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Marvel and a Wonder


Grandfather and grandson must journey into the underworld of the American Midwest in search of both courage and redemption.

Click here to read an excerpt from the novel.

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Discussion Guide for Marvel and a Wonder

1. The novel attempts to explore the complicated relationship between Jim and his grandson, Quentin. How does each character develop? What about them is heroic? What is unlikable? How are they flawed? How do they save each other over the course of the book?

2. The novel takes place at the end of the twentieth century, at the beginning of one America and the end of another. This generational divide provides much of the conflict between Jim and his grandson. How do the challenges, mistakes, and unresolved issues of Jim’s generation affect his life and the life of his grandson? How do these challenges continue to affect the nation as a whole? What wisdom is Jim—flawed as he is—able to pass on to Quentin?

3. Why do you believe the book takes place in rural Indiana, in the year 1995? How do the location, the historical events of the day, the setting, and the year inform the overall drama of the book? How does that time period reflect upon the current American landscape?

4. How does the novel borrow from established genres—the literary novel, the crime novel, the mystery novel, the Western—to create something compelling and new? What elements from each of these genres are present in the novel’s characters, places, images, and overall structure? What does this unique interpreting of many different genres into a cohesive whole have to do with the themes of the book?

5. How does the question of sacrifice inform the lives of the characters and the choices they must make?

6. What does the horse ultimately come to represent for each of the characters? What does the horse mean to you as a reader?

7. How does Jim’s outlook change by the end of the novel? How does Quentin begin to grow and develop?

8. How does the novel depict long-standing divides between rural and urban culture, North and South, red and blue states? Are these conflicts resolved by the end of the book? Or are they part of a larger question about what it means to be American?

9. How does the novel challenge and inform our current understanding of the ongoing struggle with contemporary race relations?

10. Does the ending offer a sense of hope about the future of America? How?