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Discussion Questions for Alyda’s Bluff
1. The two female protagonists—Alyda and Rianne—have markedly different personalities. Describe them in terms of their character traits and motivations for behaviour. How has the past changed their lives? How have they been influenced by the eras in which they live? How have they changed by the end of the book?
2. Can the graveyard setting be presented as a character in the story? Define what the old graveyard signifies to Alyda, Caleb and Noah.
3. Rianne’s grandmother, Nan, says: “We’re all entitled to our secrets . . . and when you’ve been dead as long as Alyda Teasdale has been, you’ve earned your rest.” Do you agree or disagree with this point of view? Why?
4. Rocks and stones—a leitmotif throughout the novel—are generally symbols of strength and permanence. How does the author treat them in this novel?
5. Rianne sees visions of Alyda. Has the author injected a conventional ghost element into the story, or can you provide another explanation for their inclusion?
6. Alma Sweeney and Nan are both strong, “no-nonsense” individuals, with unshakeable feelings of loyalty toward those whom they love. Do you have women of similar character in your life? Are you inspired by them?
7. Themes of loss prevail throughout the novel. Discuss how the characters of Alyda, Gramps and Verity deal with the death of loved ones.
8. Mr. Sweeney is an eccentric and a loner. How has he been affected by events in his past? Describe his relationship with Rianne.
9. When Caleb returns to the mountain in the spring of 1897, he avenges Alyda. Do you laud or condemn the stark moral choice he makes? Why?
10. Rianne represses her love for Ben for more than a decade. Do you accept her explanation for this repression (given to Ben at the lighthouse) or do you believe there may have been other factors in play during their separation?
11. Identify at least two coming of age experiences in the novel. Coming of age experiences are often difficult, but they may also lead to self-discovery and peace. Discuss.
12. Did you enjoy Alyda’s Bluff? Would you recommend it to your friends?