The Children's Crusade

A Novel

The Children's Crusade

From New York Times bestselling, award-winning author Ann Packer, a “tour de force family drama” (Elle) that explores the secrets and desires, the remnant wounds and saving graces of one California family, over the course of five decades.

Bill Blair finds the land by accident, three wooded acres in a rustic community south of San Francisco. The year is 1954, long before anyone will call this area Silicon Valley. Struck by a vision of his future family, Bill buys the property and proposes to Penny Greenway, a woman whose yearning attitude toward life appeals to him. In less than a decade they have four children. Yet Penny is a mercurial housewife, overwhelmed and undersatisfied, chafing at the conventions confining her.

Years later, the three oldest Blair children, adults now and still living near the family home, are disrupted by the return of the youngest, whose sudden presence sets off a struggle over the family’s future. One by one, they tell their stories, which reveal Packer’s “great compassion for her characters, with their ancient injuries, their blundering desires. The way she tangles their perspectives perfectly, painfully captures the tumult of selves within a family” (MORE Magazine).

Reviewers have praised Ann Packer’s “brilliant ear for character” (The New York Times Book Review) and her “naturalist’s vigilance for detail, so that her characters seem observed rather than invented” (The New Yorker). Her talents are on dazzling display in The Children’s Crusade, “an absorbing novel that celebrates family even as it catalogs its damages” (People, Book of the Week). This is a “superb storyteller” (San Francisco Chronicle), Ann Packer’s most deeply affecting book yet, “tragic and utterly engrossing” (O, The Oprah Magazine).

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Reading Group Guide

ABOUT THIS GUIDE

This reading group guide for The Children’s Crusade includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. We hope that these questions will enrich your reading group’s conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

 

INTRODUCTION

From the New York Times bestselling, award-winning author of The Dive From Clausen’s Pier, a masterful new novel that explores the secrets and desires, the remnant wounds and saving graces of one California family over the course of five decades

 

TOPICS & QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION 

1.   Explain the significance of the title of the book. What is the “children’s crusade”? Did your interpretation of the title change as you read?

2.   One of Rebecca’s friends tells her, “Your dad is like a mom” (p. 35). Discuss Bill and Penny’s parenting styles. What did you think of Penny as a mother?

3.   Discuss the structure of The Children’s Crusade. What is the effect of allowing each of the Blair children to narrate parts of the story? Packer intersperses the chapters from the children’s points of view with chapters where events are recounted in the third person. Why do you think she chose to do so?

4.   At the outset of The Children& see more

About the Author

Ann Packer
Photograph by Elena Seibert

Ann Packer

Ann Packer is the acclaimed author of two collections of short fiction, Swim Back to Me and Mendocino and Other Stories, and two bestselling novels, Songs Without Words and The Dive from Clausen’s Pier, which received the Kate Chopin Literary Award, among many other prizes and honors. Her short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker and in the O. Henry Prize Stories anthologies, and her novels have been published around the world. She lives in San Carlos, California.

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