Always searching for your next favorite book? A team of likeminded teachers and staff at Bishop Luers would like to help in your quest for great reads. We are excited to announce the creation of the Bishop Luers Alumni & Friends Book Club. This club will meet in the Luers Media Center every other month, on the second Tuesday of each month. To join via Skype, please send your email address before each meeting to Tess Steffen at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can add you as a contact. No matter how far away you are, you can participate each time we meet.
Our first meeting will be Tuesday, August 8, 2017 at 7 pm. The book we have chosen to kick off the series is Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. This is a historical fiction about a small group of refugees on a desperate trek toward freedom, during World War II.
To see the list of discussion questions please see below.
The meeting dates for the next twelve months follow:
August 8, October 10, December 12, February 13, April 10. The time is 7 pm.
August 8, 2017- The book we have chosen this month is "Salt to the Sea" by Ruta Sepetys. These are some discussion questions:
1. As the novel opens and readers are introduced to each of the four protagonists, they are told by Joana, “Guilt is a hunter.” Florian states, “Fate is a hunter.” Emilia shares, “Shame is a hunter.” And Alfred declares, “Fear is a hunter.” What makes this common refrain such a powerful one? How does it immediately capture the internal conflict of each of these characters? What role do guilt, fate, shame, and fear play in their respective lives?
2. What are the consequences of Florian’s decision to shoot the Russian soldier about to attack Emilia? How does this one decision change the course of their lives? In what ways does Florian become Emilia’s “knight”? Do you believe the actions of a single person can have a profound difference on another’s life? Why or why not?
3. When reaching out to thank Florian for saving her, Emilia thinks, “He would want nothing to do with me. Adolf Hitler had declared that Polish people were subhuman. We were to be destroyed so the Germans could have the land they needed for their empire. Hitler said Germans were superior and would not live among Poles. We were not Germanizable. But our soil was.” In what ways does Emilia’s awareness of being a marginalized people come into play in the story?
4. In the larger context, examine why Hitler sees Poles and others as a less valuable people. Can you draw any parallels to the current political climate in the United States and throughout the world?
5. Why is repeated attention called to Emilia’s pink hat? Beyond its means of identifying her to others, how does it serve as a symbol of her innocence? Can you think of any other examples of colors described by Sepetys in a meaningful manner?
6. Why does Emilia attempt to conceal her pregnancy? In what ways do her memories and fantasies of August Kleist help her persevere through her trauma?
7. Throughout Salt to the Sea, many characters exhibit acts of bravery. Consider the individual actions of these characters. Who do you believe to be the most courageous, and why?
8. Emilia and Joana are both Polish. Of the two, Joana is welcome in Germany and considered “Germanizable.” While discussing the inequality of Hilter’s position on Poles, Eva says ‘Life’s not fair. You’re lucky. Do you think you have time to be moral?” Consider Eva’s statement. Do you agree? In a moral crisis, in what ways do the actions and reactions of an individual define them?
9. Before and During World War II, the Nazis looted and plundered art from across Europe. Consider the systematic theft, deliberate destruction and miraculous survival of Europe’s art treasures. Why does art such as the Amber Room have such power over individuals? What does it say about mankind that we make tremendous effort to preserve and protect it? How does Florian view his theft of the swan to be his revenge against Hitler?
10. What would you identify or describe as being part of “survival mode”—what kinds of struggles bring out in people the ability to endure extreme hardships (like World War II or the Holocaust), and to overcome them?
11. Describe the “Alfred” in the imaginary letters written to Hannelore. How is he different than the “Frick” observed by those with whom he works and interacts on the Wilhelm Gustloff? What does this dual perspective allow readers to understand about his character?