Mill River Recluse (Chan) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
1. The Mill River Recluse is not written in a single timeline, but instead with alternating timelines that link near the end. What did you think of this structure? Did you find it difficult to follow? Was it effective in driving the story forward, or was it disorienting or annoying? Did you prefer one timeline over the other?

2. Of all the characters in The Mill River Recluse, with which one did you most identify, and why?

3. The opening scene of The Mill River Recluse is of Mary McAllister taking her own life to avoid having to suffer further agonizing pain and certain eventual natural death resulting from her metastatic cancer. Do you think Father O’Brien knew Mary planned to take her own life when he left the marble mansion that last night? What do you think about Mary’s decision to take things into her own hands? Did this scene give you pause about whether you wanted to continue reading the story?

4. How does Mary McAllister evolve from a shy teenager into a woman held prisoner by social anxiety and agoraphobia? Do you agree with the way in which Father O’Brien tried to help her? Would you have done anything differently had you been in his position?

5. Patrick McAllister is shockingly cruel, particularly toward the most vulnerable people and animals in his life. His parents fawn over him, catering to his every whim without adequate discipline, while Conor McAllister, his grandfather, struggles to exert what good influence he can. Do you think that Patrick became the person he did because of his parents and their relationship with him?
(Questions courtesy of the author.)

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