Monday, August 17, 2009

Bad Girls' Book Club: The Rapture of Canaan

Welcome to the first meeting of The Bad Girl's Book Club!

One of these days I'll get a chat room-type thing set up where we can talk in real time, but for now we'll make do just discussing it in the comments (I was going to use The Blog Frog, but it's no different than posting comments here, so we may as well just do it here--it's one less account you have to sign in to).

So, I'm going to post some questions--some stolen from other book club discussions, some from me. You can talk about these, or about any aspect of the book you want to discuss. If you have a discussion question you'd like added, post it the comments and I'll get it added here.

The Rapture of Canaan by Sheri Reynolds

Why does Ninah ironically feel lonely in a community that emphasizes sameness? Why do cults encourage the loss of separate identities among their followers, and why are these followers willing to give them up? How does Ninah's special status as Canaan's mother disturb the balance of the Fire and Brimstone community?

How does the character of Ninah's grandmother humanize and add to the reader's understanding of the novel's other characters, especially Herman? How has Nanna survived so long within the community despite being skeptical of its beliefs, and why doesn't she take an active role in changing them?

How does the author use the symbolism of blood to achieve impact at various points in the story? Why is it fitting for Ninah to include blood in her materials for weaving rugs?

What is the role of Ninah's friendships with Ajita and Corinthian in her coming-of-age? How would Ninah and the Fire and Brimstone community have been different if the group's children were tutored at home rather than taught at public school?

How do the harsh punishments administered by Grandpa Herman and the Church lead to Ninah's mortifying her own flesh? What does the group hope that severe punishment will accomplish, and what does it achieve in actuality? What is the significance of Ninah's not bothering to sleep on nettles when she discovers she is pregnant?

Why would young people find it difficult to embrace a religion like Fire and Brimstone that focuses on severe discipline and the end of life on earth? By the end of the novel, has Ninah completely rejected her religion? If she chooses to stay in the community, accepting some of the religion's tenets while disregarding others, can she rightly still be considered a member of her Church? Do you feel a person can be a member of any religion without adhering to all of its beliefs?

Do you think James and Ninah were adequately prepared by their religion to face temptation and deal with its consequences? Why, or why not?

8. How do you feel about Canaan being given to another family to raise? Did you agree or disagree with Ninah's choice to secretly breastfeed him?

Why does the conferred status of "the New Messiah" paradoxically strip Canaan of his dignity? How does Ninah's final act in the novel restore it? How does the author utilize acts of cutting throughout the book as metaphors for Ninah's severing the bonds of her childhood and her religion?

10. Do you believe James took advantage of Ninah? Do you think he deliberately deceived her when he claimed it was God speaking through him?

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