Reading Group Guide
1. Edmund Wainwright and Jacob Caldwell were both possessed by the desire to provide for their families and to leave an inheritance for their children through ownership of Castle Mountain ranch. This is a physical and financial legacy, but what kind of spiritual and emotional legacy did they leave? What do you want to leave behind in this world to bestow on others and on your family that will live on long after you are gone?
2. What do the phrases “the burden of history” and “history always repeats itself” mean to you? Do you think these phrases are true? In what ways were Sarah, Caleb, Noah, Cord, and Nick trapped by their family history and the choices of their fathers? Are we forever defined by our family of origin, our history, and the choices of our parents and grandparents? Is it possible to break a family pattern and begin a new life? How?
3. There are many characters in this story that are deeply wounded; some of these wounds are visible and others are not. Find examples in the novel of a visible wound and an invisible wound. Which of these injuries is closest to your personal experience? Have you learned to cope with or move beyond these hurts?
4. How does the theme of forgiveness play out in this story? In your view, who is forgiveness for, the forgiver or the forgiven? Do you find it hard to forgive when you are hurt? Is it more difficult to forgive someone who has wronged you or to forgive yourself?
5. Which characters are grappling with the sin of pride? Do you ever make foolish or destructive choices in an attempt to save your pride? What are the consequences?
6. What do you believe is the true meaning of sacrifice? In what ways do Sarah, Cord, and Nick make sacrifices for their families? When is self-sacrifice not the wisest or best choice?
7. The 5th commandment instructs us to honor our mother and father. But is honor the same as unquestioning obedience? When and how did Sarah and Cord begin to make choices that defied their fathers’ wishes? Amidst these choices, did they continue to honor their fathers? When did you first realize that your parents were not infallible and begin to make your own, perhaps contrary, decisions?
8. Sarah and Cord never question their passion for one another, but they do question, multiple times, the depth and strength of their love. What is the difference between love and passion? Can you have a healthy relationship if you have one without the other?
9. Nick is physically trapped in pain and immobility but in many ways seems freer than anyone else in the story. In what ways are the other characters trapped throughout the novel? How do they find freedom? Can there be true freedom in confinement?
10. Both Sarah’s and Cord’s mothers died young and both their deaths were a result, in one way or another, of the feud between their families. How did the absence of these women affect the Wainwrights and the Caldwells? Did other women come along and fill these roles of wife or mother in their place? Who do you think were these surrogates and how did they impact the families?