1. Discuss Shanks relationship with his father before his father goes off to fight, then after, when he returns home. What do you think happened to each of them? What makes them different with each other?

2. Why does Shanks mother teach Buck to read? How does this change Buck? How does this change Shanks?

3. What is Shanks friendship like with Buck? Does it change?

4. Why is Buck so quiet? Why would he stay on? Why not leave? Why do you think Buck stays when he could have left with Tempy?

5. Some readers question McMullan's use of the "n" word. Can you find that word in the book? Can you justify its use?

6. Do you think this book takes sides in the conflict? Do you think it is pro-North or pro-South? Why or why not?

7. Does the author s note at the end change the way you felt about the story? Does it matter that there really was someone named Frank Russell?

8. Throughout the story, Shanks is struggling with God and religion.

9. How and why? Where do you think he stands in the end?

10. Many people stereotype women in the south as steel magnolias. Can you explain this? Discuss how this may or may not be true for the women in the book.

11. Discuss how McMullan uses humor in the book. What is the effect?

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