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In the Land of Second Chancesby George Shaffner
Reading Group Guide
1. Wilma Porter is, in many ways, the eyes and ears of the town. What is it about her that compels people to confide in her? Do you think that she is a reliable narrator for In the Land of Second Chances? Why or why not? How would the novel have been different had it been told from a different point of view?
2. Do you think that Ebb is the land of second chances referenced in the books title? What other meanings, both literal and metaphorical, do you think that the title suggests?
3. How does Vernon Moore immediately make an impact upon arriving in Ebb? What is it about his personality that compels those he meets? Does his instant charisma remind you of anyone that youve come in contact with?
4. "Something important was going to happen in Ebb," Wilma relates on page sixty-nine. How does this statement foreshadow the events to come? In which ways do the six days that Vernon Moore spends in Ebb have long-ranging, life-altering consequences for its townspeople?
5. Do you think its significant that Vernon sells games of chance? How do they hew to his philosophy that "uncertainty is the spice of life"?
6. Vernon Moore ultimately is a seller of hope. Why does he decide to take on the daunting task of convincing Calvin of a life after life? Why does Calvin Þnally come around to Vernons way of thought?
7. How does illness make Lucy Millet stronger? How does she display hope? In what ways is she a typical little girl? Why do you think she wants to come back to life as a seal?
8. How does "reasoned faith" link logic with spirituality and religion? Who in the novel had the most difficulty with accepting the notion of reasoned faith? What do you think about the concept?
9. Do the Three Paradoxes remind you of any other religions or philosophies? Did your thoughts about life after death change at all upon reading this book? Did your view of a benevolent God change?
10. On page 209, Clem is concerned with "the true identity of Vernon Moore." How would you answer that question?
11. On page 224, Vernon says, "its a bit of a long story; more like a parable really." Do you think that In the Land of Second Chances functions as a parable? If so, how?
12. How does the Quilting Circle act as a powerful force in Ebb? How do the townswomen display their affection and support for one another? Do men enjoy a similar outlet?
13. What is it about Vernons position as a stranger that en­ables him to gain the confidence and trust of the town? Before his arrival, were the residents of Ebb too insulated from the outside world? Do you believe that Ebb is truly the "last oasis of nice"?
14. Does Lorettas philosophy on love change after Vernon Moore comes to town? How does her attitude toward him differ from how Wilma expresses her feelings about him? How do Wilma and Loretta complement each other in their deep friendship?
15. Do you think that Clem seeks to protect the interests of the town by his actions? In which ways is he motivated by his own selfishness?
16. What finally motivates Calvin to tell his daughter that shes dying? What would you have done if faced with a similar situa­tion? How do you envision Calvins life after Lucys death?
17. Whats an example of a lose-lose situation in the book? Name one that youve faced in your own life and discuss how you grappled with it.
18. SPOILER ALERT: The next question reveals an important plot point.
Why do you think Clem proposes to Wilma at the storys conclusion? Do you think she will accept? What do you think Vernon Moore would advise her to do?
19. Vernon Moore is a questioner. What is the value of such a mindset? Who else in the book is loath to take things at face value? Do you know anyone who shares that kind of question­ing attitude?
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