Reading Group Guide
A Scribner Paperback Fiction
Reading Group Guide
The Good Journey
1. In the prologue, Mary finds a note in the General's pocket, written by the General to an anonymous person. Whom do you believe was meant to receive this note?
2. Mary Bullitt and Henry Atkinson were married for sixteen years. In your opinion, was this a happy marriage? Why or why not? In your opinion, would Mary have been better off as an unmarried woman in Louisville? Did she sacrifice too much in this union?
3. The Black Hawk War was a small event in the scope of U.S. history. Given that this scenario with Native Americans seemed to be on instant replay countless times throughout the nineteenth century, is there anything we can learn from the Battle at Bad Axe?
4. Mary Bullitt publicly defended her husband, General Henry Atkinson, against his adversaries. But privately, she admitted that her husband was a difficult man to know. Even the General's closest friends in St. Louis murmured that he was inscrutable. What did you think of the General?
5. Why did William Clark (as evidenced by his callous treatment of York, a key member of the Corps of Discovery), Mary Bullitt Atkinson and General Henry Atkinson profess sympathy for Native Americans, yet seem utterly unmoved by the plight of enslaved African-Americans?
6. Black Hawk left the Sauk people the night before U.S. troops came upon them at Bad Axe. Should Black Hawk have stayed with the 150 members of his tribe on the river bottom until the end? Or do you believe his leaving in the night was a compassionate act, that he was deflecting vengeance away from the tribe by departing?
7. Do you believe Bright Sun's decision to follow Black Hawk was a wise one? If you had been in her position, what would you have done? Do you believe her decision would have been different if she had known the truth about Black Hawk and General Atkinson's history with Nicomi?
8. Did you feel that Mary's mother, Mrs. Diana Gwathmey Bullitt, was a prudent advisor, or did she misguide her daughter? If you were Mrs. Bullitt, would you have advised Mary to leave the General?
9. What motivated General Henry Atkinson's refusal to divulge secrets from his past to his wife? Do you believe that communication between husband and wife within the bounds of nineteenth-century marriage was much different than it is today?
10. General Henry Atkinson and Mary Bullitt Atkinson had three children, all of whom predeceased their parents. Do you believe that nineteeth-century parents maintained greater emotional distance from their children because of high infant mortality rates?