How does Jennie differ from your impressions of the usual pioneer woman? How did her upbringing affect her attitudes as a woman?
Did you identify with Jennie’s distress over her father’s decision to take the family west? Did you ever have to move against your wishes? If so, how did your reaction compare with hers?
How did Jennie’s father compare with most American settlers in Oregon? Why do you think he chose to take the family west?
Do you see any difference in how Alan and Jake reacted to Jennie’s concerns as a woman? How did you feel about that?
How did you feel about Jennie’s sense of isolation in the West? Have you ever had an experience that could help you identify with this level of isolation?
Why were some of the American settlers so fixated on establishing some form of government, or law and order, for themselves in the Oregon Territory? How did the British situation differ for their people? Why did the British resist the American efforts toward government? How was Dr. McLoughlin conflicted on this issue?
The book shows several historic events with actual players mingling with fictional characters. Did these scenes enhance the story for you? Or detract from it?
Did Jennie’s feelings about Native Americans change over time? What do you think caused her to hold the attitudes she did? Do you think she had a typical viewpoint for the times?
How did Jake’s viewpoint on Native Americans differ from that of the average American settler and why? How did the British viewpoint differ and why?
How did you feel about the ending of the main story? How did you feel about the Epilogue? Did you find the Afterword helpful?
For: A Place of Her Own
Janet opens the book describing a sense of connection she feels with her great-great-grandmother Martha. Did the writing help you feel that connection? How so? And how does that connection develop for Janet? Have you experienced a connection with an ancestor of yours through visiting a place, or touching some memento this ancestor touched?
What was special about the young Martha Poindexter? How did her personality affect her life decisions? Did you identify with the choices she made, whether good or bad? Or did you wish you could have stopped her from making some of those choices? How do our own choices move us onto new paths throughout our lives?
What was special about the mature Martha Poindexter Maupin? Do you think she was any different from the average pioneer woman of her day? Could you imagine living the life she led?
As with any work of history—whether true or not—we are transported into a different time. Despite that, did you see elements in Martha’s story that are as true today as they were then? How have women’s lives changed? What would a woman of today do if faced with Martha’s situation?
How did you feel about the people portrayed in the book—Doc, Elizabeth, Cap, John Vallerly, or others? Did your feelings about any of these people change as the story moved forward and time went on? In what way?
Did the story draw you in? Could you feel Martha’s joys, fears, pain? What about Garrett’s joys, fears, and pain? Though the story was written from Martha’s point of view, did you identify with him? Could you understand his perspective? Do you know anyone like him?
How did you feel about the use of creative nonfiction, which the author used to show this story of her great-great-grandmother, filling in the unknowable gaps with her own imagination? Would you have preferred straight narrative?
Did parts of the book make you uncomfortable? Do you think it became too graphic? Or not enough? Why do you think you feel that way?
Did the interludes enhance the story for you? Or disrupt it?
Did the book end the way you expected? Did the ending leave you satisfied? How did it make you feel?
Where we had thought to travel outward, we will come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we will be with all the world.
--Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
And the more we dare to try out new paths, like all explorers of new territory, the more we open up further paths that make it possible for us to experience life in ways we never thought possible.
--Riane Eisler, author of The Chalice and the Blade, quoted from Sacred Pleasure