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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

Continental Drift

1. What are your feelings about Bob Dubois and how did they change over the course of the novel? To what extent is Bob responsible for what happens to him and his family? To what extent is he a victim of circumstance and of those who take advantage of him? Do you consider Bob to be an "everyman"?

2. Banks compares the movement of refugees and other people escaping unbearable circumstance to the patterns of the earth's currents and geological shifts. How does this metaphor inform the novel? Is Banks saying that such human movement is inevitable and unavoidable? Are Bob's and Vanise's stories part of a larger, universal phenomenon?

3. What part does Vanise's religion, voodoo, play in her life and in the decisions she makes? How does her faith support her---and how does it betray her?

4. Even though he doesn't practice an organized religion, in what ways is Bob spiritual?

5. Given that Bob loves Elaine, what motivates him to cheat on her? What, if anything, does Marguerite offer Bob that Elaine can't provide? How is Marguerite's race a significant factor in Bob's relationship with her?

6. Family relationships and violence are common themes in Banks's work. What roles do they play in this novel?

7. In the chapter "Making a Killing," Bob meditates on the difference between hunters and fishermen, declaring himself to be the latter. Do you think this is true, based on Bob's actions and thoughts? What does this suggest about his potential for success?

8. Why do you think Bob decided to smuggle Haitian immigrants but not drugs? Is Bob any better than the smugglers with whom Vanise first traveled, who raped her and subjected her to such horrible conditions on board the boat?

9. Discuss Banks's narrative technique and the novel's structure. How do Bob's and Vanise's stories inform one another? When and how does Banks's narrator intrude, and when does the narrator speak from a distance? How do the italicized first and last sections frame the novel, and to what effect?

10. Why do you think Banks "killed off" Bob Dubois? Why couldn't he and Elaine have returned to New Hampshire? How does Bob's death---and its circumstances---support the novel's themes?

11. What makes Continental Drift a classic? Do you think it will still be considered an important book fifty years from now? Why or why not?

Continental Drift
by Russell Banks

  • Publication Date: June 1, 2000
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics
  • ISBN-10: 0060956739
  • ISBN-13: 9780060956738