Spoiler alert: If you haven’t read the book yet, you may not want to read on.
1. How would you categorize this novel? Is it a father/son drama, a tale about war’s aftermath, a tragic love story, a political commentary, or something different altogether?
2. How does David’s voice affect the story? How would the story be different if it were told in third person? Or from Henri’s point of view? From Ella’s? Sue’s? Teddy’s? Johnny’s? Timmy’s? Femke’s? Frank’s?
3. How are David and Henri different? How are they similar?
4. If you met David’s son would you call him Henri or Hank? Explain your answer.
5. David was highly influenced by his father’s WWII experience and adopted a worldview that matched his old man’s. Henri was highly influenced by David’s Vietnam War experience, yet David and Henri ended up on opposite ends of the political spectrum. Why?
6. Are words more important than actions, or are actions more important than words?
7. Discuss the women in the story. Why does David love and admire his mother, Jessica, Ella, and Sue? Why does David dislike Femke, Femke’s mother, and Frank’s wife? Why does he mistrust the woman who is recording his confession?
8. Is David’s relationship with his granddaughter, Ella, healthy?
9. Do you think Femke is as insufferable as David makes her out to be? Do you believe that Femke and David will work out their differences in the end? Is that possible?
10. His politically correct minded son labels David a bigot, yet—while he does harbor some antiquated ideas about race and sexuality—David has a diverse group of friends and business associates. What makes Henri think his father is a bigot? Discuss David’s criteria when it comes to separating those he respects from “the morons.”
11. How does David help his wife, Jessica? Reading between the lines, how might David have made things difficult for Jessica?
12. Discuss Jessica’s painting, The Reason You’re Alive. What role does art play in this story?
13. Why does Clayton Fire Bear keep Jessica’s painting? Why does he hang a portrait of his abuser in his home?
14. Why does David assign his Vietnam War nemesis a nom de guerre?
15. Does David’s mistrust of the government (and most authority figures) ever seem exaggerated or comical? Is he paranoid, or is his doubt justified?
16. If David Granger—in full military-issued camouflage—approached you in public and tried to strike up a conversation about politics, how would you react?
17. Is David Granger an honorable human being?