Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.
The book begins with a birth that is characterized by violence and pain, and ends with a death that seems peaceful and serene. How do you think the author's choice to frame the story this way comments on the book's themes and preoccupations?
How would the book be different if the story were told by a third-person narrator instead of by Rob? Do you think that would change the way the reader feels about Rob as a character or about the Pecks and their way of life?
Robert Newton Peck has been accused of misrepresenting the history and meaning of Shakerism in the novel (source). Some people have claimed that he's not being truthful when he calls the novel "autobiographical" and have questioned many things about his background, including whether he ever really lived in Vermont (source). Does this change the way you feel about the book? If it's true that the events of the story didn't happen the way Peck claims they did, would that make you read it differently?
Although the story starts out pretty dramatically (with Rob meeting Apron on the ridge and helping her give birth), a lot of the first half of the book just kind of ambles along without much happening. Then—BOOM—all of the sudden, big things start happening all over the place. What effect does this change in pacing have on the reader? Why do you think the book is structured this way? Do you think it makes the ending more powerful, or is it just kind of annoying?
In our "In a Nutshell" section, we talk about all the controversy surrounding the book and all the times it's been challenged. Do you think the book is inappropriate for kids? Did reading it make you uncomfortable? Is it always a bad thing when a book makes you uncomfortable, or can it ever be a good thing?
If you wrote a sequel to the book, what would you have happen? Do you think Rob will be able to stay in school while taking care of his family? Do you think he'll become a farmer or go in a whole different direction when he grows up?
Imagine that Wilbur from Charlotte's Web and Pinky got together and had a conversation. What do you think they would say to each other?