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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

The Vengeance of Mothers: The Journals of Margaret Kelly & Molly McGill

1. Like the story of May Dodd, this book is told through journal entries written by white women living among the Cheyenne and "discovered" by one of May's descendants. How did this structure affect your reading experience? Did the firsthand accounts make the women's experiences seem more relatable? Would you believe that these journals had been rediscovered and published?

2. What do you think about Gertie's allegiances? She has had some terrible experiences with the United States Army, and yet she continues to work for them, but the women still see her as trustworthy. Do you agree?

3. Were you surprised by the sudden return of Martha, and by the catatonic state she was in? What do you think helped her to begin recovering, and what do you predict her future might be like?

4. On page 62, Molly writes, "We are the innocents they once were, escaping dark pasts into uncertain futures, and in denying us that change, they would be turning their back on their own experience, denying themselves and their friends." Would the Kelly sisters be betraying their own experiences by sending the other women back? Did they make the correct choice not to?

5. Throughout the story, Christian Goodman frequently cites his religious upbringing and moral opposition to war as reasons why he will not fight, either for the US Army or the Cheyenne. Contrast his views with those of the Kelly sisters. Are any of them right or wrong? What about each of their lives leads them to hold these opinions?

6. Throughout the book, many of the women are determined to get vengeance for their murdered families and friends. Analyze the Kelly sisters’ reaction to actually getting that vengeance by killing young soldiers. Does this satisfy them, and do you think they will continue in their quest for revenge?

7. Compare and contrast the experiences of the first group of women with those of the “greenhorns.” Do you think that the second group of women sent to be brides had an advantage over the first because there were other white women to help them assimilate to Cheyenne culture? Why or why not?

8. Phemie names her band of women warriors the Strong-heart Society. What do you think is the significance of choosing that name?

9. Near the end of the book, Meggie says that women go through three stages of life: before they have children, motherhood, and after their child has died. What do you make of Molly’s suggestion that there might be a fourth stage, a new chance at life? Do you think she will achieve that fourth stage?

10. How do you interpret the closing scene of the novel?

The Vengeance of Mothers: The Journals of Margaret Kelly & Molly McGill
by Jim Fergus

  • Publication Date: September 4, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
  • ISBN-10: 1250093430
  • ISBN-13: 9781250093431