All She Left Behind
by Jane Kirkpatrick




Discussion Questions:
1. In order to succeed, Jennie had to surmount many obstacles; dyslexia, an alcoholic husband, a difficult son, the loss of an infant, and a judgmental society that constrained women to name a few. Discuss how she overcame these challenges. What role do you think her faith played in this?

2. Jennie was gravely affected by substance abuse. Talk about how this played into Jennie’s hopes not only to become a doctor but to find a cure for people’s addictions. Discuss Jennie’s feeling and thoughts towards substance abuse. Discuss substance abuse today. Have attitudes changed? Is treatment more effective today?

3. Why do you think Jennie felt responsible for her husband and son's bad actions when she had nothing to do with them?

4. In what ways is Jennie a memorable character? What were her strengths and weaknesses? Did you like her?

5. What is the place of women in 1870s Oregon? Discuss the attitude of men towards women. Can you think of any present-day parallels? Did the prevailing attitude towards women play any role in some of the poor choices Jennie made? Her lack of self-confidence? Were the views pervasive in society at large or specific to small-town life?

6. Jennie’s husband, Charles, fell hard and hit his head on the floor during their wedding. As it turns out,he was not the man Jennie thought she was marrying. Discuss what this fall may or may not have had to do with this. Talk about how people change after marriage in general. Was Charles within these boundaries?

7. Charles is the villain in this story; his alcoholism, abusive and untrustworthy nature, his propensity to be deceitful. Do you think he was a good father and husband in spite of his faults? What was the driving reason Charles divorced Jeannie? How did the manner in which he divorced Jennie make you feel? Discuss his character – was it balanced? Believable?

8. What do you think of Jennie's relationship with her children, Douglas in particular? Do you agree with her decision to send him to boarding school? Jeannie was a kind compassionate person. Do you think she stayed true to herself when dealing with Douglas? What do you think was the underlying reason for Douglas’s bad behavior? Have you ever had to deal with someone you love behaving badly?

9. Do you think alcoholism is genetic or a learned behavior?

10. What about Josiah’s motivations for marrying so quickly after his wife died. Do you think Josiah and Jennie loved each other or was their marriage based on something other than love?

11. What do you think of Josiah’s relationship with Jennie’s son Douglas? Was he a positive influence on Douglas? Do you think he genuinely cared about Douglas?

12. What do you make of Josiah’s son by his first wife? How do you explain his attitude and treatment of Jennie? Why do you think Jennie continued to make payments on her debt, even after she and Josiah were married? Would you have done the same thing?

13. To what extent do you think Josiah’s influential position in society was responsible for Jeannie’s success? Why do you think Josiah pushed Jennie to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor?

14. Discuss the tone and writing style of the book. Did it enhance or detract from the story?

15. Discuss your feelings about how the book ended? Would you have preferred a different outcome?

(Discussion Questions By PrincetonBookReview.com - Feel free to use with attribution. )
Book Club Talking Points:
This story has many talking points; overcoming tragedy and personal challenges, acceptance of what we cannot change, and acceptance of others. It is not a love story, but it is a story about love. It also tackles some tough issues of the 1870s. It examines the role of women and what divorce was like in 1870. Alcoholism and abusive relations are looked at, as well as the effect this and divorce had on children back then. The author also explores the struggles of being a woman, divorced and raising a child.
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