Photo: Ben Goldstein/Studio D
1. Salvation City takes place in a world very similar to our own. Why do you think the author has changed the things she did in creating a possible near future? How realistic do you find the world of the novel? Can you relate it to our present-day circumstances?
2. A recurring theme in the novel is heroism and what it means to be a hero. Who in the novel do you think acts heroically? Who does not? Cole sees both Pastor Wyatt and Mason as heroes at the start of the book. Does he see them in the same way by the end?
3. Cole's mother and father identify themselves as intellectuals and atheists. PW and the rest of the community of Salvation City are fundamentalist Christians who are suspicious of the outside world. Where does Cole fit into this spectrum? Where do his sympathies lie at the start of the book? How have they changed by the end?
4. Despite a haywire series of events, the novel ends on an optimistic note. What do you think Cole has learned over the course of the novel? Where do you see him going once the novel finishes? Do you think he would have come to the same conclusions had he not lost his parents and moved in with PW?
5. At the start of the novel, Salvation City seems a safe haven for Cole, but by the end, the community is thrown in turmoil. What forces are at work here? How do the changes in the community mirror Cole's own emotional development?
6. Think about other books you've read that have been set in the near future. Is the world of Salvation City more hopeful? Why or why not?
7. The most violent parts of the book take place in the orphanages, after Cole has lost his parents and before he is adopted by PW and Tracy. Why do you suppose the author included these scenes? Do they influence the way you perceive the community of Salvation City?
8. Addy is Cole's last remaining connection to his mother and father, and yet he chooses not to move in with her. Why do you think he makes this choice? Do you support his decision? Would the novel have ended differently if he had chosen to go with Addy?
9. Both Cole's parents and PW try to instill their values in him. By the end of the book, what has Cole learned from his parents? From PW? What has he figured out for himself?
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From the October 2010 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
We Hear You!