Angel Unfolding

Reader’s Guide

  1. Angel Unfolding has a cast of many characters. For different reasons, each yearns for a second chance. With which major character/s did you most empathize? Why?

  2. What is the point of the “pink house lady” Angel names Grace?

  3. What was Angel’s state of mind when she killed her husband? Discuss her “rebirth” over the following nine months. How does Mack become part of her therapy?

  4. This novel was completed in 2012, long before the Me, Too movement awakened public awareness of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Do you feel that domestic violence has been adequately addressed or overshadowed by the movement?

  5. It takes a while for Angel to heal from the abuse she experienced, shake off the guilt she feels, and, finally, embrace life. How does that transition happen?

  6. Aside from domestic violence, the author touches on other women’s issues from self-doubt in the workplace to sexual harassment in the halls of power. How do you relate to these issues?

  7. Ethan becomes a statistic when his mother is imprisoned, falling into a faulty foster care system. The First Step Act of 2018 will require that inmates are placed closer to their families, but the law only affects federal prisoners. As the number of women incarcerated in state and local prisons continues to rise, families are pulled apart, often damaging children for the rest of their lives. What kind of programs do you think prisons should establish? Does a prisoner have a right to parent? In Washington, D.C. a bold new program allows children born to women while in prison to live with them. How do you feel about that?

  8. In the midst of a very public debate about Angel’s sentencing, Judge Steele also struggles with a private regret. Have you ever had a similar experience when you found it difficult to discuss an issue with your child? Or, from Madison’s point of view, have you experienced the anger or heartbreak of not being believed by someone you love?

  9. Judge Steele finds himself in a changing political climate. How does that compare to our judiciary today? Similarly, Reverend Albright finds himself in an increasingly politically minded church; in his case, the church has gone from a social justice agenda to a conservative one. But churches have also been instrumental in changing hearts on a variety of issues – from abolition of slavery to Temperance. How do you feel about places of worship taking political stands?

  10. Discuss the ethical considerations around organ donation. Do you think that one’s status or skin color, for example, can affect your wait time? Are you aware that Chinese prisoners are executed for their organs and that China has established an “organ tourist” trade? How do you feel about advertising for personal causes such as your need (or your spouse’s or child’s need) for an organ?

  11. How does Murphy’s relationship with Angel evolve? It’s obvious how Murphy helps Angel. How does Angel help Murphy?

  12. Montana’s state plant is the Bitterroot, whose bloom is known as the “resurrection flower.” How did that metaphor play out in the story? What other symbols or incidents paralleled the narrative?

  13. Discuss the various roles that non-human creatures played in this story, from dogs to eagles, from fish to butterflies.

  14. The author weaves several minor characters into the story. Did you have a favorite?