Christian fiction

The Shack

Author: 
Young, William Paul

Mackenzie Allen Philips’ youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation, and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend.

Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever. (From the publisher.)

Discussion Guide: 

1. How did reading this book affect your faith? Does it change, challenge, strengthen your image of God? Why is God portrayed as a woman, what reasons does God give Mack?

2. Does God answer convincingly the reason for the trinity?

3. Does the idea of God a character in the book, or God's first-person voice, bother you...or does it work within the context of The Shack's story?

4. Why did God let Missy die? Do you think The Shack answers convincingly the central question of theodicy, the existence of evil—or why, if there is a God, bad things happen to good people?

5. What does The Shack say about forgiveness—toward the self or toward those who have wronged you.

6. Young has been criticized for advocating lawlessness (p. 122) ...or universalism (p. 225)? Do you think that is a fair or unfair criticism?

7. Many readers find the first 4 chapters of The Shack almost too painful to read. Could they have been written in a way that would be less painful—without changing the book's message?

8. Does the book's ultimate message satisfy you? Is it possible to let go of control and certainty in life? Is it possible to live only in the present?

(Questions by LitLovers)

Cage of Stars

Author: 
Mitchard, Jacquelyn

Twelve-year-old Veronica Swan's idyllic life is shattered when her two younger sisters are brutally murdered. Years later, she sets out alone to avenge her sisters' deaths. As she closes in on the killer, Veronica will discover the true meaning of sin and compassion, before she makes a decision that will change her and her family's lives forever.

Discussion Guide: 

1. Why do you think this book is titled Cage of Stars? It’s a wonderful visual image, but what might it mean?

2. What real-life case does the situation in this book evoke for you? Do you believe that mental illness is a legitimate defense when a person commits a terrible crime? Is justice served if the person is released from an institution?

3. Who is to blame for this crime? Could it have been prevented? Can a random act of violence ever be prevented? Do any of the survivors feel guilty? Do they bear any responsibility in the deaths?

4. At one point, after reading a letter from Miko, Ronnie says “I was the only one still . . . stuck.” Do you think this being “stuck” is related to Ronnie’s choice of vengeance over forgiveness? How else does her quest for “justice” affect her life?

5. Ronnie does not carry out her plan for revenge, but if she had, how would you rewrite the end of this story?

6. Talk about Ronnie’s relationship with her parents. Do you think she is closer to her father than her mother? Why?

7. Ronnie says, at the beginning of chapter fourteen, that “I think every religion must have been started by a person who loved someone who died.” What is your response to that? True or false?

8. Looking at Ronnie’s life and that of her parents…do you believe that someone can love and hate at the same time? Do you think a person can go beyond grief and tragedy, even when the loss is as great as the murder of two innocent children? If yes, what behaviors can help that happen—carrying out an act of vengeance or offering forgiveness?

9. How much does the Swan family being Mormon influence this story? Would this story be radically different if the family had been Jewish, Muslim, Roman Catholic, or Friends (Quakers)? Would a family without any strong religious affiliation have responded to tragedy in the same way as the Swans?

10. The names of the characters in this book are unusual. Do you think any of them have symbolic meaning? Which ones?

11. Ronnie has an exceptionally close friendship with Clare. Talk about its importance in Ronnie’s emotional life.

12. What do you think ultimately stops Ronnie from carrying out the kidnapping of Juliet or from letting Scott Early die?

13. Ronnie’s landlady, Mrs. Desmond, assesses Ronnie’s character at their first meeting. On what does she base her judgment? Is she right? What traits or behaviors are the truest reflection of character?

14. Why does Ronnie fall in love with Miko and vice versa? Is true love a choice or an act of fate?

15. The story has a happy ending, and a symbolic one. Discuss what happens in the final chapter, when it happens, and what message it conveys.

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