Reading Group Discussion Questions
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  1. Ninah struggles to understand the difference between "good whores" and "women with passion," as well as the ways in which society views them. At the novel's conclusion, what has she learned about being a good woman and about the nature of good and evil in general?
  2. As Ninah matures, she comes to see Fire and Brimstone "like an island sinking from the weight of fearful hearts" (p. 17). Why is is so difficult for an isolated community to maintain its strength and vision? What is the role of such a group's leader, and do you consider Herman an effective leader?
  3. The empathy shared by Ninah and her grandmother touches every aspect of the girl's life. What is the significance of Ninah projecting her thoughts and feelings onto the stories Nanna tells about her own past? Given the relative weakness of her parents' personalities, what do you think would have happened to Ninah without the gift of Nanna's presence in her life?
  4. How does the creation of Ninah's rugs mirror the process of storytelling in the novel?
  5. 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 religion? If she chooses to stay in the community, accepting some of the religion's tenets while disregarding others, can she be considered a true member of her Church? Do you feel a person can be a member of any religion without adhering to all of its beliefs?
  6. In what ways can the beginning of Ninah's menstrual flow be considered the "inciting moment" of the novel (that is, the circumstance that sets the book's events in motion)? 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?


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