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Book Club Discussion Questions

  1. To what extent do you think that the Jewish immigrant experience is similar or different from that of other religious, cultural, or ethnic groups?
  2. What are some of the contrasts and tensions between old world and new world cultures in this Jewish family?
  3. To what extent do prejudice and dislike of foreigners impact the lives of Rebecca and immigrants in general?
  4. What are some of the assets and limitations of being in a close-knit immigrant family for Rebecca?
  5. What advantages and disadvantages do women in this family have compared to those of men?
  6. Why do you think that Leah’s death and burial are kept a secret in the family?
  7. What health, well-being, and safety issues, along with prevention strategies, are different in Rebecca’s time from how they are now?
  8. How would you describe the relationship between Rebecca and Nathan? What is your reaction to the physical abuse by Nathan of Rebecca and her son?
  9. How do you think Rebecca finds the strength to keep her family together?
  10. What impact do poverty and survival strategies, including selling illegal alcohol, have on Rebecca’s children?
  11. What do you think of the fact that Rebecca involves her children in breaking the law?
  12. To what extent is the local community supportive or not supportive of Rebecca’s situation?
  13. Why is education for her children, including her daughters, so important to Rebecca?
  14. To what extent do you think that owning property and a house impacts Rebecca’s ability to survive?
  15. What do you think about Rebecca’s desire and effort to control her children even after they became adults—in life and in death?
  16. Are there things that you learned about Prohibition in this book that are different from commonly held perceptions about the era?
  17. What was the impact of Prohibition on federal and local governments, law enforcement, and people of different religious groups and socioeconomic means?
  18. To what extent do you think that Rebecca’s experience is reflected in America’s experience today? What would be different for her today? What would be the same?