Skip to main content

Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

Ruin Creek

1. Author David Payne uses two epigraphs at the start of the novel. What does each mean tothe bigger picture of the story? What is accomplished by putting these two statementsabout love and marriage at the beginning of this particular novel?

2. How does the image of the photograph in the prologue resonate throughout the novel? Whatdo you make of the image in the photo that Joey identifies as a boy?

3. In the prologue, Joey says that he can hardly remember a time when he thought of hismother and father as a couple. How did it affect your reading of the story to know fromthe beginning that Jimmy and May's marriage was not going to survive?

4. The footprints on the porch are the first image that Joey mentions. What did you thinkthe footprints meant at first? What did the footprints come to represent as the storyprogressed? What other recurring imagery struck you throughout the story?

5. What does Zelle mean when she says, "Remember who you are?" Why is it soimportant to the people of this region to maintain their sense of identity? Why is it soimportant to the Tilleys? The Maddens? What issues of class and social status do Jimmy andMay struggle with?

6. What is the difference between Joey's relationship with Pa and his relationship withJimmy? What is the author saying about the relationships between father and sonsthroughout the novel?

7. What does May sense is watching her when she goes for her swim at Collie Pond? What isthe significance of May's dream? The drowned boy? How do you reconcile May's swim atCollie Pond with Joey's near-death drowning on the fishing trip?

8. Jimmy spends a lot of time wondering if he made the right decision in marrying May. Doyou think he would have been happier if he had run away when he found out she waspregnant? Do you think May would have been more satisfied with her life if she had gone toPhiladelphia instead of having Joey?

9. What effect does Jimmy and May's failed marriage have on those who love them? Given whathe says in the prologue, do you think Joey will ever recover from their divorce? WillReed?

10. Jimmy, May and Joey all take turns narrating chapters. Why does Payne do this? How doesit help or hinder the story? Ultimately, is Ruin Creek the story of Jimmy and May'smarriage or Joey's childhood or both?

Ruin Creek
by David Payne

  • Publication Date: February 26, 2002
  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Plume
  • ISBN-10: 0452282810
  • ISBN-13: 9780452282810