Reading Questions for Thief
2. Discuss the title. What is stolen in this novel? Who are the thieves (including those who stole Alpha Breville's innocence when he was young)?
3. Maureen Gibbon's writing has been compared to the work of Kate Chopin, Anaïs Nin, and Colette. What is your reaction to her frank depictions of women's sexuality? Would your reaction be different if these scenes had been written by a man?
4. At first, Suzanne wants to write letters that torture Breville. How does the balance of power shift between them throughout the novel? What motivated Breville to respond to Suzanne's ad, knowing it could only lead to him being tantalized? What does their relationship teach them about themselves?
5. The author was herself a victim of rape at age sixteen and later wrote about the experience in various forums, including The New York Times Magazine. She has also worked as an advocate for rape victims, which taught her that there is no single correct way to react after being a target of sexual violence. How does this knowledge of the author's personal history affect your reading of her novel? Should authors' experiences be part of the conversation when discussing their fiction?
6. How does Suzanne's past influence the way she copes with the aftermath of rape? Do her strategies liberate her or wound her further?
7. Is Thief a love story? If so, is it an entirely tragic one or one with hope?
8. Discuss the various men Suzanne invites into her life, including Julian (who is adept at reinventing himself); her high school boyfriend Cree; the unstable Richaux; and her fatherly landlord, Merle, as well as Breville and the cowboy (Brill). What do these characters indicate about Suzanne's evolving needs?
9. How do the settings reflect Suzanne's experiences? Why does she choose a prolonged rural sojourn over life in the Twin Cities? What natural state does she enjoy while swimming in a lake? How does her state of mind change when she has to conform to the regulations of prison? Which "settings" in your life story have shaped you in significant ways?
10. In this day of e-mail, texts, and tweets, what role do handwritten letters and phone calls play in our lives? To whom do you still write letters? Why? What can be conveyed in a phone call that can't be conveyed by electronic media? Do personal ads and online dating services create unrealistic illusions? How do communications between Suzanne and Breville change after they meet in person?
11. What does Suzanne's willingness to correspond with an incarcerated rapist say about her? Is it an extreme act that shows a lack of boundaries, or a brave attempt to understand a truth no matter the cost? Does Breville have much in common with Frank L—— and Keil Ward?
12. The author chose first-person narration for Thief, allowing Suzanne to tell her story. What do Suzanne's voice and storytelling style tell you about her?
13. Does Breville deserve to win an appeal? Was he wronged by the legal system? How did your opinion of him shift throughout the novel?
14. What do the novel's closing scenes say about scars and healing? Is Suzanne healed in those scenes, or simply transformed? Ultimately, what message does Thief send to survivors of rape?
15. Gibbon's previous novel, Swimming Sweet Arrow, and her book of poems, Magdalena, feature women who attempt to navigate life's currents on their own terms. What themes are woven throughout all of Gibbon's depictions of women? In what ways does Suzanne nonetheless represent a departure for Gibbon?
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