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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

The Devil Amongst the Lawyers: A Ballad Novel

1. In this novel, national reporters stereotype the rural mountain community. In what ways do the media or people from other regions misunderstand your hometown or your culture?

2. The Devil Amongst the Lawyers is set in 1935. How do the issues of that time compare with today's problems in health crises; national disasters; international relations; the economy, etc.?

3. How does the prologue (about the hanging of the elephant) relate to the Erma Morton trial?

4. Reread the story of Urashima Taro, told in Chapter Five of the novel. Does this folk tale remind you of similar stories in the folklore of other cultures? Why do you suppose so many cultures independently developed some form of this story?

5. Carl Jennings, Harley morton, and Shade Baker are all young men with rural origins. How are they alike and in what ways are they different?

6. Henry Jernigan is condescending and prejudiced against the Appalachian culture. He is prejudiced in favor of the Japanese. Discuss this disparity.

7. Nora Bonesteel is a young girl coming to terms with the Sight. Have you or anyone you know had experiences similar to hers?

8. The chapter headings in The Devil Amongst the Lawyers are taken from “Oku No Hosomichi,” a 17th century Japanese poem by Matsuo Basho. (The title in English is: “A Narrow Road to a Far Province.") How does the journey of Basho through the mountains of Japan compare with Henry's journey in southwest Virginia?

9. The year 1935 came amidst the Great Depression. Would you rather have lived in that era in a large city or a rural area? Why?

10. Author Sharyn McCrumb has said "Cities are judged by their richest inhabitants, and rural areas by their poorest." Is this true? What evidence can you show to support or refute this statement?

The Devil Amongst the Lawyers: A Ballad Novel
by Sharyn McCrumb

  • Publication Date: June 22, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
  • ISBN-10: 0312558163
  • ISBN-13: 9780312558161