DID YOU KNOW G. ELIZABETH KRETCHMER LOVES VISITING WITH BOOK CLUBS? CONTACT HER TO ARRANGE A VISIT WITH YOUR CLUB, WHETHER IN PERSON OR VIA SKYPE OR FACETIME.
MEANWHILE, USE THESE QUESTIONS TO HELP GET YOUR BOOK CLUB DISCUSSIONS GOING.
1. Brooke and Anne each face frightening experiences in the opening chapters which reflect incidents that have happened in real life. What was your initial reaction to the bear attack? The Nez Perce raid?
2. The novel focused on several relationships. How do you feel about the situation between Brooke and Delaney when the novel opens and as it progresses? Why do you think Leila talks so little about her family? What was your reaction as Brooke and Leila’s friendship evolved?
3. Who was your favorite character in the story? Which character drew the most sympathy? Which character would you like to call upon if you traveled to the Yellowstone area?
4. Bear Medicine was released during October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Brooke and Anne each come from abusive backgrounds—one suffered from domestic violence; the other was exposed to psychological abuse. How did you feel about their respective situations and how they handled them? Did the novel raise any awareness for you about either form of domestic abuse?
5. Have you ever been to Yellowstone? What did you learn about the area, or the history?
6. The Nez Perce were thought of as a peaceful, cooperative people. They, in fact, helped Lewis and Clark on their famous expedition. What the US government did to them, and to other native people, was tragic and reprehensible. What did you learn about the Indian Wars in reading this novel? What do you want to learn more about?
7. The bear has physical and spiritual significance in the novel. What was your takeaway about the bear, and has your attitude about grizzly bears changed?
8. The stories of the two protagonists are set 140 years apart, but they weave together both thematically and literally. Did either of the stories resonate more with you than the other? Why? At what point was it clear to you how the characters were related and how the stories were intertwined?
1. The characters in this collection are diverse in age, geographic location, and personality.
- Which of them did you feel most drawn to?
- Did any of them remind you of people you’ve known in real life?
- Have you experienced any of the issues they’ve experienced?
2. The idea of running away, whether physically or psychologically, was thematically present in each of the stories. Most of us, at one time or another, have at least fantasized about running away. What was the tipping point for each protagonist that made her decide to leave or stay? Do you agree with the decision she made?
3. Which of the stories left you feeling a sense of hope? Were there any that left you feeling uncomfortable? Discuss why.
4. Women around the world often feel like they’re on the brink. Discuss the life circumstances that brought these women to the brink and other life circumstances you’ve witnessed or read about that could appear in Women on the Brink 2.
5. Why do you think the stories were arranged as they were? What was the significance of the seasonal sections?
6. How did you feel about the use of poetry to introduce each story? Did you have a favorite poem?
7. Do you find reading a short story collection any different from reading a novel? If so, how? Will you approach short story collections differently in the future?
1. The book begins with the narrator suggesting that Lynn Van Swol would be the perfect grandmother for a teen like Frankie because she’s so comfortable in the wild. What do you think Beth meant by this?
2. The opening chapter also reveals that the narrator is telling this story from the afterlife. What was your initial reaction when you discovered this point of view, and now that you’ve read the book, how do you feel about the author’s decision to tell the story this way? Would your reaction to the characters and plot lines have been different if the novel had been written from a different point of view?
3. What was your response to Beth’s request that Ryan climb Denali for her? Do you think her initial request was reasonable? Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for some climbers to attempt Denali without adequate training. What did you think about Ryan’s decision to go ahead and climb Denali even though he was unprepared for the task?
4. How did you feel about Frankie’s living situation and the way she coped with it? If you knew Raina and Frankie, what action (if any) would you have taken to help them out?
5. The group of climbers on Denali was an eclectic lot, and they had to face an unfortunate set of circumstances on the mountain. As a result, personalities conflicted and mistakes were made. Have you had experiences in your own life where conflict and incompetence contributed to dire consequences?
6. There are four key story lines intersecting in this novel: a midlife woman facing failed dreams and costly sacrifices; an at-risk teen struggling to find security, love and identity; a young widower mourning the loss of his wife and faith, and a deceased woman trying to reconcile the decisions she’s made with unforeseen consequences while also trying to understand what the afterlife is all about. Which of these story lines resonated most with you, and why?
7. How was landscape important to Lynn, Beth, and Frankie? How has landscape enriched or otherwise influenced your life?
8. How do you feel about the decisions Lynn made on the mountain regarding Will’s seduction and her claim of rape? Regarding her decision to look for him after he left the group? Regarding her ultimate decision to leave Ryan behind as she went for help?
9. Which characters in the novel would you like to invite to a dinner party? Which would you leave off the invitation list? Describe your reasons for your choices.
10. Adoption is an important theme in this novel, seen from a birthmother’s perspective years after the adoption. But the novel also gives glimpses of the impact of this particular adoption on the adoptee, the adoptive parents, and even the adoptee’s offspring. Discuss your thoughts on how Lynn’s adoption decision impacted these characters. Do you think Lynn and Frankie (and possibly Raina) might ultimately heal when, and if, they meet one another? If you were to write a sequel with Frankie as the protagonist, how would you envision her life turning out?
11. Faith is a recurring theme throughout the novel, although most of the characters have more questions than answers about their own spiritual beliefs. How do you think your own faith perspective influenced your reaction to the characters’ questions and choices? What was your reaction to the way Beth described her experience in the afterlife, and where do you think she might go from here (if anywhere)?
12. What was your initial response to the title? What do you think about it now that you’ve read the book?