1. What is Emile really searching for in this novel?
2. What do the ‘treasures’ symbolize to Emile? Discuss in particular the significance of The Black Island for him both at the beginning of the novel and also at the end. Describe a gift that you received which eventually came to symbolize something entirely different.
3. Discuss Emile’s reactions as he is forced to adapt to a completely new and foreign culture without warning. Have you ever experienced culture shock in any form? If so, how did this experience help you view foreigners trying to adapt to our culture? Which character’s response to Emile’s culture shock can you most identify with: Emile himself, Janie, Grandma Bridgeman, Ace, Eternity, Griffin, Mamie Madeleine? Why?
4. Discuss the image of a ‘safe room’. (see p. 167) Do you have a ‘safe room’? Describe your ideal ‘safe room’.
5. As a young adolescent, Emile longs for a father figure–someone to teach him how to be a man. Does he find one? What scene in the novel best portray his struggle toward maturity? Do he ultimately succeed?
6. At the beginning of the novel, Eternity’s goal is to protect her family. Discuss the problems surrounding children who are forced to take on the role of adults. What does Eternity ultimately learn about control?
7. Discuss the process of maturing to which Emile is subject throughout the novel. Which specific events are particularly important with respect to his growth, and how do they affect him in the long run?
8. Emile struggles to forgive his father throughout the novel, at times succeeding while at other times failing, with feelings of betrayal and hate resurfacing. What ultimately helps him? Is his life ruined because of his father’s disappearance? Discuss the experience of forgiving someone yet still dealing with intense feelings years later.
9. Think about Eternity Jones, how she got her name, and what she eventually becoomes. In light of these thoughts, consider the rendering of Genesis 50:20 “What my father meant for bad, God meant for good…” How does her father’s flippant choice of a name become a blessing?
10. In your opinion, who is the strongest character in the novel and why? Who is stabilizing force in the novel?
11. Is Jean-Baptiste de Bonnery ultimately a coward, a hero, a man possessed by revenge or by someone else?
12. Discuss the theme of sacrifice in the novel? Who gives up the most?
13. Even though Klaus Barbie never admitted his guilt or showed any remorse, were the French resistants and the Jews avenged with his condemnation? What did his trial allow for France?
14. The theme of renewal and rebirth is prominent in the novel. Discuss Jesus’ statement “…unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24) Have you experienced this type of renewal in any form in your life? If so, how? (see p. 133)
15. Reflect upon the themes of ‘eternity’ and ‘time’ in the novel. What do Emile and Eternity ultimately learn about the concept of time?
Discuss the symbolism in the title.