Tips for a Successful Book Club Meeting About
The Reckoning


The body of literature that sprung from the Civil War includes many best-selling novels such as Gone with the Wind and Cold Mountain. So if your book club is considering The Reckoning, I am honored and grateful.

Whether you belong to a offline or online book club, here are some ideas to make the most of your discussion of
The Reckoning.

Meeting Themes

Trivial Pursuit: Once you settle on a theme, you might send out an email before the meeting in which the agenda contains questions about the book treated as a trivia game. That way members will be better prepared to participate in a fun-filled discussion.

Civil War Fare: If you belong to an offline club that usually eats before or during your meeting, why not enjoy some finger foods from the Civil War era? You might prepare sweet and spicy pecans, rosemary cheese crackers, herb deviled eggs, deviled ham salad, pimiento cheese with cornbread toast or flaky biscuits with raspberry jam and marmalade.

3. Mementos:You might bring to your meeting any of your own family heirlooms from the Civil War era such as soldiers letters, daguerrotypes, diaries, medals and quilts. Nothing brings the past to life like mementos.

Field Trip: Another possibility would be to hold your book club meeting at a local Civil War site or at one of the public libraries that are participating in the American Library Association's traveling exhibition about the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

5. Audio recordings: To set the tone for your meeting, you can download from I-tunes a free, professionally recorded version of the Gettysburg Address or music from that era to play softly in the background.

6. Re-enactors: You might even invite someone from a local re-enactors group, an impersonator of Lincoln or a local historian to address your book club.

7. Costumes: If you want to go all out, encourage your members to dress in garb from the Civil War era: fancy hand fans, parasols, bonnets, southern belle wigs or military uniforms.

Check out site before the meeting and be prepared to share what you learn about the causes of the conflict, the number of casualties, medical practices, weaponry, slavery and more.

Online Clubs:

If your club meets online, you can set the mood for the meeting with some background music from the Civil War available through

Discussion Guide:

The following questions are best scanned
after you have had a chance to read and enjoy the book.

1. Why do you think the book is called
The Reckoning?

2. What do you think is the major conflict in the book? What parallels do you see between the war-time experience of Ed Canfield and that of today's soldiers?

3. The story opens with Ed Canfield meeting his 16-year old son, Jesse, for the first time. How does their meeting set the tone for their relationship? How do both men change in the course of the story? Do you think that Ed succeeds in making a "gladesman" out of Jesse?

4. Jesse is easily swayed by the war-mongering oratory of preachers, politicians and journalists. He wants to join the rebel army with his friends. Do you think today's youth are as eager to enlist in the armed services?

5. When Ed sees Maureen Foster for the first time, he is immediately drawn to her. What about Maureen attracts him? How is her character developed as the story unfolds? How does their relationship develop?

6. When Jesse refers to blacks as "niggers," his father corrects him and says that his turpentine still isn't part of the "slavocracy." How are Ed's views about slavery revealed throughout the story; and, in particular, in his comments about Brother Storter's sermons, and in the letter that Ed writes to Maureen?

7. When Ed learns that his ex-wife is barely getting by as a seamstress, how does he react and what does that reveal about his character?

8. As an ex-sharpshooter, Ed struggles with nightmares about what he did in the line of duty during the Mexican-American War. He suffers from what doctors in that era called "soldier's heart," and, which we now know as post traumatic stress disorder. When the Civil War breaks out, he refuses to enlist and bars Jesse from enlisting. Did any of your ancestors fight in the Civil War? What became of them? Do you have any family heirlooms, diaries or journals from that era? Have you ever researched your family history online? Do you know of anyone who has suffered from PTSD?

9. Once the Confederacy starts drafting soldiers — instead of relying on volunteers — Ed calls it "a rich man's war, poor man's fight." Why did he say that and why did Maureen become upset when he said it?

10. After Jesse learns that Ed was court-martialed for brawling, Jess says that his father is still punishing himself by living alone in the backwoods. Do you think that is true? Has Ed grown since leaving the army? Does he grow during the story?

11. Despite his objections to the war, Ed secretly pays Caleb Foster to sign up in Jesse's place. Why does Ed do that and do you think he is justified in doing so?

12. When Cedar Keys is attacked, Ed and Jesse, are forced to set aside their differences and join forces in order to survive. How do you feel about the way in which they grow together throughout the story?

13. Why does Ed decide to sail for Key West, a northern stronghold during the war?

14. Why does Ed suddenly stop drinking? Do you think of that as a turning point in the book?

15. When Ed reaches Key West, he meets soldiers who used to serve with him. The soldiers tell Ed that he is crazy. Do you think that is true?

16. Throughout the story, Ed seems fearless in the face of danger. For instance, when he is captured by the federal forces and imprisoned in Key West, he talks himself out of jail then disobeys the commander's order and runs the blockade again. Do you think Ed is still throwing caution to the wind?

17. Ed tells Maureen that he fears a day of reckoning is coming when he must account for all the blood he has shed. Do you think he is right?

Questions for Discussion:

1. Did this novel change the way you think about the opposing sides in the Civil War?

2. Did the novel cause you to reflect on the legacy of war, the long-lasting trauma of post traumatic stress disorder and how it affects today's soldiers?

3. What surprised you most in reading this book?

4. What scene or scenes did you find most surprising?

5. What scene or scenes did you find most moving?