This reading group guide for An Easy Death includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.Introduction
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Set in a fractured United States, in the southwestern country now known as Texoma. A world where magic is acknowledged but mistrusted, especially by a young gunslinger named Lizbeth Rose. Battered by a disastrous trip to New America, Lizbeth Rose takes a job offer from a pair of Russian wizards to be their local guide and gunnie. For the wizards, Gunnie Rose has already acquired a fearsome reputation and they’re at a desperate crossroad, even if they won’t admit it. They’re searching through the small border towns near Mexico, trying to locate a low-level magic practitioner, Oleg Karkarov. The wizards believe Oleg is a direct descendant of Grigori Rasputin and that Oleg’s blood can save the young tsar’s life.
As the trio journey through an altered America, shattered into several countries by the assassination of Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Depression, they’re set on by enemies. It’s clear that a powerful force does not want them to succeed in their mission. Lizbeth Rose is a gunnie who has never failed a client, but her oath will test all of her skills and resolve to get them all out alive.Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. The story opens with the death of Lizbeth Rose’s entire team. She’s faced with impossible odds and yet she fights on. What do we learn about Lizbeth in this opening chapter? Discuss her gunnie code of honor. What would you do if you were in her position?
2. Everyone fears the grigori, the Russian wizards, but few people in Texoma have actually encountered them. What is your first impression of the grigori that come to hire Lizbeth? She is shot in the first few minutes of knowing them, yet she still takes the job. Why? Would you?
3. When Eli and Paulina interview Oleg Karkarov’s former travelling companion, Becky, for information about his death, it is clear that she holds back. Discuss why she and the rest of the town keep Lizbeth’s secret. Were you surprised to learn she killed her own father?
4. Lizbeth is walking a dangerous line hiding her past from Paulina and Eli. On page 127, she acknowledges how little it would take for them to learn the truth, and how close she has already come. How should she handle this situation? Should she have done anything differently from the start, or would they have found out more quickly without her involvement?
5. In Chapter 6, we learn more about the Russia of this world, and we already know a good deal about America’s story. How does this version align with Russia and America’s real history? Are any aspects strikingly similar? Where do both histories diverge? What aspects stayed the same?
6. Lizbeth gradually describes how the world evolved into the one she knows. New things have come to light, like magic and the grigori, but many old prejudices remain. Are you surprised by the way people treat each other in this world? What inhumane behavior was most shocking? Use Chapter 10 as an example.
7. Paulina and Eli are always surprised when Lizbeth says or does something intelligent. Despite their position as her bosses, Lizbeth does not always accept their disrespect. Discuss Lizbeth, Eli, and Paulina’s relationship and the moments that forced Lizbeth to stand up for herself.
8. After Paulina dies, Eli shares more with Lizbeth about Russian politics and his mission. In doing so, he reveals that Lizbeth is a descendant of Rasputin. Does this revelation change anything for Lizbeth? How does it affect her role in this mission and her future?
9. We’ve learned a lot about Lizbeth’s skill and intelligence over the course of this job. Ciudad Juárez is another test of her skills. Describe how this city makes her job particularly difficult. What more do we learn about Lizbeth as she works in this unfamiliar environment? Is she skilled as more than just a gunnie?
10. Discuss Eli’s reaction when he learns the truth about Lizbeth’s parentage. Was his reaction what you expected? Do you think he would have responded differently at the beginning of this journey than he does now that he is involved with Lizbeth?
11. Even after Eli and Lizbeth find Felicia, it is still unclear if Oleg Karkarov is her father. Whose daughter do you believe she is based on her and Sergei’s responses? Did you expect her to go to the train station? Discuss your impression of her and her motives.
12. After Lizbeth kills Klementina’s imposter, Eli asks her how she kills so easily. Discuss what you think of his question. Does Eli have the right to ask this question? Do you believe that she kills easily? Has she been justified every time?
13. When Lizbeth learns the truth about Eli and his family, she has an extreme reaction that even she questions. She has had ample reason to quit before. Why do you think this was the news that broke the camel’s back?
14. Lizbeth makes two final stands. The first at the train station with Klementina and the second back at home against Eli’s father. She puts herself in grave danger both times. Do you believe this was part of her job or above and beyond the call of duty? Why does she risk her life like this?Enhance Your Book Club
1. We learn very early what it means to wish a gunnie an easy death. Discuss what “easy death” would mean to you. Are there any careers in our world that this farewell would befit? Would you ever want to say or receive this greeting?
2. Life in Lizbeth’s world is tenuous at best. Discuss how Lizbeth deals with the fragility of life and losing people she loves. Did losing her team affect the way she acts in relationships? Discuss her encounters with friends and family. Compare those with the relationship she forms with Eli and how they part ways.
3. Imagine you live in Lizbeth’s world where our same career opportunities are not available. What job would you do? After seeing all she does to survive, to protect her clients, the life and death decisions she makes and all the trials she faces, could you be a gunnie? Why or why not?