Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. In many ways, Ana Swift and Emile Guillaudeu are very different characters. But what are some preoccupations or themes that they share?
2. How would you describe Ana Swift at the beginning of the novel? What does she hope will be different for her now that she works at Barnum's museum? As she settles into a routine there, does her outlook change? How?
3. Over the course of the book, what changes in Guillaudeu's character surprised you?
4. Guillaudeu goes on a journey into the still undeveloped regions of upper Manhattan. Discuss this journey's importance to the plot overall. How successfully does the author portray this landscape?
5. There are many texts within the book, related to both Emile Guillaudeu's and Ana Swift's stories. How do the works of Georges Cuvier and Linnaeus, as well as Ana's True Life History and Quincy Kipp's Epistemonicon, help build the world of the book? What does each text reveal about the time period of the novel?
6. Among the Wonderful explores a particular place and time through the lens of Barnum's museum—the book is full of displays, spectacles and the blurred line between fact and fancy. What similarities do you see between the world of Barnum's museum and the present day?
7. How would you describe P.T. Barnum's character in the book? Is he a villain? A prophet? Just a businessman?
8. How do Barnum's Representatives of the Wonderful treat one another? Are they as isolated as they think they are? Do they form a real community?
9. Why do none of the residents of the fifth floor intervene when the relationship between the conjoined twins, Matthew and Jacob, becomes violent?
10. Contrast Ana's relationship with Mr. Ramsay with her relationship with Beebe. What can you distill about her longing for love in her life?