Reading Group Guide
1. Isa and Edward are willing to risk their lives because they believe in the power of words to inspire, restore, and give hope. Can you share an experience where the written word has impacted you so that you felt differently after you read it?
2. Isa is naive about the state of affairs in occupied Brussels, even surprised when she learns the Germans have taken over national landmarks like the Palais de Justice. As Americans, we’ve been blessed to never have to confront an infringement on our freedom. What everyday activities do we take for granted that might be taken from us if we were ever occupied by foreign troops?
3. Isa and Edward express different ideas about how to interpret God’s will. Isa claims it must be God’s will for her to be there, simply because she has made it safely. Later, Edward tells a group of Germans that God revealed His will by way of desire. What are the merits and the flaws in each of these interpretations? Why do you think God’s will is sometimes hard to figure out?
4. Throughout much of the story, Edward doubts God can be in control when life is so chaotic and unfair. Have you ever turned from God rather than turned to God when you don’t understand why bad things happen around you?
5. Genny tells Isa: “I don’t like myself when my thoughts are so full of hate, and I doubt you would either.” But when Genny is in the car with Max on the way to St. Gilles, she admits to herself that she hates every one of them, even the one at her side. Can you share a time when your outward appearance, words, or actions vastly contradicted your inward emotions? Was that good or bad, and how did you handle it? Is it possible to redirect one’s emotions? How?
6. Have you ever considered which side God would be on in the wars throughout history? How do you think God feels about war in general?
7. After Isa agrees to house the press, she realizes she might have endangered all of them just to get Edward to notice her. Have you ever convinced yourself you were doing something solely for God, depending on His protection, when underneath you had mixed motives? What made you realize that?
8. During the dinner party discussion between the Germans and Edward, one of the sentiments expressed is that God may exist but can hardly be concerned about the details concerning mankind. Edward assures them God is concerned, because He loves all of us. How would you respond to this sentiment? Do you think Edward is right? Is God concerned with every decision we make?
9. Edward admits he was never sure whether his faith had been his own or simply handed down to him from his father. Have you ever wrestled with whether your faith was your own and not simply something you “inherited” from your family or culture? How did you resolve this uncertainty?
10. Genny informs Edward that he’d better learn to distinguish Max from the army he represents because Max is a Christian and they’ll have to spend eternity together. Have you ever struggled with your attitude toward a fellow Christian who differs from you in some substantial way? All emotion aside, how do you think God wants you to handle your relationship with this person here on earth?
11. Have you ever felt helpless in a situation where anger seemed to be the only emotion you could decipher? When Edward thrusts his fist at God, Father Clemenceau reminds him that God doesn’t have to account Himself to anyone. Has anyone ever given you this sort of spiritual slap in the face, to remind you of your place and that God is God and He can allow what He sees best in order for us to know Him best?
12. When all seems lost, Isa accepts her fate. How do you think she might have handled her sentence if she didn’t have faith that there is more to this life than the number of years we spend on earth?