Dorothy Van Soest
A Book Club and Readers’ Guide
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. What is the significance of the novel’s title, Just Mercy? Discuss its possible different meanings and why you think the author selected this title.
2. In chapter one, the murderer presses the sharp point of the knife into the tip of each of her fingers. What do you think is the significance of this symbolism?
3. How do the personalities and perspectives of members of the Baker family impact how they face Veronica’s death and Raelynn Blackwell’s punishment? What holds them together in spite of their differences?
4. With which character(s) did you feel the most sympathy and connection? How did your opinions or feelings about them change as the story unfolded?
5. Bernadette seems driven, to the point of compulsivity at times. What do you think motivates her?
6. How would you characterize the relationship between Fin and Annamaria? How does it compare to their relationship with their murdered sister, Veronica?
7. How does the shifting point-of-view allow the reader numerous opportunities to understand members of the Baker family?
8. What are your feelings about Raelynn Blackwell? Do they change and, if so, how?
9. Each of the characters in Just Mercy made a choice or took a position that had moral implications. Would you have made the same decision? Why? Why not?
10. Did your notion of what was best or right shift in the course of your reading?
11. How does the setting of Texas figure into the book? Is the setting a character? Does it come to life? Did you feel you were experiencing the time and place in which the book was set?
12. Right after witnessing Raelynn’s execution, Bernadette whispered: “You got her body, but you never got her soul.” What do you think she meant by that?
13. Is the plot engaging—does the story interest you? Were you surprised by the plot’s complications?
14. What main ideas—themes—does the author explore? What do you think is the main theme?
15. Is the ending satisfying? If so, why? If not, why not . . . and how would you change it?
For More Information about the Topics in Just Mercy
The Death Penalty
Death Penalty Information Center: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/
Murder Victims Families for Human Rights: http://www.mvfhr.org/
Prejean, Sister Helen. Dead Man Walking. New York: Vintage Books, 1993.
Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty: http://tcadp.org/!
Restorative Dialogue and Restorative Justice
Being with the Energy of Love and Forgiveness, A Film:
Center for Restorative Justice & Peacemaking, University of Minnesota:
The Institute for Restorative Justice and Restorative Dialogue, The University of Texas at
Parents of Murdered Children: www.pomc.com
Umbreit, Mark. Dancing With the Energy of Conflict and Trauma: Letting Go, Finding Peace in
Families, Communities & Nations. CreateSpace Independent
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