Book Club & Reading Group Guides

Mara Purl’s

What the Heart Knows

Topics for Discussion

  1. What are the dynamics of a small town? What is nurturing and supportive about a small town? What is intrusive and destructive? Do people have an absolute right to privacy? When should privacy take a back seat to “public good”?
  2. Why do people keep journals? Why does Samantha keep a journal? What function does journal writing perform in her life? Is Samantha in crisis? At what point have we encountered her in her life? Have you ever kept a journal? What did it do for you?
  3. Is Chris careful or foolhardy? Does she place her job or her personal life first? Was her trip to the Clarke house impetuous or well calculated? Should a journalist do almost anything to get at the truth?
  4. Why is Jack so angry? What in his background might have happened to Jack to cause his emotionally abusive behavior toward the people in his life? Would you agree Jack is a “head” person rather than a “heart” person?
  5. What makes an artist essentially different from other people? As an artist, what are Miranda’s priorities? Do you believe Miranda “makes” things happen with her paintings?
  6. Why do some women manipulate every personal and business relationship? What are Zelda’s motives? What’s her history? Why is Cynthia so calculating at such a young age?
  7. What is Zack’s attraction to Cynthia? What is his ambivalence toward her? What attracts him about Miranda?
  8. How does a person tell whether or not they’ve met the “right” person? Is Miranda responding to a deep and soulful recognition when she meets Zack? Is she wise in pursuing a relationship with him, or is she treading on dangerous ground?
  9. As a former journalist who wrote for the Associated Press, The Financial Times of London, Rolling Stone, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Mainichi Daily News, Mara Purl was trained to do extensive research and to report accurately. How might her journalistic background have influenced her as a novelist?
  10. What does YOUR heart know? Does important information come to you through both head and heart? What do you do with “heart” information – ignore it, or pay attention to it? As the title for the first of a series of twelve books, is it possible this is a theme for Milford-Haven itself, and everyone who’s drawn to the town?

Vicki Hessel Werkley’s

Girl On Fire

Topics for Discussion

  1. What was Carrie’s life on the prairie like before her kidnap? Were there aspects of Carrie’s new life with the Comanche that were better than the life she left behind? What aspects was Carrie unable to accept? How did she handle this?
  2. Why didn’t Carrie try to escape once she was captured? How did the reasons change as time went by? Was she “brainwashed” to stay? Was she being practical because her chances for survival alone in the wild were slim? What other factors influenced her?
  3. Carrie is forced to live in a situation where other people have power over her. Do modern teenagers ever live in similar circumstances? Do women in our society ever give up their power? What could they learn from Carrie?
  4. Do you believe in fate? Or do you believe fate can be overcome? Was Danny destined to be with Carrie? Or do you think the prophetic dreams Carrie and Blackhorse had, meant they should be destined for each other?
  5. Did you learn anything new about Comanche culture? What one thing intrigued/surprised/entertained you the most? What aspects of Native American culture and tradition could be valuable in modern life?
  6. In 1874, what was the role of women in Comanche tribal life? What was the role of women in Euro-American frontier life? In which culture were women more valued? How were these values expressed differently in each culture?
  7. Carrie was raised in a Protestant religion, but was then exposed to a new form of spiritual worship. Did her spiritual sense expand as a result of her experience? Does spiritual awareness help us with adversity?
  8. How does a person tell whether the inner voice they’re trusting is truly their own inner voice, or some form of “wishful thinking” or external influence?
  9. As a former educator with the Mendocino Unified School District, Vicki Werkley was trained in both academics and psychology. How might her teaching background have influenced her as a novelist?
  10. Why is this book called Girl-On-Fire? Does this refer only to the name given to Carrie by the Comanche? Or does it have metaphorical significance as well?