Reading Group Guide
1. As the book opens, Nick is working at a café, not at the profession he has been trained for. What was his motivation to work there? What has made his feelings of failure heavier? Have you, or someone you know, ever experienced failure like this? If so, how was it overcome?
2. Piper is convinced that Nick has sent her brother to jail falsely and she wants to “prove Nick’s guilt.” What is driving her to do this?
3. Nick hasn’t been home for ten years. When he drives into Phillips, memories rush back to him. Why did he leave town? What are his goals in returning?
4. What does the kind of welcome that Nick receives when he returns --- from Stefanie, Maggie and Cole --- tell you about the kind of person he was when he left?
5. Cole is dying and has given up. Have you ever felt so overwhelmed with something that you simply give up? What would you do to reach someone like Cole? What would you want someone to do for you if you were in Cole’s shoes?
6. Maggie finally tells Nick the secret she’s kept for years. Have you ever harbored a secret that you finally had to tell? In this situation, would you have told Nick? Do you think it was right to keep the secret that Maggie kept?
7. Nick makes a life-threatening sacrifice to help Cole. Do you think he does it out of guilt or shame? What is the difference, if any, between guilt and shame? What do you think is a stronger motivator?
8. Piper has a painful past, which has affected her faith in God. When she hears the story from the book of Mark, chapter five, of the woman with the bleeding disorder, Piper identifies with the woman and feels as if she is somehow unable to escape her wounds. How has she changed by the end of the novel? Do you think it’s possible to ever completely heal from our wounds?
9. How has Nick changed by the end of the story? What is the impetus for this change?
10. There are a number of symbols in the book --- the petrified rock, Maggie’s dying cow, the name Noble. How did each of these play into the spiritual journeys of the characters? Do you see a parallel to your own spiritual walk?