Book Club Discussions

The following documents can be downloaded and printed for your book club – or you can read questions below.

Book Question PDF Files:

The Wild Inside Book Club Questions

Mortal Fall Book Club Questions

The Weight of Night Book Club Questions

A Sharp Solitude Book Club Questions

 

Discussion Questions for The Wild Inside

1. The Wild Inside has a strong sense of place and atmosphere. In fact, the main character is so haunted by Glacier Park that it feels like a character of its own. How do you think the atmosphere of northwest Montana and the stunning, yet unrelenting Glacier National Park affect each of the main characters?

2. What philosophical questions might be raised by the juxtaposition of man’s immoral cruelty with nature’s amoral cruelty?

3. Can Ted find meaning as an investigator of human crime in an imposing natural area, which has a lifespan measured in billions of years, compared to the relatively short span of a human life? And if so, how does he end up finding such meaning?

4. How does the quote the author chooses to place at the beginning color the reader’s perception of the nature they are about to encounter in the story? By the end of the book, do Ted’s emotions regarding Glacier National Park and its stark realities still mimic the severity of the quote or has Ted transformed his views on nature? And if so, how?

5. One reader once commented that the book reminded her of a movie made in the 1980’s, Ordinary People, which was poignant even though only one horrible thing happened – a young man drowned. But, she commented, that’s enough for a very human tragedy to unfold. In how many ways has the cruelty of one human being like Victor Lance reverberated outward and affected so many lives?

6. How do you think the Smith family will fair in the future? Will they be brought closer together by this travesty or torn further apart than they already have been?

Discussion Questions for Mortal Fall

1. In Mortal Fall, Monty’s main haunting conflicts turn out to be his brother, circumstances from his childhood, and his failing marriage. Do you feel that Monty handles these conflicts well or struggles to maintain his controlled, orderly ways?

2. How does the quote the author selected to place at the beginning color the reader’s perception of Monty? Does he seem different or changed by the end of the book?

3. Mortal Fall deals with a fictional wilderness school for troubled teens. We have many such schools in the west. A romantic notion about the west persists, that perhaps stems from manifest destiny, that we can solve psychological issues with fresh air, the ruggedness of the wild and a nice mountain view the way we thought agriculture and mining could solve many of the nation’s problems of poverty and unemployment characteristic of the big cities in the east in the nineteenth century: “Go west, young man.” It’s almost as if the very fact that a therapeutic school is located in the west gives the institution credibility. Many are effective, good institutions, but some of these wilderness therapy schools are unregulated and are not places you’d want to send your children. What do you think about parents sending their teens away to therapeutic schools in the first place? How did you feel about Adam in general? Did you feel differently about him after understanding more of his history and his situation at the fictional Glacier Academy? By the end of the book, do Monty’s emotions regarding his brother change? If so, how?

4. Monty’s conflict with Laura and his unwavering position to not have a biological family might make some feel like he is inflexible and too rigid. Lara has said that she doesn’t want to adopt, so they end up not being able to find a workable solution. Do you think it was understandable on his part or were you angry at him? How did you feel about her? Did you sympathize with Monty or Lara more?
5. Sometimes all it takes is one tragedy to spur on other painful tragedies and circumstances. In how many ways has the cruelty of one human being like Mark Phillips reverberated outward and affected other lives?

6. Does the ending of the book work for you? Would you have liked to see it resolved differently?

7. Were you surprised when you discovered who was responsible for Wolfie’s and Mark Phillips’ deaths? Did you empathize with the perpetrator at all?

8. Were you disappointed that the Nathan Faraway mystery was not solved? (If so, stay tuned for Book 3, The Weight of Night. )

Discussion Questions for The Weight of Night

1 Like all of the author’s books thus far, The Weight of Night has a strong sense of place – of Glacier National Park and the small towns surrounding it. How do you think this wild setting influences the mood of the novel? How does it affect each of the main characters, directly and indirectly?

2 Not only is the wilderness setting that the boy has been kidnapped in vast and unforgiving, it is being consumed by fires? How do the fires in such an idyllic setting like Glacier affect you as a reader? Did it make you think about other aspects of nature or did it only serve to heighten the suspense in the novel?

3 Gretchen’s sentencing of herself to a life without a close partner might seem like a little drastic. But, given her part and her on-going sleep disorder, do you think she’s being logical and reasonable? Did you sympathize with her situation? Why might Gretchen want to live in a place like Montana? Is the west or states with vast amounts of wilderness places of personal reinvention or simply places to escape? Do you think the west is over-romanticized as a place to find oneself? And if not, what is it about living in a place like Montana that allows for people to discover themselves and find personal healing?

4 Redemption is a strong theme in the novel, especially for Gretchen. What do you think motivates her to her to investigate the disappearance of the boy on her own? Were her actions heroic or foolish? Do you feel she is transformed enough by the end of the story so that she can live a more complete life in the future?

5 Nathan’s parents made a decision not to pursue an opportunity to find out the fate of their son. Why do you think they made that decision?

6 Wendy and Kyle lived with a psychopath for most of their lives. Do you think it’s possible that they were oblivious to that fact or do you think that, on some level, they knew?

7 The author has mentioned that this story is more of a “why-dunnit” than a “who-dunnit” in some ways because she anticipated that readers might not be surprised by the antagonist. Did the ending of the book work for you? Would you have liked to see the story resolved differently?

Discussion Questions for A Sharp Solitude

1. As do all of Carbo’s novels, A Sharp Solitude has a very strong sense of place, in this case the remote regions of the Rocky Mountains of Northwest Montana near Glacier Park and the small towns in the surrounding areas. How do you think the setting influences the mood of the novel? How does it affect each of the main characters, Reeve and Ali, both directly and indirectly?

2. When Reeve says, “I can feel the timelessness out here, the sense of eternity mocking me, pointing out my futile efforts to move through it each day, all day, to gather DNA, to survive myself. It’s a terrible feeling, as if the massive, unforgiving wild is snickering at my uselessness,” do you feel this is existentialist or nihilistic thinking on Reeve’s part because of his traumatic backstory or do you feel that anyone who spends such a large amount of time in such austere wilderness is bound to have such feelings?

3. A Sharp Solitude touches on a variety of issues, but one particular is Montana as a landscape for personal reinvention—particularly for Reeve and in some ways for FBI agent Ali Paige. Do you consider Montana, or even the west in general, a place where people go to find themselves or reinvent themselves? And if not for reinvention, what about escape?

4. The structure of the novel goes from ‘present’ Thursday and then ‘present’ Friday to returning repeatedly to what really happened on ‘the day before,’ Wednesday. Did this structure work for you and make it more suspenseful or was it confusing?

5. How does Ali’s upbringing in New Jersey affect how she responds to the situation with Reeve? Would Ali have helped him if they didn’t have a child together? If he was a past boyfriend who just needed a favor?

6. The tragic incident from Reeve’s youth brings up issues surrounding one of the most divisive topics in America. Did you find Reeve’s desire to take the middle ground plausible given what had happened to him? Do you find Reeve’s desire to take the middle ground symbolic of a greater need to find a middle ground in the national debate over guns and gun control or simply a survival mechanism for him? Or both?

7. At one point, Ali has an internal observation about a squirrel in her yard and she draws attention to the endless vigilance it takes to survive. Do you agree with her when she refers to the squirrel’s busyness and says, “That’s what it takes to survive – an endless vigilance. Busyness, acquisition, sustenance. And if it’s not food, as it is for the animals, it’s money, security, trust, love, truth, or acceptance. It never ends, the journey to find sustenance, even when you convince yourself you’re seeking something different. It’s really just the same effort in disguise.”

8. After reading the story, do you feel there is a difference between solitude and loneliness? If they are on a continuum, where does solitude end and loneliness begin, and what might be the key to finding the right balance?

9. Were you surprised to find out who killed Anne Marie Johnson? Was her confession completely believable? Why or why not?

10. At the end of the novel, what does the future of Ali and Reeve look like, both individually and as a family unit?