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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Children of God Read-a-long: Discussion Questions

Welcome to the discussion portion of the CHILDREN OF GOD read-a-long. I hope you're enjoying this second book by Mary Doria Russell!

For the discussion, here's what you need to know:
  • if you want to participate (and it is completely optional) check out the questions below and answer a few either on your blog or in the comment section of this post
  • if you answer on your blog, come back and post the link in the comment section so we can check out your answers
  • if you have a question you'd like to pose to the group, put it in the comment section and I'll add it here asap
Be forewarned - there will be spoilers in the questions and answers so only read on if you've finished the book.

Let's begin!

My Questions
  1. Now that you've read both THE SPARROW and CHILDREN OF GOD, which book do you like better? Why?  Which book is "darker"?  (According to the author, most people like the second book better even though they say it has a darker feeling to it.)
  2. One of the differences between the population on Earth and that on Rakhat is that humans are allowed to "breed" whenever and with whomever they want while one Rakhat reproduction was strictly governed for both species.  On Earth this led to the destruction of much of the planet while on Rakhat it led to the subjugation of the Runa and Jana'ata (though in different ways).  Which path - Earth's or Rakhat's - is "more right" or "less wrong"? Why? Is there a better solution?
  3. Over and over in this book (and in THE SPARROW) characters reiterate that they did not mean to do harm, or they did things with the best intentions.  Do their good intentions make them less responsible for the outcome of their actions?  Do intentions mean anything in the long run?
  4. On page 219 Danny thinks to himself: "if you believe in God's sovereignty and if you believe in God's goodness, then what happened to Sandoz must be part of a larger plan; and if that is so, you can help this one soul and serve God by returning with him to Rakhat." Later he uses this as justification for kidnapping Sandoz.  In your opinion, does the end justify the means?  Do you think that is what the author is saying though the actions of Danny, Vicenzo Guiliani, and the Pope?  Was it right for Sandoz to be taken against his will, given how the second mission turns out?
  5. Halfway through the book the author begins to reveal this history of the war through conversation that take place in the future between the Jesuits and Suukmel and Sofia. The author stated in an interview that she wasn't particularly pleased with the way this section turned out but that it was the "least bad" way to write it.  Did this narrative tool work for you? 
  6. What is the significance of the music Isaac discovers?  Does it prove anything?  Does it give meaning to both missions? Why or why not?

Excerpted Questions from the Reader's Guide
  1. Russell never tells us what happened to the UN party that showed up at the end of The Sparrow and sent Emilio back to Earth. What do you think happened to them? Why does Russell leave the fate of the rescue party a mystery?
  2. One reviewer describes the characters in this story as "rather too forgiving to be wholly human." Do you agree? If you were in Sandoz's shoes, would you be able to work with the people who kidnapped you?
  3. At the end of the book Emilio Sandoz makes it very clear to Sofia that he can't forgive what was done to him. He is ashamed of that--he wishes he could, but he just can't let go of his hate. Do you think that will ever change for Sandoz? Sandoz also realizes that he can't hate the children of the men who harmed him, he can't hate the Jana'ata in general for what Supaari VaGayjur and Hlavan Kitheri and seventeen other men did to him. Is this a moral triumph for the former priest?
  4. History and religious literature are both packed with examples indicated that God's favor brings not wealth and happiness, but agony and torture. How could Sandoz, a Jesuit priest inculcated with stories of martyred saints, feel so betrayed by God? Is there a difference between what happened to Sandoz and what happened to martyred saints throughout history?
  5. Sofia has had all the same traumas as Emilio but unlike Emilio, she did not have sympathetic supporters to help her overcome what happened to her. How does she survive her experiences? How would you describe her reaction to the traumas she has suffered? Why does she become so blind to the suffering of the remaining Jana'ata?
  6. In the Coda, Emilio muses that we come into the world hardwired to hear noise and make language, to see a chaos of color and find patterns, to experience random events and make a coherent life out of them. Is it possible that the idea of God is simply a manifestation of that biological drive to impose structure on sensory input?
  7. What do you think of Danny Iron Horse's plan to save the Jana'ata by establishing reservations? Do you think Danny's plan will work in the long run or will it be as disastrous as America's reservation system was for Native Americans?

I think that give us PLENTY to talk about, don't you?! I can't wait to see what you all think.

1 comment:

Suey said...

Thanks for visiting Heather! Here's a link to my thoughts so far for anyone else interested:

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