FiftyThirdParallel FrontCover webDiscussion Questions for The 53rd Parallel

  1. Who is This Man? Why does he ride the moose? What does This Man mean to you and what role does he have in this novel?

  2. The author has made every river the River, and has even named the River as a character. Why do you think he does this? What does this reflect about the River's role in the book?

  3. Brian did a most unspeakable act when he beat his son. Did you forgive him his trespass? Why?

  4. Maureen did a most unspeakable act, helping bomb a London post office that killed a policeman and a grandfather. Do you forgive her? Why do you think she she repeats the phrase "God Bless the Innocents"?

  • What does exile mean to you? Have you spent any time feeling exiled? What did Brian come to understand about exile? Do you agree?

  • Joe Loon dreams that a white man is coming to harm the River, another coming to help protect it. Brian dreams of building an Eden in the Ontario wilderness. What do you believe is the importance of these dreams? How do they tie together?

  • Knowing about Brian's temper and Maureen's willingness to turn to violence, what role did you think they would play with the River? Did you consider they would be the destroyers or the protectors of the River?

  • Why are Brian and Maureen attracted to each other at the start? How does that change over the course of the story?

  • What is terrorism? Can you ever justify it?

  • Maureen used a knife when she visited the professors' homes; the youngest pulp mill brother brought the pistol that killed Mathew. Who is culpable?

  • Were you rooting for Maureen's raid on the British Armory to be successful?

  • What do you make of the plight of the people who were living here before the white man came to North America--Native Americans in the US, First Nations in Canada, known as Indians generally. Why did we treat them so? And why do we still?

  • While this story ends in the early 50's, the third novel of the trilogy takes place in the summer of 1969 and we find that Joe Loon's clan is still among those living "off-the-reserve" lives so much like their ancestors did. The author worked and lived with off-the-reserve Ojibway until 1970. Does it surprise you that people were still living versions of hunter-gatherer lives at that time, so close to large modern populations?
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