Readers' Guide

Questions for Discussion
1. Sandi turns away from the drugstore at the last minute, a decision that saves both her and Bertís lives. Later, she doesnít know
why she didnít enter. Discuss how this lack of understanding haunts her. As a fourteen-year-old, how does she cope with the

2. At the beginning of the novel Jack Turnbow is a self-assured police officer and volunteer fire fighter. After the bombing, he ends
up questioning his abilities and performance. How do the bombing and the events that it triggers force him to change?

3. During the first third or so of the novel, the fire exists at the center of the action, and the four main characters move around it.
Later, when the fire has been extinguished, George Fowler moves to the center, as the others respond to his actions. In what
ways is George Fowler similar to the explosion and the fire?

4. Following the sudden loss of her husband, Elizabeth begins breaking the familyís dishes. Discuss the motives and the effects of
using her dishes to make a mosaic. How does the destruction of the dishes lead her both into and out of her grief? How does it
help her to connect with her daughter and with others, such as Jack Turnbow, the police officer who delivers the proof of her
husbandís death?

5. Reverend Edwardsís crisis of faith is multifold. How is George able to unhinge the ministerís beliefs in such a short period of
time? Do you think Reverend Edwards will be able to continue his work as a minister?

6. Sandi comes of age quickly during the days following the explosion. What are the trials she must pass? Which characters act
as guides in her journey toward growing up? Which characters present challenges?

7. While lying in the dark stairwell of an abandoned house, Jack Turnbow has several realizations about his behavior toward his
partner, Martin Beckley. Discuss the causes of racial prejudice. What makes Jack blind to the prejudices inherent in his actions?
What enables him to wake up to them?

8. Martin Beckley carries his own ghosts. How do these ghosts affect his relationship with his partner? How do they affect his
exchange with the minister when he talks with him in the church parking lot, shortly before he is killed?

9. Centerville takes place in the few days following a large and unexpected tragedy that affects an entire town. Before the town
existed, others lived in this place, including the mound builders, who left clear evidence of themselves. How is a sense of place
important in the novel? Discuss how place affects your view of the tragedy.

10. The novel takes place in 1967, during the Vietnam War and a summer of racial riots in many American cities. Discuss the
importance of the time period in the novel. How are the events in the novel relevant to more recent events, such as 9/11?      
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