The Word on Fire Book Club continues its exploration of Ron Hansen’s Exiles today with Ellyn von Huben’s list of reflection questions. It’s not too late to pick up your copy of
Exiles and join the conversation on the Word on Fire Book Club Forum.

If you missed Ellyn’s intro, read it first here.

Then, take a look at these questions:

1. While Hopkins was alive he was a hidden soul, holy but unknown to the world.  Do you see in Hansen’s rich portrayal of the stories of each of the sisters, lost in the wreck, as a parallel to the richness of the long hidden story of Hopkins?  That each soul has a deep back-story – an ‘inscape’, so to speak?

2. Though often sickly and melancholic, Hopkins had the gift of a particularly sharp sense of humor. Do you think Hansen allows this to shine through?

3. Unlike some ships which sink in extremely deep water, the Deutschland disaster started with the ship running aground in stormy weather, miles off course. (Contrast this with the Titanic and its iceberg.) Do you think these circumstances had a particular resonance for Hopkins, if only unconsciously?  In some ways did Hopkins wonder if he had run aground?

4. The theme of Exiles obviously lends itself to drawing parallels to the life of Hopkins. What can one make of the theme of drowning?

5. At one point Hopkins voiced a moment of frustration with his poetry: “Splaine asked,  Why write it, then?” In puzzlement Hopkins replied, “Why pray?” (p.101)  What does this tell us about Hopkins?

6. How can the story of a man who stands as such a sign of contradiction still find an audience in our time?  Are people more hungry than ever for the witness of his life; and the words of his death bed, “I am so happy.  I am so happy”?

Please join us in the Word on Fire Book Club Forum to converse about these topics. Also, if you would like to get a headstart, order your copy of next month’s WOF Book Club selection, Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair.