Book Club Questions

I’m delighted that book groups are interested in reading and discussing Dancing With Gravity. And to help with discussion, I’ve put together a group of questions — arranged by category. Please feel free to choose any questions that you feel might be helpful to you and your group. And let me know other questions you might want to suggest as well.

General

Is Dancing with Gravity about the failures of faith or about the weaknesses of a human being?

Is this a book about a flawed human being, or a person in the midst of a personal crisis?

Fr. Whiting’s story seems to merge a coming of age story with a mid life crisis.  Do you agree or disagree? Why?

Is Dancing with Gravity a ‘hero’s journey’, in the sense of a protagonist realizes that he is on a journey and is searching for a truth or precious item, meeting foes of all descriptions, losing battles, and finally winning at the story’s end?  What does he win?

On the back of the book, one reviewer describes it as “one of the most remarkable depictions of a priest’s inner life as I have ever read.” What does that mean to you?

How does this book portray motherhood? I’m thinking of Lillian and Carol (the woman in the support group), as well as the other parents in the group.

What is the role of Catholicism in the book?  Would the book be changed if a different organized religion played a central role?

How does the sex scandal in the Catholic Church affect your response to Fr. Whiting?

What is the most surprising thing that happens in the book?

What is the significance of the title of this book?

What passage(s) from the book stood out to you?

Did you learn something you didn’t know before?

Do you feel as if your views on a subject have changed by reading this text?

What major emotion did the story evoke in you as a reader?

At what point in the book did you decide if you liked it or not? What helped make this decision?

What is your favorite aspect of the book? Your least favorite?

In what ways do the events in the books reveal evidence of the author’s world view?

Did certain parts of the book make you uncomfortable? If so, why did you feel that way? Did this lead to a new understanding or awareness of some aspect of your life you might not have thought about before

Did you find any life lessons in this book and, if so, do you agree with them?

Do you think the book has a timeless or universal appeal?

Character

Did you identify with any of the characters? If so, which one(s)? Why?

Were there characters you particularly disliked? Which one(s)? Why?

Is there a character that you identified with more than others as you read the book? If so, please share your thoughts.

How did you feel about the central character, Father Whiting?

Have you met someone like Fr. Whiting?  In what ways does he remind you of that person?

What do you think is the primary catalyst for the change in Fr Whiting?

What does the circus represent to Father Whiting?

Why do you think Whiting behaved the way he did—toward Nikolai?

What do you think attracted Fr. Whiting to Sarah?

What do you think attracted Fr. Whiting to Nikolai?

Was Fr. Whiting a good son? What makes you think so?

Was Fr. Whiting a good priest? What makes you think so?

Do characters act as you expect (i.e. Sarah betraying Father Whiting, Nikolai leaving suddenly)?

What did you think of Carla? What role do you think Carla played in the story?

How would the book have been different if told from a different character’s point of view?

What one question would you like to ask the main character?

Setting

Is the location of St. Louis central to the workings of the story?  Could it occur in any good-sized city or would it be different if it were set in the South or the North?

Was there anything unique about the setting of the book and, if so, how did it enhance or take away from the story?

Which specific details created the setting for you?

Writing style

If you could change something about the book what would it be and why?

Describe what you liked or disliked about the writer’s style?

What specific themes did the author emphasize throughout the novel? What do you think the writer is trying to get across to the reader?

Do the characters seem real and believable? Can you relate to their predicaments? To what extent do they remind you of yourself or someone you know?

How do characters change or evolve throughout the course of the story? What events trigger such changes?

Did you find the characters believable?

Did you find the dialog in the story realistic?

Did the plot take turns you did not expect, or did you find it predictable?

If you could give the book a different title, what would it be?

Faith & Relationships

People who have received “a calling” … a desire to serve others (of any faith) seem to understand Whiting’s loneliness and resulting choices. Does he seem like anyone you’ve ever known?

What is this book saying about the Catholic Church?

Could this book be about people in any other faith?

How would you describe Father Whiting’s relationship with his mother?  What role did she play in the book?

What were your reactions when you read about Fr. Whiting’s reactions to his mother’s death? On the phone call? In his mother’s apartment later that night?

Did Father Whiting deserve his misery? What do you think contributed to it?

Imagine the kind of feelings and personal growth that Father Whiting would manage in the next decade.  Describe how you picture where his new life will take him.

How will his friendship with Jerry be changed?

How will Whiting himself be different?

Describe the importance of sexual relationships in the development of the plot? Or character?

Many people have said they are fascinated with the character of Nikolai. How did you feel about him?

What do you think the future holds for Nikolai?

How else could this book have ended?

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