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The Whiskey Rebels

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Reading Group Guide

1. 1. Andrew Maycott believes “The American novel, if it is to be honest, must be about money, not property. Money alone- base, unremarkable, corrupting money” (page 30). Do you agree? By his definition, is The Whiskey Rebels an American novel? Why or why not?

 2. Captain Ethan Saunders implores us, “Look beneath and you may find several things that surprise you” (page 63). If we take Ethans advice and look beneath or past his scheming, his impropriety, and his status as a “ruin of a man,” what do we find? How and why are honor and reputation intertwined? 

3. Through her reading, Joan Maycott discovers: “When my empathy for a character led me to weep or laugh or fear for her safety, I spent hours determining by what means the novelist had effected this magic. When I cared nothing for suffering and loss, I dissected the want of craft that engendered such apathy” (page 23). How does David Liss engender empathy or apathy for his characters? Did you sometimes feel both empathy and apathy for the same character? 

4. En route to the Pennsylvania frontier, Phineas tells Joan “The West changes you. . . . Im what the West made me, and youll be what it makes you” (page 84). Is this true? If so, how does the frontier change Joan? Phineas? What does this say about free will and choice in relation to place and circumstance? 

5. Examine the characterizations and the roles of women in The Whiskey Rebels. What similarities do you find? What differences? Are they victims? 

6. Mr. Brackenridge defines himself as a patriot- one who “does not make the principles of his country conform to his own ideas” (page 188). How else is patriotism defined or demonstrated in this book? How would you define patriotism? Who else in The Whiskey Rebels is then a patriot? 

7. Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, William Duer, and Joan Maycott have varied theories on the American economy, the Bank of the United States, and the excise tax. For instance, the Bank is either a great boon for the nation, a terrible disaster for the nation, or an opportunity to be exploited. Talk about their differing perspectives in relation to the events of The Whiskey Rebels. Who do you think is right? Do these debates continue today? 

8. Discuss the principle of justice and its relation to revenge, integrity, inequality, and the law in The Whiskey Rebels. How does Joan Maycott justify her revenge against Alexander Hamilton? 

9. Why does Captain Saunders not allow his slave, Leonidas, to purchase his freedom and later “simply neglect[s] to inform” him that he is a free man? What does liberty mean to Captain Saunders? Joan Maycott? Leonidas? Cynthia Pearson? The newly formed United States? 

10. Lavien believes “It is only in the eyes of one another that inequality lies” (page 94). Who else, besides Lavien, serves as a moral arbiter in the novel? What examples of presumed superiority and/or civility can be found in The Whiskey Rebels? What examples can you find of an impossible tension between greed and civility, wealth and humanity? 

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donmar, December 8, 2008 (view all comments by donmar)
I've read some of the reviews on other websites. An important reviewer mentioned that Liss's depiction of the Western Pennsylvania frontier and also his focus (or lack thereof) on the actual Whiskey Rebellion fell short. I definitely agree, having grown up in that area, and having ancestors who were early settlers to Pittsburgh. I thought the characters were stereotypes and that the action, particularly once the settlers left Philadelphia, bordered on melodrama.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781400064205
Subtitle:
A Novel
Author:
Liss, David
Publisher:
Random House
Subject:
Married people
Subject:
Pennsylvania
Subject:
Mystery & Detective - General
Subject:
Suspense
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
Thrillers
Subject:
Historical fiction
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Publication Date:
September 30, 2008
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
544
Dimensions:
9.59x6.59x1.35 in. 1.92 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Popular Fiction » Contemporary Thrillers

The Whiskey Rebels Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$9.50 In Stock
Product details 544 pages Random House - English 9781400064205 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Set in and around Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New York City in the years after the Revolutionary War, this clever thriller from Liss (The Ethical Assassin) follows the adventures of Ethan Saunders, once a valiant spy for General Washington, who's fallen on hard times by war's end. Suspected of treason, Ethan has lost the love of his life, Cynthia, who's married the fiendish Jacob Pearson, an entrepreneur who managed to prosper during the British occupation of Philadelphia. At Cynthia's urging, Ethan agrees to go looking for the missing Jacob, prompted in large part by a desire to redeem his reputation. Meanwhile, the so-called whiskey rebels on the western frontier are trying to bring down the hated Alexander Hamilton and his Bank of the United States. The courageous Ethan is a likable rogue, and even though Ethan spends too much time delving into the complications of 18th-century finance, he can be counted on when the chips are down and the odds against him soar." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Liss brings it all together in the end, uniting multiple narrators and different time lines in a bravura finish....A raucous mix of historical fiction and action-adventure thriller."
"Review" by , "Liss portrays post-Revolutionary Philadelphia and New York more effectively than he does the western Pennsylvania frontier...but this detracts only slightly from a thoroughly enjoyable novel. Recommended."
"Review" by , "Uneven, sometimes risibly overstuffed narrative that's nevertheless compulsively readable."
"Synopsis" by , From the bestselling, award-winning author of A Conspiracy of Paper comes his most powerful historical mystery yet. Set in post-Revolutionary War America, The Whiskey Rebels is a superb rendering of a vivid and perilous age.
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