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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

The Fugitive Wife

1. Is Essie idealized by the author, or does she have flaws that make her human?

2. By marrying Leonard she figured to get a husband who was a good worker and who was willing to let her direct the business of farming. In a society where farms were left to sons, what other choices were open to her? How were her strengths working against her in this decision?

3. How does Essie's thriving in Alaska change what she wants from life? Will the attributes that make her a business success in Alaska work in her favor when she returns to conventional society? What failings or blind spots might cause Essie difficulty in the future?

4. Was it believable to you that Leonard would go all the way to Alaska to try to win Essie back?

5. In struggling with her decision to take Leonard back, Essie asks herself "How could a person know between two wrong things?" How might Essie have justified turning Leonard away? What had Leonard done to make himself worthy of another chance? Nate accepts her decision, finding it "bullheaded and plain wrong," and yet he loves her better for it. Was Nate's acceptance a sign of strength or an indication he was unwilling to fight for what he believed?

6. Essie's pregnancy with Nate's child is too much for Leonard to see past in his effort to re-claim his marriage. If Essie had handled the situation differently, is there a chance Leonard might have accepted the child, and the marriage could have succeeded?

7. These characters lived in a different era; how do modern sensibilities affect your understanding or acceptance of their decisions?

8. At the end of the book, Essie embarks on her long journey to Worcester. If she finds Nate, will their relationship likely grow and deepen? In what ways was Nate a good or a bad match for Essie? Given how the novel ends, what kind of future do you imagine for Essie?

The Fugitive Wife
by Peter C. Brown

  • Publication Date: January 23, 2006
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton
  • ISBN-10: 0393061108
  • ISBN-13: 9780393061109