1. How were you affected by the novel's prologue? What did you
discover about Arthur and Jake in this scene? How did your
perceptions of the brothers change throughout the book?
2. How would you answer the questions that conclude the
prologue? What accounts for the differences between those who
follow the rules, like Arthur, and those who defy them? Which came
more easily for you as an adolescent: obedience or defiance?
3. How were Jake and Arthur affected by their family dynamic?
Did their mother pamper Jake too much? Did their father favor
Arthur because he was easier to manage, or was Jake difficult to
manage because of his father's favoritism?
4. What was the effect of the novel's timeline? How did it
compare to your own experience of the continuum between present
moments and memory? What parallels run between Ian's life and
5. Discuss the use of the headlines that open each chapter. What
do they say about the local and global concerns of humanity? In
what way were the headlines timeless, and in what way did they
convey the unique attributes of this locale? What headlines would
be most significant in marking the chapters of your life?
6. What is the significance of the two time periods in the lives
of the characters? How were the Dunn brothers shaped by a youth of
economic hardship and the presence of POWs? How was Ian shaped by
an era of greater liberation, with television for entertainment and
"risqué" music on the radio? What dreams for the future did each of
these generations possess?
7. Discuss the nature of love and marriage as described in the
novel. What made Jake so irresistible to Laura? What made Dr.
Christopherson's wife choose another man? Was Laura's appeal
strictly physical when she first moved to town? What is the
riskiest romantic decision you have made?
8. How are the characters shaped by the novel's setting? What do
the natural surroundings of the town mean to them? What separates
those who want to escape from those who bask in the town's
9. Why is Ian so transformed by the "day of the dragonflies"
that concludes chapter nine? What did these memories mean to
10. Discuss the novel's title. What does it mean for the
characters to reach the other side of the bridge? Could Jake and
Arthur ever be free of the wounds they inflicted on each other?
11. Who ultimately was responsible for Jake's fall from the
bridge? Who ultimately paid the price (literally, in terms of his
medical bills, and figuratively as well)?
12. How did you react to the knowledge that Ian followed in his
father's footsteps after all? Did he make the right decision?
13. Laura confides in Arthur soon after meeting him, telling him
she doesn't believe that God cares about humanity (Chapter Ten).
How would you have responded to her?
14. Discuss the cycles of tragedy conveyed in the Dunn family
history, from the death of Arthur's father to the closing scenes of
Carter. How do characters cope with the concepts of fate versus
intent? How do they cope with regret?
15. What common threads link the families in this novel to those
in Crow Lake? What makes rural landscapes so
appropriate for both of these storylines? Do you think people who
grow up in cities feel the same passion for them as the characters
in these two novels feel for the land?
16. If Matt Morrison, the brilliant and adored older brother in
Crow Lake, had wandered into this book, which
character do you think he would have had more in common with, Ian