- There are many people with secrets in this story. Who is keeping a secret? Should these secrets be kept, or is it better to share information even if it will hurt others?
- Many of the characters moved to the North for a better life. How did life in the North compare to the life that was left behind?
- What are we to make of the many references to dirt and filth—the name “Grimes”, the home that despite Elizabeth’s and John’s efforts never becomes clean, the “dusty space before the altar” where John has his conversion?
- Will Florence reveal Deborah’s letter and expose Gabriel’s past? Why or why not? If she does, how might Gabriel’s, Elizabeth’s and John’s lives change?
- If John’s 14th birthday had taken place in March 2006 rather than 1935, might his future hold more promise?
- Is Gabriel a hypocrite or a sincere, though flawed, human being?
- We are told in Part One that “it was [John’s] hatred and his intelligence that he cherished, the one feeding the other.” Has he relinquished his hatred by the end of the novel?
- In the Bible, Gabriel was the angel who explained messages from God and announced to Mary the conception of her son, Jesus. What could be the significance of the name Gabriel for John’s stepfather?
Content last updated: April 30, 2007