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Shantaramby Gregory David Roberts
Reading Group Guide
1. Discuss Bombay/Mumbai as a “character” in the book. What role does it play? What are the things Lin loves most about the city? Why does he fit in there?
2. Why are Prabaker and Lin drawn to each other so quickly? What do they have in common that binds them?
3. Discuss how Lins prison stays end up casting a long shadow over his life. In what ways do the wounds from prison - both physical and psychological - change him? How do they change his outlook for the better? For the worse?
4. Characterize the various women in Lins life and talk about the role they play and the influence they have on Lin: Karla? Madame Zhou? Lisa Carter?
5. “Shame” is an important theme throughout the book. What does Lin feel shamed by and how does this guide him through life? In which other characters do we see “shame,” and what are the positive and negative effects?
6. The Bollywood world constantly weaves in and out of the fringes of Lins story. Where do you see it influencing Lin and the other characters in the novel? How does it make you feel to have this glamorous world of film so closely linked to the underworld of the Bombay slums?
7. Khader Khan has a fascinating, almost paternal, influence in Lins life. If you could pick just three words to describe his character, what would they be and why? Would you say you have chosen positive words to describe him, or negative ones?
8. Khader Khan arrives at the following conclusion: “It is wrong to kill. But your reasons were good. So therefore, the truth of this decision is that you did the wrong thing, for the right reasons…” Discuss what he means by this in the context of Lins life. More generally, do you agree with him, that doing certain actions can be wrong, but for the right reasons? Why or why not?
9. Lins journey to Afghanistan is brief but profound. Were you at all surprised by the depiction of social and political strife in that part of the world between the mujaheddin and the USSR? How do you see Afghanistan as depicted in the book tying into what you know of Afghanistan from more recent events?
10. “The choice you make, between hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life.” Talk about this assertion in the first paragraph of the book in the context of Lins entire life story. How does Lins life change based on who he hates and who he forgives? How have the choices youve made with “hating and forgiving” affected your own life?
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