By Walter Bennett
The following guide is suggestive only, and the author urges readers to use it as a thought-provoker for their own ideas about how to interpret this novel and address its questions and issues.
Questions (often overlapping) to engender discussion:
1. What is the meaning of the title? Which of the characters “leave” Tuscaloosa? In what way(s) do they leave? (What form does their leaving take?). Are there mental/psychological boundaries in the minds of the characters that are different from the actual boundaries of the town?
2. Consider the theme of “journeys” in the novel. Who takes them? What form do the individual journeys take? Communal journeys?
3. Compare Richeboux and Acee in terms of where they begin in the story, what their predicaments are, the choices they are facing, the options they have, the people they have to help them. How does the race of each affect all of this?
4. Who are the “authority” figures in the novel? How do they exercise their authority–in regard to others, in regard to their communities?
5. How do you feel about Raiford Waites–his work, his mind-set, his methods?
6. Where does religion appear in the story and in what forms? What is/are its roles?
7. Is Preacher John Gryce all good? Is Chief Deputy Starnes all bad? Can you imagine circumstances involving both of them in which Starnes might be redeemable?
8. How do you feel about Katherine Kusinski? Is she a “good” person, a “bad” person, or is there more to it than that?
9. Compare Resa Robinson and Mem Cohane. Do they grow as people during the course of the novel? If so, how?
10. In a “post feminist” world, how do you feel about the lives of Richeboux’s mother, Mrs. Kusinski, Resa, and Mem in the contexts of their world.
11. What are the various “racial” trails in the story? How are they related?
12. Do Richeboux and Acee change in the story? How?
13. Is this a moral tale? If so, what is the moral? Are there more than one?