Synopses & Reviews
THE SECRETS OF the past meet the shocks of the present.
Aslaug is an unusual young woman. Her mother has brought her up in near isolation, teaching her about plants and nature and language—but not about life. Especially not how she came to have her own life, and who her father might be.
When Aslaugs mother dies unexpectedly, everything changes. For Aslaug is a suspect in her mothers death. And the more her story unravels, the more questions unfold. About the nature of Aslaugs birth. About what she should do next.
About whether divine miracles have truly happened. And whether, when all other explanations are impossible, they might still happen this very day.
Addictive, thought-provoking, and shocking, Madapple is a page-turning exploration of human nature and divine intervention—and of the darkest corners of the human soul.
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Reading Group Guide
1. Maren teaches Aslaug that “science describes the world; it doesnt explain it.”(p. 16) Describe Aslaugs world. Discuss how Maren and Aslaugs lifestyle is especially disturbing to outsiders like Lens Grumset, a neighbor who feels that they may be into witchcraft. How might Aslaug explain her world to outsiders? How is Aslaug unprepared to deal with the outside world that she seeks afterher mother dies?
2. Aslaug has a troubling relationship with her mother. At one point, Maren asks Aslaug if she is plotting to fly away. Discuss how living in isolation makes Aslaug more interested in discovering the outside world. Why doesnt she run away? Trace Aslaugs search to understand her mother, even after Marens death. Describe Aslaugs reaction to her mothers death.
3. The details of Aslaugs birth are mysterious. Why wont Maren identify Aslaugs father? Draw a parallel between Hester Prynne, the main character in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Maren. Why does she hide the book from Aslaug? Debate whether Aslaug, like Pearl in The Scarlet Letter, is a symbol of shame and a punishment for her mothers sin.
4. Maren teaches Aslaug many languages. Explain the irony in Marens belief that “the more languages you learn, the more free you will be in your thinking.” (p. 58) Discuss what she means when she says, “Words oversimplify reality.” (p. 58)
5. Sin, knowledge, and the human condition are themes in The Scarlet Letter. Discuss these themes as they relate to Madapple.
6. Maren claims to be an atheist. Yet, she spends hours studying the Torah, the Kabbalah, the Koran, and the Bible. What is she searching for?
7. Sara and Marens fader was a botanist and mythologist, “interested in what he thought was the interweaving of nature and the divine.” (p. 165) Explain his influence on Maren. Sara felt that her faders interests were “misguided.” Contrast her beliefs with those of Marens. Debate the good and evil in Saras chosen life. How might Aslaugs experiences with two trials and a complicated life on the “outside” affect her religious views? Discuss whether she is likely to find that place where science and religion meet.
8. Trace Aslaugs search for identity before and after her mothers death. Explain what Rune means when he says to her, “But your context may become your prison.” (p. 245) At what point does Aslaug miss her mother? What does Aslaug mean when she says that Maren was her “Artemis”? (p. 307)
9. Discuss the structure of the novel. How does the trial keep the reader engaged in Aslaugs story?
10. Explain the title of the novel.