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Kings of the Earthby Jon Clinch
Reading Group Guide
1. One definition of what makes a novel says that a main character must go through some important learning process or transformation. Which characters learn or change the most in the course of Kings of the Earth? What causes those changes?
2. Of all of the Proctor siblings, only Donna is able to break free of the farm. Why do you suppose that is? What is it that makes some children able to lead lives that are very different from those of their siblings?
3. Lester, the Proctor family patriarch, is a hard man who doesn't show much in the way of affection. What effect did he have on the lives of his children?
4. Two of the omniscient narrators are tied to female characters—Ruth, the Proctor matriarch; and her only daughter, Donna. Why do you suppose the author chose to tell their stories this way? What affect did that have on your understanding of or relationship with Ruth and Donna?
5. The other omniscient narrator is tied to Donna’s son, Tom. How does his story intersect with and contrast with that of his mother? His father? His uncles?
6. Kings of the Earth is told out of chronological order. How would it have been different if it had been told conventionally?
7. A book with as many different points of view as Kings of the Earth—and as many different narrative threads and time frames—could be very demanding on the reader. Was it challenging for you? What did the author do to make the story and the various changes in point of view easy to follow?
8. The characters in Kings of the Earth range from extremely sympathetic to quite the opposite. Which characters did you feel the most sympathy and affection for? About which ones did you feel the opposite?
9. Thinking about your feelings for the characters: How did those feelings—like or dislike or whatever—affect your experience of reading their sections of the book?
10. Kings of the Earth contains a variety of tones and moods. Which appealed to you most? Which least? How did the combination of tones and moods affect your reading experience?
11. If you were to choose one character to tell the whole story, which would it be? How would the book be different?
12. Kings of the Earth contains many memorable observations and images.“There’s your war memorial.” “My brother Vernon went on ahead.” “He had his eyes shut tight and his arms out to both sides like wings, and he was flying. Flying on that tractor in the dark. All the way up the road from town.” Which images and phrases stayed with you in particular? Why?
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