Reading Group Questions and Topics for Discussion
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- Grace’s life was changed dramatically at age 13 when she lost her mother, step-father, sister, home, security. This—followed by three years with an aunt who showed her little love and even less attention—made her grow up quickly. Have you or someone you know ever had to “grow up quickly,” long “before their time?” How do you think it shaped you/them? How do your/their mannerisms, maturity and reactions differ from others?
- Grace believed she had two choices: (1) to stay in Crossings and deal with the ghost (Will) who saved her from intruders, or (2) move back to Boston to live with her volatile aunt. How much of her decision was based on her desire to stay away from her aunt and how much was driven by the hope that she’d see her dead family, just as she saw Will? What would you have done?
- In this book, Grace crossed into the mystic – a term representing an unknown world that is not controlled by logic, proof and science. Would you have taken the risks and chances she took? What would you have done differently than Grace, if you were in her shoes?
- Crossing into the Mystic is a blending of issues involving life and death, good and evil, happiness and suffering, trust and disbelief, fulfillment and desperation. What do you think Grace learns most during her journey in book 1? In what ways do you project (or hope) she might grow throughout the series (three books in total)?
- What preconceptions and assumptions are challenged throughout this story? For example, Grace’s world belief changed when she learned to communicate with a ghost. Do you think people become so anchored in their own version of “reality” that they cannot accept or even “see” things that lie outside of it?
- Do you have hesitations or problems with the possibility of life after death? With angels/demons in our midst? With the notion that ghosts might stay on earth due to unfinished business or an unwillingness to step into the hereafter? Or, do you believe that once you’re dead, you’re dead? Or, perhaps you believe something altogether different?
- In this book, Will fought for the South during the Civil War where slavery was still practiced at the time, yet he said no one should live in bondage. What do you think was behind his allegiance to the South? Do you see him as a hero who stood by friends and family, or do you think—as his dead estranged wife Naomi accused—that he was a fool fighting for a lost cause?
- When Grace is afraid, she repeats quotes on fear, to herself. What do you do when you are afraid? How does that help to calm you?
- Some readers have said that what makes Crossing into the Mystic especially interesting is the way it makes you think about God and the afterlife without preaching and judging. Has it done the same for you? What parts of this book resonated with you?
- How would you describe this novel to a friend? Is it a suspense novel? A thriller? A love story? A historical yarn? A study in character motivation and growth? What makes Crossing into the Mystic stand out among contemporary novels? Or, if you don’t think it does, what could the author have done differently to make it do so?
- Friendship blooms between Adriana, Cassie and Grace, yet they are of different ages, backgrounds, experiences. How are they good for one another? How do their friendships evolve during this story? What do you like about their friendships?
- When it comes to spookiness and things that go bump in the night, we seem to be torn, not able to decide whether to scoff at such experiences or to seek them out. Do you think we are drawn to ghost stories because we intuitively sense there may be more to reality than our eyes normally perceive?
- Nearly one in four Americans claims to have encountered an apparition. Yet, we’ve been conditioned by the scientific worldview to ignore spiritual implications and blame our overactive imagination for making things up. Do you think everything can be explained scientifically, or do you give credence to miracles and things unseen? Have you ever encountered something unexplainable? And, if so, how has it changed your thinking?
- Why did you like or dislike Crossing into the Mystic? If you found yourself thinking about it afterward, what was at the center of your thoughts?
- Where do you hope the author takes the characters in books 2 and 3? What would have to be present in the sequels for you to consider your time in reading them not just well-spent, but well-invested as well?
Bonus: Questions for Christian Readers
- The Bible teaches that angels are not equal to God, but exist to carry out his missions and accomplish His will. The Bible also suggests that demons are real, describes them as cunning and beguiling, and contains so many references to demons, demon possession, unclean spirits, exorcisms, and the casting out of evil spirits that we must consider that the universe is more complex than it may appear to our senses, and certainly to science. Do you agree? Why or why not
- Have you ever experienced a ghost or apparition, or other such unexplained phenomenon? How have you reconciled that with your faith? Has it boosted your faith even more? Do you think ghosts may be angels and demons in disguise?
- In Old Testament times, things were different. Men knew what an angel crossing their path looked like. They would fall down on their face in terror. It didn’t matter whether that angel was fallen or not. But nowadays, nobody seems to notice anything anymore. The supernatural and the spiritual blend in with the superficial. Nothing seems real. Nothing means anything. People are indifferent. Too busy. Do you agree or disagree? How do you take time to notice what’s around you and what God wants you to do?
- The book of Isaiah tells us not to seek counsel from dead people, witches, fortunetellers, etc. However, Grace talks with several dead people, and it’s not until the end of the trilogy (avoiding a spoiler) that Grace learns the error of her ways, and where she should and shouldn’t place her trust. This means that Grace may be doing things the “wrong” way. Do you think it’s okay for authors to show the wrong way, in order to show character growth and change? Or, must characters be close-to-perfect, (with only minor flaws), in order to present a credible Christian character?
- Where do you think Grace’s journey will take her? Do you believe that a love grown at such a delicate age with obstacles as substantial as family, faith, and foes can withstand the test of time?
Edging Through the Darkness – (Book 2- The Crossings Trilogy)
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- Edging through the Darkness (EttD) picks up where Crossing into the Mystic left off. The series is identified as a trilogy, each book building on the other. Yet, EttD has received comment (albeit, slight) that the second book could not stand alone. Was that a problem for you? Would it have been a problem if there had been no delay and could have read both books back-to-back? Do you think it important that each book be able to stand alone? How do you feel about series?
- A novelist researches a number of disparate topics to complete a book. In this series, for example, the author researched: social life during the Civil War; details of battles; origins and maneuvers of particular regiments (when they formed, where they fought, where they were imprisoned); ghosts (what the different Bible translations say vs. what the secular population believes); phrases, expressions and general language used in 1860s; and current-day colloquialisms used in the various locations referenced in the book (from Boston to West Virginia, to the Deep South); and more!
Once done, much of the research was edited out by editorial staff to expedite the reading process. Do you agree with the amount of historical detail shared in EttD? Would you have liked more or fewer details? Why?
- Time travel is the concept of movement (usually by a human) between different points in time. Many think Audrey Niffenegger’s “The Time Traveler’s Wife” (2009) was the most well-known to employ this technique, but actually H.G. Wells and Mark Twain popularly used the technique, too, as did Washington Irving (“Rip Van Winkle” – 1819).
Time travel allows the reader to examine how things change and how they stay the same. The problem is, you—as reader—are asked to believe someone would leave his/her present existence for another era…and love it. But, for example, would a modern-day woman truly (and willingly) stay in always-dangerous Medieval England (leaving behind friends and family) for a hunk with whom she would have very little in common?
EttD is a time travel novel with a twist. Rather than take Grace back and forth in time, the author chose to bring the past forward by way of ghosts. Did you enjoy this approach? If yes, why? If not, why not? (Do note that both time travel and ghosts are considered paranormal stories as both are equally unlikely, if not impossible.)
- EttD further develops Grace’s story to where, at the end of the book, she begins to believe Will has been lying about who and what he is. How did that make you feel? Were you disappointed, or did you think this was only a natural outcome for a spirit who has eschewed death?
- Aryeh Calfcort (the ghost helping to write a song in the library) and Malcolm Prestwood (the ghost researcher at the Georgia Historical Society) both suggest they are assisting a living being to further along something that already exists. Aryeh says, “It’s not my song. In fact, the song is already written,” and Malcolm says, “It’s not my cure. But the cure does exist.”
- Do you think that souls / angels / demons interact with us, helping us along (angels) OR thwarting our efforts (demons)? Do you think songs, books, art and medical cures already exist and are divinely given? Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, “…there is nothing new under the sun.” Do you believe this applies to creative arts and medical break-throughs?
- Grace puts the sleuthing of Mason’s death on hold, and by doing so, places Clay on hold too, in order to help her cousin. Would you have taken the chances that Grace took to save a family member? What might you have done differently?
- Publishing has changed drastically in the past ten years. As self-publishing and technology have blossomed, readership has dwindled and yet there are more books than ever published—about 3 million in the U.S. last year! As such, editors push for less description and detail to speed up the reading process, with the option of fully detailed books coming mostly from established authors. Would you have liked more lavish description in EttD, like that employed in Diane Gabaldon’s “Outlander” (1992), for example? Why or why not?
- The character of Seth Rendale undergoes a total transformation from book one to book two, after a demonic presence invades his body and he almost dies. Do you think people can change their personalities dramatically, such as after horrific (or wonderful!) events: overcoming disease, becoming a parent, experiencing near-death moments, embracing a faith. Has it ever happened to you? Or, do you know someone who has changed dramatically after a life event?
- Many readers said they were rooting for Grace to choose Clay at the end of the series. However, in EttD Seth has changed into a very mature and patient young man. Do you like this new person he becomes even more than Clay who tends to be a stronger and more-demanding personality? Why/why not?
- The locales described in EttD (West Virginia, Maryland) were the center of constant struggle, fear and change during the Civil War. In fact, Winchester, VA—which is only 30 minutes from Grace’s W.V. estate—changed sides 76 times during the four-year conflict! And, in Maryland, residents were known for three opinions—pro-North, pro-South or neutral. How might these waffling—and often combative attitudes—have affected daily life in the 1860s for civilians? Do you think it was a constant struggle to know whom you could trust? Or, from whom you could purchase goods and services? How do you think four years of war in your back yard would affect and/or change you?
- Crossing into the Mystic (book one) has won a first-place Chanticleer Book Award and has captured the attention of a screenwriter who has written a screenplay of it. And, at least two directors have voiced interest in directing it for a movie. (However, this is all highly speculative and subject to securing interests from a small, independent production company, as well as the need to secure financing.) Do you think EttD also offers an intriguing plot and graphics that would make a good movie? Why or why not?
- What details do you most hope are resolved in book three? Do you root for Grace to choose Seth or Clay (and life), or Will (and death), or someone new? Do you think Grace is fighting sinister foes of the living or dead kind….or both?