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1. In the author's note, Joseph O'Connor explains "the book is structured around the absences of all its central characters precisely at the moments when their presences would save everything." How does this apply to each of the novel's main characters -- Eliza Duane Mooney, Jeremiah Mooney, Lucia-Cruz McLelland, James Con O'Keeffe, Cole McLaurenson, and Elizabeth Longstreet?
2. The novel includes posters, poems, letters, newspaper clippings, songs, transcripts, and other items that relate to the characters or the plot. How did these devices enhance the overall story? Were there any items that confused you? If so, which ones? What other writers use this technique in their work?
3. "She is walking to stand still, not to travel into a story" (page 6). What is Eliza moving toward; what is she walking away from? Discuss her quest -- what does her journey symbolize and how is it crucial to the novel's theme?
4. "I have known brave men. I have wished to be one of them. But conscience makes a coward of us all" (page 123). Discuss courage vs. conscience in war. How is this struggled reflected in Redemption Falls
5. "'I loved you,' Lucia writes, 'before ever your hand touched me, before ever I saw you or heard spoken your name" (page 148). Why do Lucia and O'Keeffe stay together? What makes their relationship so tumultuous? How does the presence of Jeremiah Mooney affect their marriage?
6. "I never once did kill no man that didn't need to die" (page 209). What is Cole McLaurenson's mission and what fuels it?" Does this justify his actions?
7. "It is a horrible thing to own -- to be owned by -- a secret, and to walk about with it corroding your spirit as you go" (page 262). What is Lucia's secret? What secrets own the other main characters of the novel?
8. What is Elizabeth Longstreet's role in this novel? Describe her relationships with Lucia, O'Keefe, and Jeremiah.
9. "My collection includes forgeries" (page 443). How did this statement affect you? Do you think it is a fair technique, reminding the reader that history can contain lies? Did you have your suspicions while reading this novel? What does this say about how our history is told?
10. How are all the main characters linked together in Redemption Falls
? When did the connection become apparent to you? Would any of the individual stories stand alone as a novel or are the themes of each of their stories dependent on the other characters' perspectives?
11. Does Redemption Falls
have anything to say about America's subsequent history? Does it inform our understanding of the United States in our own era?
12. A fun question! If James O'Keeffe, Lucia McLelland, Allen Winterton, and Elizabeth Longstreet were alive today, for which American political parties or candidates do you think they would vote? And why? What do you think they would like and dislike about our own world? Reader Tips
1. Go to battle: Take your bookclub to a Civil War battleground site. (Go to www.civilwar.org/travelandevents/t_makeyourowntour.htm to find one in your area.)
2. Contribute to the professor's collection: Write a poem about the fates of the characters of Redemption Falls
3. Celebrate the Irish: Take your book club to an Irish event. (To find one in your area, go to www.saintpatricksdayparade.com/Festival/irish_festivals.htm.)