Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Reverend Lewis Hall tells Carter, "You can’t limit the power of God by your unbelief." Discuss the meaning of this statement. Do you agree or disagree?
2. What do you think of Carter’s spiritual journey? Do you think she will make it all the way? What did you find most and least satisfying about her journey?
3. Eric Tucker tells Carter that her god is Order. Why is order so important to her?
4. In what ways do the inhabitants of St. Benet’s-by-the-wall help Carter to save her own life? And what does Carter do for them?
5. This novel explores the limits and liabilities of romantic love. Have you ever been blinded by love as Carter and Kim are?
6. Carter muses to Kim, "I suspect a lot of us are stupid in some way or other as the result of being booted around by a loved one when we were small." How have Carter and Kim’s childhood experiences shaped their lives and their relationship?
7. Carter struggles mightily to figure out what kind of man Kim is. What do you think of him?
8. According to David F. Ford, in a quotation that prefaces chapter 3, " ‘In inti-mate relationships it is constantly surprising that the deeper we become involved the more mysterious the other can become.’ " Do you agree?
9. How does Carter’s understanding of London change over the course of this novel?
10. Carter seeks and is offered advice by many different characters in this novel. Whose advice did you find most and least sound?
11. Carter finally makes peace with her parents by the end of this novel. Do you think it will last? Why or why not?
12. Do you think the idea of a life-plan, such as Carter’s, is a good one? Do you or have you had one? If so, how has it worked out?
13. What do you think prevented the normally sensible and confrontational Carter from talking to Sophie or reading her letters?
14. What do you think happened the night Sophie died?
15. Have you ever encountered anyone like Mrs. Mayfield–even in a less extreme form–who uses people’s vulnerabilities to control, manipulate, and do harm? How would you deal with such a person?
16. Do you have a favorite character in this novel? If so, explain.
17. If you could have a conversation with one of the characters in this novel, which one would it be, and what would you want to talk about?
18. How does your group decide what to read? Why did the group choose this book?
19. How does this novel compare with other works the group has read?