What drew you into and kept you reading Arriving: 1909–1919, a relatively long novel?
What might be the significance of the frequent detailed descriptions of Mother Nature and the changing seasons throughout the books?
With which character(s) could you most identify? Did any surprise you as you began to discover their true characteristics?
What might the author be conveying through the Silent Critics? Why might these seven characters play such a significant role in the story?
Rolf is typically described as a “follower” to his younger brother, Gustav. Do you think this is accurate and, if so, why do you think he is like that?
How do you feel about Gustav’s actions towards his father and his opinions about “becoming a Canadian”? Do you agree more with Gustav or with Christian?
When Elisabetha dies, the Werner family is left feeling lost and depressed. How did each character deal with the loss, and how do you think it will change their relationships?
The author, Corinne Jeffery, had breast cancer while writing this novel but didn’t discover it until after Elisabetha died from that very disease. Do you think the character’s outcome may have been different had the author known while writing that part of Arriving?
In dealing with her mother’s death, Katherina experiences extreme bouts of depression. Do you think Katherina is overemotional, or were you compelled to sympathize with her?
When Amelia leaves her family behind to marry Gustav, we learn that her father becomes abusive towards Katie and Franz. Why do you think that this is? Were they right in hiding it from Amelia?
How do Gustav’s feelings for Amelia change over time? Do you believe he is genuine and do you agree with his actions?
What themes have you seen threaded throughout the trilogy? Why do you think that the author included them?
There are a number of scandalous events in the books that relate to different characters. What, to you, was the most surprising turn of events, and why did you find it so?
There are many strong female characters in the trilogy. Which did you find to be the most prominent, and why?
Contrast the young Amelia to whom you are introduced in Arriving with the emerging woman in Thriving. How is she influenced by Margareta, Katherina, and Sarah?
Which of the male and female characters were you most drawn to as you came to know and trust them in Arriving? Did your preferences continue as you delved deeper into their personalities in Thriving?
Reflect upon the dynamics of Gustav and Amelia’s relationship: how they communicate, their specific contradictions, etc. Which one really “wears the pants in the family?”
As you begin to know Amelia’s daughters, Elisabeth and Ursula, comment on their attributes, similarities, and differences. Did you consider either or both of them manipulative?
In both Arriving and Thriving, Dr. Spitznagel and Reverend Ulmer, beyond their respective responsibilities as doctor and minster of the townships, are consistently called upon to be voices of authority in the community. How realistic was this expectation, and why?
If you were the author of these books, what characters, plot, dialogue, or scenes might you have written differently, and why?
What lasting impressions or learning have you gained from this story?
Do you think that Thriving is an appropriate title for a Depression-era story? Why do you think that the author chose to call it this?
Choosing: 1940 - 1989
Was it plausible to you that a family could harbour so many secrets?
What do you think spurred the author, Corinne Jeffery, to title her trilogy Understanding Ursula?
As you reached the conclusion of the trilogy to which characters could you most readily relate?
Did your thoughts and feelings about any of the family members change over time?
Were you able to attribute any specific characteristics to either of the two dominant nationalities in the series? If so, what were they?
In your opinion, did Ursula present as a villain or a tragic character? Why?
What did you find most appealing about the story and the family?
Do you believe that Choosing is a suitable title for the concluding book about this controversial family?
What impact does the lack of independent decision-making have on the outcome of so many of the characters?
What changes did you notice in the writing style, dialogue, and the influence of God and nature on the characters as the trilogy progressed through eighty years?
How did the intrigue and the often-surprising behaviours of many of the characters influence your perceptions and feeling about this story?