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Shall We Not Revenge


1. The epigraph at the start of the book is, “If you wrong us, shall we not revenge?” Does Hanley get his revenge by the end? Is it primarily revenge that motivates him? At what point, if at all, does his motivation to find Rabbi Kelmansky’s killer change?


2. Even the heroes have flaws in the novel. What are some of Hanley’s flaws? What are some of Rivka’s? What about other characters? Do their flaws make the characters more compelling?


3. Hanley and his nemesis, Sean Doyle, start out as similar types—both hardscrabble Irish, both subject to prejudice, both angry about it, and both willing to turn to crime. Why was Hanley able to change from a shady gambler and con man to a cop who fights for justice, while Doyle remains a villain?


4. How is the post-Fire Chicago of 1872 similar to the city of today? What other issues and attitudes depicted in the novel are still with us in one form or another?


5. Rabbi Kelmansky and his helpers, Jacob Nathan and Moishe Zalman, steal relief supplies as an act of charity toward the poor. Do you agree or disagree that the circumstances justify their actions?


6. Hanley and Rivka are drawn to each other personally, as well as through the circumstance of Rabbi Kelmansky’s murder. Is this because of, or in spite of, their differences? How do they bridge the ethnic and religious gaps between them?


7. Questions of right and wrong frequently surface in Shall We Not Revenge. Where and how do the different characters—Hanley, Rivka, even the murdered rabbi—choose between them? Do you think their choices are right or wrong? Would you have chosen the same or differently in similar circumstances?

For You Were Strangers

1. The book’s title is drawn from the Hebrew Scriptures: “You shall love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” How does the novel explore the question of who is a “stranger” and who “belongs”?


2. Racial, religious, and ethnic divisions and discrimination crop up throughout the story. Which of these elements spoke most strongly to you? How are these issues playing out in our own time?


3. Hanley is the hero, yet his reaction to a major revelation about his friend Will Rushton is far from enlightened. How did you feel about him in the wake of it? Should he be judged as a man of his time, or by today’s standards? Why or why not?


4. Will Rushton and Dorrie Whittier both undergo enormous upheaval in their lives prior to the novel’s present day. Why is Dorrie broken by her experiences and Will is not? How do these characters allow us to explore the theme of belonging/not belonging?


5. The author uses scenes from various characters’ pasts to illuminate their actions in the novel’s present. What does this suggest about the past and the present in our own lives?


6. To what extent is Chicago itself a “character” in this book?


7. Hanley and Rivka collaborate more closely in For You Were Strangers, and must carefully navigate the ethnic and religious gaps between them. How do they manage this, as well as their growing feelings for each other?

No Less In Blood

1. Questions of family and identity are central to this novel. What questions about the nature and power of family did this story bring up for you? Were there characters whose experience you especially identified with?


2. One reviewer describes NO LESS IN BLOOD as “a novel of searching.” Who is searching for what in the book? Are they successful?


3. Rachel in the present and Mary Anne in the past are on parallel journeys—one fleeing a small town for the big city, one leaving the city for the small town. How does each character’s journey fit with what she seeks?


4. Andrew Schlegel, Mary Anne’s autocratic father, acts in a deeply destructive way toward the family members he loves. To what extent is he responsible for Mary Anne’s fate? Do he and his estranged brother William resemble each other in the way they treat people?


5. Mary Anne feels trapped in Birch Falls. What makes Rachel feel trapped in her own time and place?


6. Detective James Florian and Police Chief Powell are each laying personal ghosts as they hunt down fugitive Luke Chapman. Do either or both of them find redemption?


7. Jackson Schlegel and Luke Chapman both serve as villains, but in different ways. What are the differences between them? Did you feel sympathetic toward either?


8. Rachel goes to Birch Falls looking for family. Has she found it by the end of the book?

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