Book Club Questions
- The writer explores a historical period using multiple points of view. The major characters regard the world around them differently; each from their own unique perspectives and aspirations. Describe their goals. What events shape their opinions? What do you think must happen for a person to see merit in an opposing point of view?
- As Californians secured statehood, they claimed a stake in a new ungoverned land when territories/states were ruled by the entrepreneurial spirit of those seeking a new life or escaping an old one. Self-governed societies evolved from the influx of multinationals during the unprecedented event of the gold rush, pushing aside indigenous people and a pre-existing Spanish autonomy. Discuss the positives and negatives of beginning a government from scratch in these times.
- James experiences a life-altering conflict in his youth. He consistently confronts oppression wherever he finds it. Describe the types of prejudice James exhibits.
- Judge Dandridge describes a time where the ability of the law to convict and punish the guilty is inadequate. Given what you have read about the Judge, is he a good man, or an evil man? What do you think his motivations are? What does he want for himself, and what does he want for California? Are these things one and the same?
- What comes to mind when you hear the terms – vigilance committee or vigilante? Does it suggest, law where there is none, or lawlessness? What’s wrong with this kind of action? What’s right about it? Discuss in light of the quote, “Power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”
- James and Lodie size up the behavior of the other settlers. Lodie says, “From this point on we separate the sheer base characters of our neighbors from how they see themselves.” James adds, “or want others to see them.” What do you think this means?
- Dutton is politically indoctrinated from a very young age. How do you think this will affect him as an adult?
Charlotte and Justin share a unique closeness and upbringing. Having glimpsed their characters as children, how do you see them developing as adults?
- One of the ironies of life illustrates that people raised in both dire circumstances or affluent ones, each produce individuals that rise to become their best and ones who sink to their worst. Why do you think that is?
- The partnership amongst James, Lodie, Sean and Vicente is uncommon for its time. Given that the secret to their prosperity is largely due to Vicente, did you feel he was treated fairly and equitably by the others?
- James tells Charlotte, “The times to fight are few, yet a battle that should have been fought cannot be revisited.” He also says, “Winning is standing up to wrong, even if the world tells you that you lost.” What would you fight for? Is there a moral responsibility attached to the way you fight? Explain.
- So many secrets! Should Althea have kept hers? So far, James has kept his – should he continue to hold on to it? Why or why not? How has it shaped his life?
- Which character do you relate to most? Admire? Sympathize with?
- ROBBING THE PILLARS explores a pioneer period of adventure, hope and dreams. The cost of leaving friends, family and lifestyles for hardship was high. Would you do it? Could you exchange the known for the unknown? What makes the risk worth the gamble?
- How do you see the horrific event in James’s youth affecting his life? In what ways did it change who he became? Did you think it enhanced or detracted and why? Which other character(s) can you see being affected by a major setback?
- Though ROBBING THE PILLARS is a historical novel, the author feels the story is a showcase for human nature. As society evolves, do you think mankind becomes better? Or do we always have to fight a part of our own natures?
- James is painfully aware of his temper, yet he does not shrink back from what he feels is important. Which characters struggle with parts of their natures, and which ones appear to think no change is necessary?
- Thinking of Sean and Althea – describe your impressions of early courting. Is courting a lost art? Do you have any family stories? How did your grandparents meet?
- James believes, “Oppression never dies out on its own.” Do you think this is true?
- James and his friends once agreed with the intent of the law as, “common sense, for the common good.” As the state begins to prosper, James says, “As with all things that begin nobly, growth and greed deteriorate them.” Discuss.
- California has long suffered massive flooding. The mayor of Marysville states, “We’ve been slow to act until prodded by crisis.” Environmentally speaking on a national scale, has this changed?
- Do you think Althea is a strong woman for her time? What qualities make her so, and what social constrictions keep her from expressing those qualities?
- Leading into Book 2, many of the characters have made personal decisions to change the direction of their lives. Whom do you feel made decisions that were true to themselves? Do you agree with their choices? How will the choice of the individual affect others?
- Now that the identity of the man with the silver-headed cane has been revealed to the reader, how do you foresee this information affecting the other characters in Book 2, THE RAID OF SOULS?
- Imagine living in a time where people moved to a wilderness from all over the country, entrenched in their own local beliefs and prejudices, and are now sharing the same untamed territory with existing indigenous cultures. Add to that, the gold rush, an event that led to massive immigrations of nations from all over the globe. Given the mistakes and the discoveries of a period, what can we learn from it? How can we be inspired by it?
- What will you remember most about ROBBING THE PILLARS? Do you feel you have a better historical understanding of the times they lived in? Who was your favorite character, and why?