The Night Tiger 
Yangsze Choo, 2019
Flatiron
384 pp.
ISBN-13:
9781250175458 


Summary
An utterly transporting novel set in 1930s colonial Malaysia, perfect for fans of Isabel Allende and Min Jin Lee

Quick-witted, ambitious Ji Lin is stuck as an apprentice dressmaker, moonlighting as a dancehall girl to help pay off her mother’s Mahjong debts.

But when one of her dance partners accidentally leaves behind a gruesome souvenir, Ji Lin may finally get the adventure she has been longing for.

Eleven-year-old houseboy Ren is also on a mission, racing to fulfill his former master’s dying wish: that Ren find the man’s finger, lost years ago in an accident, and bury it with his body. Ren has 49 days to do so, or his master’s soul will wander the earth forever.

As the days tick relentlessly by, a series of unexplained deaths racks the district, along with whispers of men who turn into tigers. Ji Lin and Ren’s increasingly dangerous paths crisscross through lush plantations, hospital storage rooms, and ghostly dreamscapes.

Yangsze Choo's The Night Tiger pulls us into a world of servants and masters, age-old superstition and modern idealism, sibling rivalry and forbidden love.

But anchoring this dazzling, propulsive novel is the intimate coming-of-age of a child and a young woman, each searching for their place in a society that would rather they stay invisible. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1972-73
Raised—Malaysia
Education—B.A., Harvard University
Currently—lives in the San Francisco Bay  Area


Yangsze Choo is a fourth-generation Malaysian of Chinese descent. Choo grew up in Malaysia but, accompanying her diplomat father, spent her childhood in various countries. As a result, she says that she can eavesdrop (badly) in several languages.

After graduating from Harvard University, Choo worked as a management consultant and at a startup before writing her first novel. The Ghost Bride (2013), set in colonial Malaya and the elaborate Chinese world of the afterlife, is about a peculiar historic custom called a spirit marriage. The novel is a soon-to-be-aired Netflix series!

The Night Tiger (2019) is Yangzse's second novel.

Choo lives in the Bay Area of San Francisco, California, with her husband, two children, and a potential rabbit. She loves to eat and read, and often does both at the same time. (From the publisher.)



Book Reviews
This is the kind of book that when you read it, you really are transported back to that time and place…. [Choo has] captured, in a very atmospheric way, the time period and the superstitions [of colonial Malaysia in the 1930s]. It’s a pretty wonderful book.
Nancy Pearl - NPR


A mesmerizing tale of murder, romance, and superstition…. So vividly told, you can practically smell the oleander blossoms outside Acton’s house. The Night Tiger is worth a prowl.
USA Today


A book for fans of Isabel Allende and for those who love a murder mystery with a beautiful backdrop.
Glamour


Fans of Isabel Allende will likely soar through Yangsze Choo’s The Night Tiger at a breakneck pace, so you might want to clear your schedule before sitting down to read it.
PopSugar


So engrossing you could spend a day reading this lush historical novel without staring at your phone once…. A sweeping novel with something for everyone—and incredible writing.
Refinery29


(Starred review) [R]iveting…. Mythical creatures, conversations with the dead, lucky numbers, Confucian virtues, and forbidden love provide the backdrop for Choo’s superb murder mystery.… Choo wonderfully combines a Holmes-esque plot with Chinese lore.
Publishers Weekly


Choo presents complex characters and multilayered stories in a vivid setting that coalesce into a richly evocative and mesmerizing tale in which myths and folklore intertwine in daily life. For fans of Kate Mosse or Isabel Allende. —Joy Gunn, Paseo Verde Lib., Henderson, NV
Library Journal


(Starred review) A work of incredible beauty...Astoundingly captivating and striking in its portrayal of love, betrayal, and death, The Night Tiger is a transcendent story of courage and connection.
Booklist


(Starred review) [R]eaders will be so caught up in the natural and supernatural intrigue that the serious themes here… are absorbed with equal delicacy. Choo has written a sumptuous garden maze of a novel that immerses readers in a complex, vanished world.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. The novel’s title evokes the story of the were tiger, "a beast who, when he chooses, puts on a human skin and comes from the jungle into the village to prey on humans." What is the significance of that Malayan folktale in the novel? What does it represent for the different characters?

2. Discuss the structure of the novel, alternating between Ren’s and Ji Lin’s perspectives. How do their narrative styles and worldviews compare? Do you prefer one to the other? How would the novel have been different had it only been from one perspective?

3. Discuss Ren’s relationship with Dr. MacFarlane. Does Ren’s desire to bring the finger to his former master’s grave come from a place of love or fear? How is Ren’s life shaped by the masters for whom he works, and how does he determine his own fate?

4. As a surgeon in Batu Gajah, William Acton straddles two worlds, that of the locals and that of the foreigners. What is his relationship to the local people, specifically the young women he sleeps with? Do you think his impact on the community is ultimately positive or negative? What does this novel have to say about race and class more generally?

5. Ji Lin is a more talented student than her stepbrother, Shin, but because she is a girl, she isn’t allowed to continue on to medical school with him. How does this novel portray gender dynamics in colonial Malaya? How do Ji Lin, Lydia, and the other women in the novel either conform to or rebel against societal expectations? What parallels do you see with today’s world?

6. At the beginning of the novel, Ji Lin leads two different lives—one as a dressmaker’s apprentice and one as "Louise," a dance-hall instructor. What are the pros and cons of each role? Does she find a way to reconcile these two sides of herself by the end of the novel?

7. Ji Lin reflects, "When people talked about being lucky, perhaps they simply wanted to feel powerful, as though they could manipulate fate." Discuss the role of superstition in this novel, in which the supposed luck of certain numbers in Chinese tradition motivates many of the characters. What about in your own life? Do you consider yourself to be superstitious?

8. While speaking with Ji Lin about the other Confucian Virtues, Yi notes, "there’s something a bit wrong with each of us." How do each of these characters—Ji Lin(knowledge), Ren (humanity), Shin (integrity), Yi (righteousness), and William/Lydia (ritual)—stray from their namesake values? At the end of the novel, are they more"right" or "wrong"?

9. In Chinese culture, the five Confucian Virtues are considered a matched set. Ji Lin reflects: "I had the odd fancy that the five of us were yoked by some mysterious fate. Drawn together, yet unable to break free, the tension made a twisted pattern. We must either separate ourselves, or come together." Discuss the tension between independence and dependence for these characters.

10. In his conversations with Ji Lin, Yi hints that the Confucian Virtue Li, meaning order or ritual, has been disrupted. What are some examples from the novel of characters, relationships, and other elements that are seemingly out of order or unconventional?

11. Discuss Ji Lin’s relationships with the men in her life. How do her experiences at the dance hall shape her views of men, in particular Shin? At the end of the novel, she wonders, "Had I managed to catch up to Shin, or had he, by playing a cool and patient game, ensnared me instead?" What does she mean, and what do you think the answer is? Do you think Ji Lin and Shin will ultimately get married?

12. Why do you think Yi disappears from Ji Lin’s and Ren’s lives at the end of the novel? What previously unfinished business does he complete? Discuss how the supernatural twines through this novel. Do you believe that the dead can continue to communicate with the living, as Yi does?

13. Although Lydia is proven to be a murderer, she also works hard to improve the lives of Malayan women. Does her charity work at all redeem her in your eyes? Do you think she is in part a victim of her circumstances?

14. The novel ends with Ji Lin, Shin, Ren, Ah Long, and Rawlings all headed to Singapore. What do you think the future holds for them? Are you glad the ending leaves open the possibility of a sequel?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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The Storyteller's Secret  
Sejal Badani, 2018
Amazon Publishing
412 pp.
ISBN-13:
9781542048279 


Summary
An epic story of the unrelenting force of love, the power of healing, and the invincible desire to dream.

Nothing prepares Jaya, a New York journalist, for the heartbreak of her third miscarriage and the slow unraveling of her marriage in its wake.

Desperate to assuage her deep anguish, she decides to go to India to uncover answers to her family’s past. Intoxicated by the sights, smells, and sounds she experiences, Jaya becomes an eager student of the culture.

But it is Ravi—her grandmother’s former servant and trusted confidant—who reveals the resilience, struggles, secret love, and tragic fall of Jaya’s pioneering grandmother during the British occupation. Through her courageous grandmother’s arrestingly romantic and heart-wrenching story, Jaya discovers the legacy bequeathed to her and a strength that, until now, she never knew was possible. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
A former attorney, Sejal Badani left the law to pursue writing full time. She was an ABC/Disney Writing Fellowship and CBS Writing Fellowship Finalist.

When not writing, she loves reading, biking along the ocean, traveling and trying to teach her teacup Morkie not to hide socks under the bed (so far she has been completely unsuccessful). Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce, and Ed Sheeran are always playing in the background. She would love to speak to book clubs via Skypes. (From the author's website.)



Book Reviews
This stimulating novel reads like a true-to-life story…The descriptions of the lives of both common villagers and the well-off are informative. The insights into the local customs and traditions might be an eye-opener even for those familiar with Indians’ time-honored ways.
Historical Novel Society


While the narrative at times reflects the dark elements of human nature, the tone is hopeful and enriching. Badani builds imagery with a gentleness that is soothing to take in and threads together rich descriptions of the landscape that are transportive.
USA Today


The Storyteller’s Secret is a lavishly told tale of secrets, love, and loyalty. It is a celebration of the beauty of story and its ability to help us be heard and understood.
New York Journal of Books



Discussion Questions
1. In the beginning of the novel, we read of Jaya’s miscarriages and the collapse of her marriage. Jaya and her husband have different ways of coping with their pain. How did their coping mechanisms differ? How did they contribute to the breakdown of their marriage?

2. Jaya feels the pain of her mom’s emotional distance throughout her life. As a child, she always wished for a closer relationship and was desperate for her affection. Their relationship is transformed by Jaya’s trip to India. How would you describe their relationship before and after?

3. Jaya travels to India in the hopes of discovering her family’s long held secrets. She reflects that, after knowing her past, she is ready for the future. How does uncovering your family’s past affect your life?

4. Jaya meets Ravi, her grandmother’s servant, and learns of the beautiful relationship they had despite their different ranks in the caste system. How does Ravi and Jaya’s relationship progress? How would you describe it?

5. Ravi still carries guilt from decisions he made decades ago. Did he do the right thing both times? How might the characters lives look if he had chosen differently? Are there any other moments in the novel where events could have been drastically different if a character made a different decision?

6. Jaya learns the story of her pioneering grandmother and how in many ways she was born before her time. How did her dreams and interests differ from those of her family members and fellow villagers? What was expected of her? How were her dreams in conflict?

7. Amisha had an arranged marriage and her role in life was predetermined by society. How have things changed for women? How are they still the same?

8. Jaya ponders: "maybe life is a series of decisions with destiny thrown in.” Do you agree? Do you believe we control our stories with decisions, or are our fates pre-determined by destiny?

9. Amisha’s husband Deepak’s attitude towards her and her work at the school changes several times in the novel. What does this say about how Deepak views his wife? Does he love her? Does he understand her?

10. Amisha deeply regrets not helping a student whose stories seemed to be a call for help. Do teachers have a duty to save their students, even if it means risking their job? Does Amisha ever ask for help?

11. At the heart of this epic story is love—the fierce and immeasurable love Amisha had for her children and the romantic love she had for Stephen. Discuss how these two loves in her life made her feel. Were they in conflict with each other? Did she feel like she had to choose?

12. What was your reaction to Amisha not telling Stephen the truth? Did she make the best choice? Did she have a choice?

13. Badani explores exotic India, it’s traditions and long history. How has India changed? How have things changed for Ravi and his family? How are things the same?

14. Amisha longed for an education and dreamed of writing. Jaya is moved by the struggle and her strength despite her lack of choices. The sacrifices she made for her children and the courage she showed in wanting more for her daughter. How can we be inspired by our ancestor’s stories?
(Questions from the author's website.)

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Early Riser 
Jasper Fforde, 2019
Penguin Publishing 
563 pp.
ISBN-13:
9780670025039


Summary
Every Winter, the human population hibernates.

During those bitterly cold four months, the nation is a snow-draped landscape of desolate loneliness, devoid of human activity.

Well, not quite.

Your name is Charlie Worthing and it's your first season with the Winter Consuls, the committed but mildly unhinged group of misfits who are responsible for ensuring the hibernatory safe passage of the sleeping masses.

You are investigating an outbreak of viral dreams which you dismiss as nonsense; nothing more than a quirky artefact borne of the sleeping mind.

When the dreams start to kill people, it's unsettling.

When you get the dreams too, it's weird.

When they start to come true, you begin to doubt your sanity.

But teasing truth from the Winter is never easy: You have to avoid the Villains and their penchant for murder, kidnapping, and stamp collecting, ensure you aren't eaten by Nightwalkers, whose thirst for human flesh can only be satisfied by comfort food, and sidestep the increasingly less-than-mythical WinterVolk.

But so long as you remember to wrap up warmly, you'll be fine. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—January 11, 1961
Where—Brecon, Powys, Wales, UK
Education—left school at 18
Awards—Wodehouse Prize
Currently—lives in London, England


Jasper Fforde is a British novelist, who was born in London as the son of John Standish Fforde, the 24th Chief Cashier for the Bank of England—whose signature appeared on sterling banknotes during his time in office.

Fforde was educated at the progressive Dartington Hall School. His first jobs after school were as a focus puller in the film industry, where he worked on a such films as The Trial, Quills, GoldenEye, and Entrapment.

Fforde was also writing, and after 17 rejections he finally published his first novel in 2001, The Eyre Affair. That novel became the basis for the well-known mystery/crime series named for detective Thursday Next. He wrote six more in that series, ending in 2012 with The Woman Who Died a Lot.

The third mystery in the "Thursday Next" series, The Well of Lost Plots, earned Fforde the 2004 Wodehouse Prize for comic fiction. The series is so beloved that a number of streets in Swindon (southwest England) have been named after characters from the books.

Fforde's other works include two books in the loosely connected "Nursery Crime" series, one book (so far) in the "Shades of Grey" series, and three in the "Dragon Slayer" series, young adult fantasy novels. In 2019 he released his first stand-alone novel, Early Riser.

All of his works contain a profusion of literary allusions and wordplay, tightly scripted plots, and playfulness with the conventions of traditional genres. They also contain elements of metafiction, parody, and fantasy.

Extras facts
Fforde has an interest in aviation and owns and flies a Rearwin Skyranger.

Starting in 2005, Fforde's hometown of Swindon has held an annual "Fforde Fiesta" (think Ford Fiesta ), an event built around Fforde's books. Attended by fans from as far away as Australia and the U.S., attendees take part in a variety of events, including a re-enactment of the game show, "Name That Fruit," the "Hamlet Speed Reading" competition, and interactive performances of Richard III. (Author bio adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 2/15/2019.)



Book Reviews
Fans of Jasper Fforde's unique blend of comic dystopia and quirky British cosiness will not be disappointed with his first novel in six years, Early Riser.… Hilarious.
Guardian (UK)


Addictively propulsive.
Times (UK)
 

[Early Riser is] worth the wait.… There are many laughs and wry smiles to be had from this genre-merging writing—a mad, clever, mix of fantasy, satire, parody and thriller. Well worth staying awake for.
Oxford Mail (UK)


If a cross between the monstrous winter of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire series and dream-heist film Inception sounds appealing then British author Jasper Fforde’s standalone novel Early Riser is for you.… Fforde is wildly innovative in his world-building.… The novel builds to a thrilling climax that is worth staying up for.
Straits Times (UK)
 

[Jasper Fforde] is one of our great comic writers, a man of seemingly boundless imagination.
Scotsman (UK)
 

Endlessly imaginative and distinctively quirky, this is entertaining fun.
Mail on Sunday (UK)


[A] richly detailed, dystopic novel…. Charlie’s confused but determined mundanity is a relatable anchor in this wild winter world, leavened by Fforde’s surrealistic humor. Douglas Adams fans will enjoy the vibe.
Publishers Weekly


A wonderfully weird dystopian thriller.… As precisely built as an ice sculpture, Fforde's wintry nightmare glistens with mystery and menace. Though the zombie apocalypse elements spin a darker tale… plenty of pure Ffordian humor pops up.
ShelfAwareness


(Starred review) Readers familiar with Fforde's gleefully pun-heavy world building will relish this standalone novel, confident that everything will work out in the end for the underdog.
Booklist


[A] madcap adventure…. Charlie's journey… is so absorbing, and Fforde's wit so sharp, the reveal that the narrative is also a commentary on capitalism comes across as a brilliant twist.… [A] wonderful tale…. Whip-smart, tremendous fun, and an utter delight from start to finish.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers Book Club Resources. They can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

(Resources by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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The Winter Sister 
Megan Collins, 2019
Atria Books
336 pp.
ISBN-13:
9781982100148 


Summary
 In this spellbinding and suspenseful debut, a young woman haunted by the past returns home to care for her ailing mother and begins to dig deeper into her sister’s unsolved murder.

Sixteen years ago, Sylvie’s sister Persephone never came home.

Out too late with the boyfriend she was forbidden to see, Persephone was missing for three days before her body was found—and years later, her murder remains unsolved.

In the present day, Sylvie returns home to care for her estranged mother, Annie, as she undergoes treatment for cancer. Prone to unexplained "Dark Days" even before Persephone’s death, Annie’s once-close bond with Sylvie dissolved in the weeks after their loss, making for an uncomfortable reunion all these years later.

Worse, Persephone’s former boyfriend, Ben, is now a nurse at the cancer center where Annie is being treated. Sylvie’s always believed Ben was responsible for the murder—but she carries her own guilt about that night, guilt that traps her in the past while the world goes on around her.

As she navigates the complicated relationship with her mother, Sylvie begins to uncover the secrets that fill their house—and what really happened the night Persephone died. As it turns out, the truth will set you free, once you can bear to look at it.

The Winter Sister is a mesmerizing portrayal of the complex bond between sisters, between mothers and daughters alike, and forces us to ask ourselves—how well do we know the people we love most? (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1984 (?)
Raised—Bolton, Connecticut, USA
Education—B.A., Wheaton College, Massachusetts; M.F.A., Boston University
Currently—lives in Manchester, Connecticut


Megan Collins grew up in Bolton, Connecticut. She received her BA in English and Creative Writing from Wheaton College in Massachusetts and her MFA in Creative Writing from Boston University. She has taught creative writing at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts and Central Connecticut State University, and she is the managing editor of 3Elements Review.

A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in many print and online journals, including Off the Coast, Spillway, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Rattle. She lives in Manchester, Connecticut, and The Winter Sister is her first novel. (From the publisher.)



Book Reviews
I love a good family-driven suspense novel, and this one doesn't disappoint.
MarieClaire.com


[A] tepid debut…. This psychological thriller starts strong, but the story veers off along tired plot lines, leaving readers as adrift as the characters.
Publishers Weekly


[D]ark, tense, and completely absorbing.… While full of hand-clenching suspense, the novel’s real strength comes from its study of relationships.… Gripping to the last page,… the desperation in the connections among the characters… will stay with readers.
Booklist


The secrets [Sylvie] uncovers… will shatter every memory she holds dear about her sister, her mother, and even the man she believes killed Persephone. A bewitching thriller with surprises detonating in nearly every chapter.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. The title of Megan Collins’s debut novel is The Winter Sister. Which sister do you think the title refers to—Sylvie or Persephone? Why do you think Collins chooses to leave this interpretation open to the reader?

2. Even though Lauren is Sylvie’s best friend, Sylvie reveals that she has lied about the truth of Persephone’s death for the majority of their relationship. How would you feel if you found out that an important person in your life had lied about something like this? Would you try to understand? Feel betrayed? How do you think your relationship with that person would change after the fact?

3. Although Sylvie never forgets about Persephone, she doesn’t actively reinvestigate her sister’s case until after she returns to Spring Hill. Why do you think her homecoming sparks a renewed dedication in solving Persephone’s cold case? Is it returning to Spring Hill itself? Seeing her mother in a weakened state? Make a list of Sylvie’s possible motivations, and share them with your fellow book club members to compare.

4. The majority of the novel takes place sixteen years after Persephone’s death, but the loss still feels fresh for many characters in the novel. Consider the following passage: "I didn’t know that stars don’t last forever. I had no idea that the light we see is just an echo of an old burn, or that, most of the time, it’s the absence of a glow, instead of the glow itself, that goes on and on and on" (p. 45). How is this a metaphor for Persephone? How does her absence continue to affect the lives of Sylvie, Annie, Jill, and Ben? How might things have been different for them had she survived? Do you think that the effects of a loss like this can ever dissipate?

5. Even though she’s been convinced her entire life that Ben was the one who killed Persephone, Sylvie finally decides to hear what he has to say at the end of chapter 11. Why do you think she makes the decision to trust him? How do you think the novel would have progressed if Sylvie had chosen differently?

6. Annie always warned Sylvie about Tommy Dent, so Sylvie is shocked when she learns that her mother and Tommy spent time together after Persephone’s death. Consider Annie’s perspective in this situation. Do you think there was more to her relationship with Tommy than just the pills? Why or why not? Does Annie deserve any sympathy for her "deal" with Tom?

7. "We O’Leary women—we keep our promises to our sisters" (p. 162). In chapter 17, Annie reveals that Jill knew she had a drug problem after Persephone’s death but promised to keep it secret. This echoes a quote from chapter 1: "We’re sisters, Sylvie, Persephone would always say. And that’s sacred. So I know your promise to keep this a secret isn’t just words. It means something to you" (pp. 14–15). Discuss the parallels between Jill and Annie’s relationship and that of Sylvie and Persephone. What role do secrets play in these relationships? How did Jill’s and Sylvie’s choices to keep their sisters’ secrets affect their lives? When is it better to tell a secret than to keep one? Discuss as a group.

8. Sylvie and Annie both had a deep desire to protect Persephone, even though it came at a cost to her. Sylvie locked the window "because I’d loved her, deeply, and I’d wanted to save her from herself" (p. 251), while Annie was "rescuing Persephone from a life in the Underworld" (p. 156). Examine the theme of protecting loved ones throughout the novel. Do you think either Sylvie or Annie actually had the power to protect Persephone? What about Ben? Is it ever really possible to protect someone?

9. Ben eventually reveals to Sylvie the real reason behind Persephone’s bruises. Were you surprised by his explanation? If you were Sylvie, would you forgive him for what he did? Why or why not?

10. Annie keeps perhaps the biggest secret of all in The Winter Sister. Why do you think she ultimately chose not to tell Persephone her father’s identity? Do you think Annie was genuinely naïve about Persephone and Ben’s relationship? Afraid about what might happen were she to tell the truth? Both? Share your thoughts with your book club.

11. Persephone and Annie’s relationship is a tumultuous one at best, but as Annie puts it, "I couldn’t get too close to her just to lose her someday" (p. 271). Did you ever have a "tough love" relationship with anyone as a child? How did it affect your relationship with that person as an adult? What’s your perspective on this relationship now?

12. There are several characters in the novel that could have viably murdered Persephone. Were you surprised when you finally found out the killer’s identity? Why or why not? Share some of the theories you had while reading and explain how those theories might have changed throughout the course of the novel.

13. Ben and Sylvie develop a semiromantic relationship while they work together to find out what happened to Persephone. If you were to revisit them a year from now, do you think they would be together? Why or why not?

14. Tattoos are a recurring motif throughout The Winter Sister. Sylvie paints them on Persephone as a child to hide her bruises and later becomes a tattoo artist as an adult. At the end of the book, Sylvie decides to give up the career, musing, "I no longer needed to watch a needle sink pigment into flesh, no longer needed to punish myself by reenacting what I’d done to Persephone, always seeing her arm instead of the client’s" (p. 311). How was tattooing a punishment for Sylvie, and how does giving it up signify her healing?

15. Paint is another motif that plays an important role in the novel. As Sylvie says of the medium: "Paint is stubborn. It clings instead of chips, and even after more than a decade, it has to be scraped and scraped and scraped" (p. 177). How is this a metaphor for her grief over Persephone? Why do you think she chooses to paint over the constellation on her mother’s living room wall at the end of the novel, rather than try to scrape it off? What is the significance of Sylvie and Annie doing this together?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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Black Leopard, Red Wolf  (Dark Star Trilogy 1)
Marlon James, 2019
Penguin Publishing
640 pp.
ISBN-13:
9780735220171


Summary
In the stunning first novel in Marlon James's "Dark Star" trilogy, myth, fantasy, and history come together to explore what happens when a mercenary is hired to find a missing child.

Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter: "He has a nose," people say.

Engaged to track down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy.

The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard.

As Tracker follows the boy's scent—from one ancient city to another; into dense forests and across deep rivers—he and the band are set upon by creatures intent on destroying them.

As he struggles to survive, Tracker starts to wonder: Who, really, is this boy? Why has he been missing for so long? Why do so many people want to keep Tracker from finding him? And perhaps the most important questions of all: Who is telling the truth, and who is lying?

Drawing from African history and mythology and his own rich imagination, Marlon James has written a novel unlike anything that's come before it: a saga of breathtaking adventure that's also an ambitious, involving read.

Defying categorization and full of unforgettable characters, Black Leopard, Red Wolf is both surprising and profound as it explores the fundamentals of truth, the limits of power, and our need to understand them both. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—1970
Where—Kingston, Jamaica
Education—B.A., University of the West Indies; M.A., Wilkes University
Awards—Man Booker Prize, Dayton Literary Peace Prize
Currently—lives in Brooklyn New York City, New York


Marlon James is a Jamaican novelist, who taught English and creative writing at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and currently is teaching at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, New York.

James's most recent novel, the 2019 epic fantasy, Black Leopard, Red Wolf, has been compared to an African Game of Thrones. His 2014 novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings, won the 2015 Man Booker Prize. Seven Killings re-imagines the attempted murder of Bob Marley and a narrative of Jamaican history.

The Book of Night Women, his 2010 novel about a slave woman's revolt in a Jamaican plantation in the early 19th century, won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the Minnesota Book Award. It was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His earlier novel, John Crow’s Devil, written in 2005, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

James is a graduate of the University of the West Indies where he earned a degree in Literature (1991). Subsequently, he earned his Master's in Creative Writing from Wilkes University. (Adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 11/20/2014.)



Book Reviews
Gripping, action-packed.… The literary equivalent of a Marvel Comics universe—filled with dizzying, magpie references to old movies and recent TV, ancient myths and classic comic books, and fused into something new and startling by his gifts for language and sheer inventiveness.
Michiko Kakutani - New York Times


Marlon James is one of those novelists who aren’t afraid to give a performance, to change the states of language from viscous to gushing to grand, to get all the way inside the people he’s created.… [Black Leopard, Red Wolf] looks like another great, big tale of death, murder and mystery but more mystically fantastical.… Not only does this book come with a hefty cast of characters (like Seven Killings), there are also shape shifters, fairies, trolls, and, apparently, a map. The map might be handy. But it might be the opposite of why you come to James—to get lost in him ("Ten Things Our Critics Are Looking Forward to in 2019").
Wesley Morris - New York Times


[A] sprawling fantasy novel set in a dark-age Africa of witches, spirits, dazzling imperial citadels and impenetrable forests. In a genre dominated by imagery derived from the European middle ages, Black Leopard, Red Wolf feels new and exciting
Wall Street Journal


Fantasy fiction gets a shot of adrenaline.
Newsday


Like the best fantasy, like the best literary fiction, like the best art period, Black Leopard, Red Wolf is uncanny.
Boston Globe


Stand aside, Beowulf. There’s a new epic hero slashing his way into our hearts, and we may never get all the blood off our hands.… James is clear-cutting space for a whole new kingdom. Black Leopard, Red Wolf, the first spectacular volume of a planned trilogy, rises up from the mists of time, glistening like viscera. James has spun an African fantasy as vibrant, complex and haunting as any Western mythology, and nobody who survives reading this book will ever forget it. That thunder you hear is the jealous rage of Olympian gods.
Washington Post


Black Leopard, Red Wolf is bawdy (OK, filthy), lyrical, poignant, violent (sometimes hyperviolent), riotous, funny (filthily hilarious), complex, mysterious, and always under tight and exquisite control…. A world that is both fresh and beautifully realized…. Absolutely brilliant.
Los Angeles Times


James is a professed fantasy nerd, so Black Leopard, Red Wolf will certainly appeal to fans of all the well-acknowledged authors with at least two initials—George R.R. Martin, J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, etc. But if you’ve read James’ 2014 novel A Brief History of Seven Killings…, you’ll drag yourself to the midnight queue to buy Black Leopard regardless of the whole "Game of Thrones" selling point.
Huffington Post


Black Leopard, Red Wolf aims to be an event, and to counter the dominant impression of the genre it inhabits.… Black Leopard delivers some genre-specific satisfactions: the fight scenes are choreographed with comic-book wit.… But it deliberately upends others. When I first saw the news that James was writing a fantasy trilogy, I had assumed that, after reaching the pinnacle of critical acclaim, with the Booker, he was pivoting to the land of the straightforward best-seller.… Instead, he’d written not just an African fantasy novel but an African fantasy novel that is literary and labyrinthine to an almost combative degree.
The New Yorker


The novel teems with nightmares: devils, witches, giants, shape-shifters, haunted woods, magic portals. It’s terrifying, sensual, hard to follow—but somehow indelible, too.
Vogue


James’ visions don’t jettison you from reality so much as they trap you in his mad-genius, mercurial mind.… Drenched in African myth and folklore, and set in an astonishingly realized pre-colonized sub-Saharan region, Black Leopard crawls with creatures and erects kingdoms unlike any I’ve read.… This is a revolutionary book.
Entertainment Weekly


[A] planned trilogy with a trek across a fantastical Africa that is equal parts stimulating and enervating.… Though marred by its lack of subtlety, this is nonetheless a work of prodigious imagination capable of entrancing readers.
Publishers Weekly


★ An epic sweep, an intensely layered structure, and raw if luscious language that pins readers to the page… A gloriously delivered story that feels eminently real despite the hobgoblins, and for literary readers, eager to see the world… in a new light. —Barbara Hoffert
Library Journal


★ Wrought with blood, iron, and jolting images, this swords-and-sorcery epic set in a mythical Africa is also part detective story, part quest fable…. James' trilogy could become one of the most talked-about and influential adventure epics since George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. Black Leopard, Red Wolf begins as a story told by a prisoner to his jailer. How does this structure inform the reader’s experience of the novel?

2. Over the course of the novel, Tracker reveals a complex family background. How do you think that background affects his relationships with other characters as the story unfolds?

3. Tracker and Leopard’s relationship is at the center of this novel. How would you describe that relationship? Why is it so hard for the two of them to get along for much of the book?

4. Is Tracker the “hero” in this story? Do you find you trust him as a narrator? And if not, what parts of his tale do you think he might be lying about?

5. Black Leopard, Red Wolf is populated with a lot of characters, many of them working together (at least sometimes) to accomplish the same goal. Other than Tracker, which member of the fellowship did you find most compelling and why? Who did you have the most questions about?

6. Tracker has problematic ideas about and relationships with women. How do these issues inform the narrative?

7. Sogolon and her quest loom large over the rest of the novel. What do you think of the choices she makes in pursuit of her goal?

8. What aspects of Black Leopard, Red Wolf feel connected to the classic fantasy tradition? How does the book depart from that lineage?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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