder’s life but his relationship with her is something he doesn’t share with others. What do you think he learned in his time with her? 

10. What surprised you most about the characters in the novel? What do you think is the most important lesson that the reader can take from it? From its characters?

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