Synopses & Reviews
In a remote Scottish village, nine-year-old Wise Child is taken in by Juniper, a healer and sorceress. Then Wise Childs mother, Maeve, a black witch, reappears. In choosing between Maeve and Juniper, Wise Child discovers the extent of her supernatural powersand her true loyalties.
About the Author
Known in her homeland of England in many rolesjournalist, biographer, novelist, feminist, and activistMonica Furlong was best known in the United States for her award-winning novels, Juniper and Wise Child. Monica Furlong died of cancer in January 2003 at the age of 72. Colman is her last work.
Reading Group Guide
1. Wise Child
takes place in a remote Scottish village during the Dark Ages. A review in Publishers Weekly
refers to the setting of the story as a character in the book. Discuss how setting can serve as character. How is this true in Wise Child
? Debate how the story would change if set in another time and place.
2. Finbar, Wise Childs father, is away at sea, and Maeve, her mother, left her many years ago. Discuss how feelings of abandonment haunt Wise Child throughout the novel. How does she feel abandoned when her grandmother dies? What other type of abandonment does she experience?
3. Fillan, the priest, is responsible for the village upheaval against Juniper. How does his Christian faith interfere with his ability to recognize the good in Juniper? Discuss other times in the novel when Fillan creates fear among the villagers. How are Wise Child and her cousin, Colman, affected by such fear?
4. Wise Child is put up for public auction after her grandmother dies. Why does Fillan serve as auctioneer? Fillan and the people of the village object when Juniper steps up to claim the child. Aunt Morag assures everyone that it is Finbars wish for Wise Child to go with Juniper. How does Wise Child know that her aunt is lying? Discuss why Aunt Morag wants Wise Child with Juniper. What are Colmans feelings when Wise Child leaves with Juniper?
5. Juniper admits to Wise Child that she doesnt know much about children. What does Wise Child teach her? Describe the motherly instincts that Juniper develops. Trace the relationship between Wise Child and Juniper from the beginning of the novel to the end. Identify the moment Wise Child begins to trust Juniper and see her as a mother.
6. Juniper is horrified when Wise Child throws a stone at Cormac. Why is Wise Child so frightened of Cormac? Discuss what Juniper teaches Wise Child about kindness. How does the encounter with Cormac change Wise Child forever?
7. Explain what Juniper means when she tells Wise Child, “I live in two or three kinds of reality.” (p. 68) How is Juniper preparing Wise Child for a similar life? Wise Child wonders if she is a doran. Juniper tells her, “You may be one day if . . . various things work out that way.” (p. 83) To what circumstances is Juniper referring? Discuss Eunys appearance in the story. What is the purpose of sending Wise Child on the flying adventure?
8. Discuss why Maeve suddenly returns to reclaim Wise Child. Juniper tells Wise Child not to see Maeve, because “you are not yet free of her.” (p. 124) Why must Wise Child go to her mother before she can be free of her? What makes her realize that her place is with Juniper, not her mother? Prepared by Pat Scales, Director of Library Services, the South Carolina Governors School for the Arts and Humanities, Greenville.