READING GROUP QUESTIONS
1. How does the setting of the novel support the story?
2. How do you feel about the decisions Adelaide made throughout the book? To trap the beast? To keep the children? To burn the farm?
3. Regardless of Adelaide’s motives, following the thread of the narrative, did Adelaide’s actions ultimately result in endangering the wild family or saving them?
4. How does the title relate to the book, and how does it change as the story unfolds? Who are the thieves in this novel? Who are the beasts?
5. Should the wild woman have been aggressive in trying to retrieve her children? Why do you think she took a more passive role?
6. How does Adelaide’s suicide attempt at the beginning influence the ending?
7. There are two dueling elements in Thieves, Beasts & Men: water and fire. How do these opposing forces play into the story?
8. Would you consider this a tragic ending? Or a happy one?
9. The author gives us very little backstory for each of the characters. Why do you think that is?
10. Tales of the unreliable narrator are often the most intriguing kind. Why do you think they’re so appealing? Does Thieves, Beasts & Men fit into this category?
11. What was your initial reaction when you first met Adelaide’s daughter? Mother-daughter relationships can be fraught under the best of circumstances. Imagine now, growing up in total isolation with your mother. How does
Adelaide’s relationship with her daughter differ from that of the wild woman’s and River?
12. How do you think River’s experience living with Adelaide might impact her future in the wild? How has she been irrevocably altered by the acquisition of Adelaide’s language? How does language shape our lives?
13. Sexual assault leaves lasting wounds. Why do you think Adelaide chose to stay in her cabin all these years despite the continued threat of the Old Man.
14. Why do you think people are so drawn to the idea of removing themselves from society and becoming self-sufficient? Have you ever considered leaving mainstream life behind to live a solitary life in the woods?
15. How does the inclusion of the author’s artwork impact your own experience as a reader?
16. One of the most remarkable biographical elements about the author is that she dropped out of high school after tenth grade. How does knowing this impact your own impression of formal secondary and post-secondary education? Can formal education stifle an artistic mind or expand it?
17. Tales of feral people have been popular for ages, dating back at least as far as Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 1912 novel Tarzan of the Apes. Why do you think this is such an alluring topic? How do the trappings of civilization alter the core human mind and experience?