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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

A Calamity of Souls

1. What was your reaction to the opening chapter, in which Jerome is being arrested? How did the scene set your expectations for the rest of the novel?

2. By the end of the novel, the key takeaway is that Jack and Desiree each needed the other in order to get a not-guilty verdict for their clients. What qualities/traits in each of them were critical to the success of their partnership?

3. After agreeing to represent Jerome, Jack immediately doubts whether he should have done so and if he has the skill to make a sound case for his client. What factors created this uncertainty in Jack, and how do you think he overcomes them?

4. How do you think the case would have played out had Jack stepped down and allowed Desiree to take over completely? Additionally, how do you think it would have turned out had Desiree never come to town to offer her expertise?

5. In Freeman County, many of the citizens are resistant to change and the Black-white divide is staunchly held, even to the point of framing a Black couple for murder. While this is a fictional county, how did this story teach you about that time period in American history? Did you learn something new? If yes, what was it?

6. While Jack and Desiree aren’t on trial for committing any crimes, they are still villainized by some for defending their Black clients and furthering the causes of social justice. And their work then puts their lives, and the lives of their loved ones, at risk. What would you have done if you found yourself in that position? Why?

7. Hilda Lee is a complex character with a past she wants to keep hidden and an outward appearance she wants to keep up. How do you think this affected the way she raised her children? What cues did Jack pick up on that shaped his view of the world, even if he didn’t realize it?

8. At the end of the book, while justice is achieved, the ending is not completely happy. How did you expect the story to end, and why did you come to that conclusion? And how did the actual ending make you rethink the ways in which people hold on to hate, even when there’s evidence of innocence and inequality within the system?

A Calamity of Souls
by David Baldacci