This reading group guide for When the Heavens Fall 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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Set in Tudor-age England, When the Heavens Fall
tells the epic tale of Brandon Winslow, a devious and troubled young man struggling to find his way and place in the world.
At the same time Mary takes the throne as Queen of England, the mischievous and young Brandon decides to become a soldier, much to the dismay of his spiritually sound and noble parents, Stuart and Heather Winslow. It does not take long after enlisting for Brandon’s womanizing, gambling, and drinking to get him into serious trouble.
Thought to be dead by his parents and the soldiers who knew him best, Brandon finds himself wandering around futilely, struggling to survive among vagrants. He befriends a pair of Spanish gypsies and makes a small fortune moving between towns and playing card games with rich gentlemen. Brandon soon hears of Queen Mary’s zealous and bloody behavior, determined to return England to Catholicism.
When rumor gets around that Mary is beginning to execute Protestants on the basis of their religion, Brandon knows his family is in trouble. He is faced with a serious decision—to return home to protect his uncle, the Protestant preacher Quentin Winslow, or to simply fade away into the vagabond life he has become accustomed to. Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. The opening scene of the novel gives an example of Brandon Winslow’s troublemaking ways. How do his parents manage the situation with James Elwald and his daughter Becky? Do you think Brandon is immoral or just naïve?
2. Describe the relationship between Stuart and Heather Winslow. Do you feel their relationship deserves the attention it receives toward the end of the book?
3. What does Heather mean when she repeats to Brandon, “I gave you to God the day you were born” (p. 62)?
4. Discuss the power of prayer in relation to each character. Consider the way the act of prayer brings clarity to those who need it in times of great challenge.
5. What role do Lupa and Rez play in the novel? Do you see them as moral or immoral characters? Does your opinion of them change as you learn more about them?
6. What does Brandon feel when he witnesses the burnings at Smithville? What did he learn from the experience? How did you feel as you read the descriptions, particularly of the smiling elderly woman?
7. Compare and contrast Catholicism and the “new religion” (Protestantism), as portrayed by Morris in the novel.
8. Discuss the differences between Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. Who do they surround themselves with? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How do these characteristics influence the way people perceive them?
9. Why does Quentin refuse to leave the country?
10. What is the dilemma Brandon faces when Lord Fairfax approaches him? Do you think he made the correct decision in his situation? What would you have done?
11. Brandon refers to the Song of Solomon when he is courting Dolores/Eden. What does he feel is the importance of this book? What does Dolores/Eden derive from his description?
12. Is the approach Brandon took in convincing Eden to return to England a permissible or forgivable strategy?
13. Starting on page 94, Quentin delivers a sermon to his congregation. What does he discuss? How does this relate to the characters in the novel?
14. What advice does Quentin give to Eden Fairfax when she comes to his service? How does she make use of this advice?
15. What changes in Brandon when he accepts Jesus? How does he struggle with this decision, and what ends up influencing him above all? Enhance Your Book Club
1. Make a family tree of the Tudor dynasty in England. Compare and contrast the differences in ruling style and religion among the Tudors.
2. Critically evaluate the Song of Solomon, just as Brandon Winslow does when he is in Spain. If this is your first reading, what stands out for you? If you have read it before, do you find anything new or different?
3. Brandon indulges in many regional meals throughout When the Heavens Fall
. Make a traditional British recipe—consult http://www.britainexpress.com/articles/Food/ for recipes and ideas!