Authors: Paulette Jiles
For my cousin Susan Jiles Lawson and, as always, for Jim
HarperCollins E-book Extra
: A Reading Group Guide
Young men joined up . . .
It was the third year of the war . . .
In the year before the war . . .
Their father was taken on . . .
They walked up the military road . . .
After a week they came . . .
The .rst night the guards . . .
The fortune-teller was named . . .
When they were allowed out . . .
Adair Colley! the sergeant bellowed . . .
The writing paper lay broad . . .
Two days later Major William . . .
Miss Colley, he said. he shut the . . .
And again she was escorted . . .
There were two courtyards . . .
The major stood before the . . .
She would go over the wall . . .
Inside a little old man and . . .
The next morning before .rst . . .
was a side . . .
Adair rode in a wagon to the . . .
Then it was early morning.
Major William Neumann . . .
Adair paused before a . . .
At midnight furniture shapes . . .
Well, you have done caught Maggie.
Adair spent the next morning . . .
Adair Randolph Colley started . . .
The next morning Adair . . .
The blood dried on his . . .
The ferryman had a pet . . .
Adair came at last to the . . .
: A Reading Group Guide
HE CIVIL WAR
era was one of the most divisive and heartrending in our nation’s history. For eighteen-year-old Adair Colley it brought about intense personal change as well. Although the Colley family was neutral on the issues of secession and slavery, many men from their area in the Missouri Ozarks had joined the Confederate army.
One day in November 1864 the Union Militia sweep in on their mission to rout Confederate sympathizers. They set the Colley homestead on fire, and arrest Adair’s father, a mild-mannered justice of the peace. Adair and her two younger sisters gather together what they can and set off to find shelter. Along the way, however, Adair herself is arrested on charges of “enemy collaboration” and sent to a women’s prison in St. Louis.
There she meets a Union major, William Neumann, who is to be her interrogator, and the two fall in love. Before he is sent back to the front, Neumann helps Adair plan an escape and, not long after he leaves, she makes her break. Weakened and alone, Adair must now travel through dangerous territory as she makes her way home — not knowing who or what she will find there.
1. The first chapter of the book paints the Civil War in the Ozarks with a very broad brush. It is a short chapter, and yet the emotional tone of the chapter shifts between the beginning and the end. How does the tone change, and what techniques does the author use to change it? What is the tone at the beginning of the chapter; what is the tone at the end of the chapter?
2. The scope of the novel is larger than its concerns with Adair’s personal relationships with her family and the Major. There are battle scenes and long journeys, depictions of the city of St. Louis and its wartime waterfront. What technical choices does the author make to distinguish the “larger picture” scenes from the narratives that deal exclusively with personal relationships?
is a novel, many of the historical events it describes are real, and the author includes snippets from letters, journals, newspapers, and military dispatches at the beginning of each chapter. Do you like this technique of mixing the actual with the imagined? How does it affect your reading and/or enjoyment of the narrative? Is there a thread or ongoing story unfolding through the historical quotes themselves?
4. Do you think the author has succeeded in portraying nineteenth-century personalities and attitudes through her characters? Or do you feel she has simply transposed late-twentieth-century attitudes and behavior onto the Civil War era? What’s the difference?
5. The author goes against convention by not using quotation marks throughout the book. How does this unusual technique make you feel? Were you immediately comfortable, or did it take you a while to get used to it? How did it affect your experience of the dialogue?
6. Adair, and other characters in the book, reveal their inner lives through their actions rather than through devices such as interior monologue or omniscient description or flashbacks to childhood. How is this different from methods usually employed in other novels? Does the author use dialogue to reveal character?
7. There are no flashbacks in the novel. Where and how does Adair impart some information about the Colley family’s life before the war? The author then doubles back and casts doubt on the authenticity of the information. How and why does the author do this?
8. At one point, the Major says to Adair, “Had you met me at a social gathering, you would probably not even have spoken to me, because I am a Yankee officer.” Had Adair and the Major met under other circumstances, would she have ignored him?
has a rich array of minor characters. Among them are Christopher Columbus Jones (the ostler at the Major’s boardinghouse), Lt. Brawley, Mr. and Mrs. Greathouse (the couple who argue over the hat), Greasy John, the “botanical steam doctor” in the town of Valles Mines, Jessie Hyssop, Colonel Timothy Reeves (who only appears at the very end of the book, although we hear about him from the beginning). Who are your favorite minor characters, and why?
10. Rivers play an important role in
both as symbols and as actual barriers. In the nineteenth century, rivers were far more than symbols: they were often-dangerous crossing points that had to be negotiated at some risk. What significance is there in the name of each river? Does a change occur to the hero or heroine as he or she meets new tests or enemies on the far side?
11. Adair changes over the course of the book, from an audacious, outspoken, fearless young woman to someone more inner-directed, cautious, quiet, even frightened. Where are the crucial scenes that demonstrate this transformation?