The Reader’s Guide below suggests possible discussion questions for the entire series, rather than just one book. It isn’t necessary, however, to read the entire series in order. Each book stands alone and any recurring characters and their roles in previous books should be understandable to the reader through the context of the story.
Reader’s Guide to Jesus Creek
1. All the books in the Jesus Creek series feature a different protagonist, yet each of these characters shows up in at least one other book as a minor character. Why did the author choose to feature so many Jesus Creekians instead of focusing on one major character?
2. What role do the recurring characters play, even in their minor roles? How do they affect the overall atmosphere of Jesus Creek?
3. The Jesus Creek novels are mysteries first, dealing with murder and–in various books–such dark subjects as adultery, spousal abuse, and suicide. Why, then, is comedic fiction used as the venue?
4. How might the small community of Jesus Creek serve as a metaphor for more populated areas? For families?
5. In All The Great Pretenders and All The Hungry Mothers, there are characters who represent the “Outside World.” What differences do you see in Carl Jackson, Owen Komelecki, and Janet Ayers? How do their different backgrounds contribute to their perception of Jesus Creek and its residents?
6. Each book in the series revolves around an element–fire, air, water, earth, metal, spirit. What do these elements say about the plot of the corresponding book? About the main character, and the minor characters?
7. All The Great Pretenders deals with co-dependent behavior that results in, among other things, murder. Why do some of the characters outgrow this behavior while others never come to realize it exists? Benefits to outgrowing it are obvious, but what are the benefits gained by the characters who continue to exhibit co-dependent behavior?
8. All The Crazy Winters uses Constance Winter as a metaphor for the town. What is learned, then, about the present and future of the town through the life of Miss Constance?
9. All The Dark Disguises, which is built around the element metal, leaves Kay’s relationship with the serial killer unresolved. How do you think this relationship will end? Why do you think there is any question about how Kay will proceed with the relationship?
10. All The Hungry Mothers deals with domestic violence. How does this relate to the many oblique references to Jane Eyre? What is the connection to the UFOs?
11. All The Deadly Beloved, which uses lines from the standard marriage ceremony as chapter headings, presents a variety of romantic/intimate relationships. In what ways does each relationship work for the people involved? In what ways do these relationships damage the people involved?
12. All The Blood Relations, the final book in the series, ends with Kay’s observation that the town is getting back to normal. Do you feel this bodes well or ill for the townspeople?
13. As the series progresses, the town and the characters seem to be heading toward a narrower and narrower view of life and the world. What events and/or dialogue suggest this? Why is their narrowing perception inevitable?
14. If you lived in Jesus Creek, what part would you play in the community? How would the characters in the books perceive you?