This reading group guide for The Storycatcher 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.
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Shelly Parker, a sixteen-year-old servant who works for the tyrannical Pastor Dobbins and his family, has the gift of sight. She’s grown accustomed to coexisting with the spirits of the dead who roam Black Mountain, telling Shelly their stories and warning her of the dangers that surround her. When the ghost of Arleen Brown, a poor woman who died on the mountain during childbirth five years earlier, begins to pursue Pastor’s daughter Faith—hell-bent on revealing a terrible secret that she took to her grave—Shelly is the only person who can help her. The two young women soon find themselves tangled up in a web of secrets and lies that takes them from Black Mountain to the murky saltwater marshes of Georgia, uncovering long-hidden truths that put their own lives in danger. Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. The Storycatcher
is told by multiple narrators and out of chronological order. How does this affect your understanding of the events that take place in the novel and your opinions of the main characters? How do you think the story would be different if it were told from just one perspective? If you had to pick just one narrator to share her story, whom would you choose?
2. Which character do you sympathize with or connect to the most? Why? Which character are you personally the most similar to?
3. The spirits of Black Mountain and the Ridge in Darien, Georgia, interact with several of the living characters and influence the events that unfold. Compare the way each living character responds to the ghosts. Consider how the ghosts directly affect each character’s actions.
4. Of all the supernatural gifts of the characters, which would you most like to have? Why?
5. Discuss how each of the characters in The Storycatcher
approaches the ideas of justice and revenge. Which characters represent a traditional justice system? Which characters represent vigilantism?
6. In the aftermath of Arleen Brown’s death, Shelly Parker observes of Pastor Dobbins: “In that music was the man a woman would want to marry, the softness, the person who could mourn a young dead girl. Everyone had a decent side” (page 24). Is Shelly right about Pastor Dobbins? Does everyone have a decent side? How does this manifest in the other characters?
7. The various relationships between women—whether between mother and daughter, white and colored, or employer and employee—are central to The Storycatcher
. Discuss how these women make up the backbone of the Black Mountain community. Why is it important for these women to act as confidantes for one another?
8. Discuss the significance of the names in The Storycatcher
: Black Mountain, Faith, Will, Nada, Miss Tuggle. Why do you think the author chose each of these names?
9. Consider the alliances on the mountain. Who is loyal to whom? How do these loyalties change throughout the novel?
10. According to the spirit Emmaline, everyone has his or her own story to tell. What do you make of the ending to Armetta’s story? Was Arleen’s story truly finished? Mary Beth Clark’s?
11. How does Will’s character act as a bridge, a connection, between the women in the novel? Compare and contrast his relationships with Faith, Shelly, Ada, and Nada.
12. Shelly’s exposure to the poetry of Langston Hughes opened up a new world for her and contributes to her evolution throughout the novel. Which novel, short story, or poem has most significantly influenced your own life? How? Enhance Your Book Club
1. Have you ever had a paranormal encounter? Share your own personal ghost stories with your fellow book club members.
2. Ann Hite’s first novel, Ghost on Black Mountain
, introduces readers to the inhabitants of Black Mountain, focusing on the relationship between Nellie and Hobbs Pritchard. Read Ghost on Black Mountain for a future book club meeting; discuss the similarities and differences between the two novels set on Black Mountain.
3. Visit www.realhaunts.com to find a local haunted house in your hometown. Plan a visit with your book club for your next meeting and come up with your own ghost story.