This reading group guide for The Rebel Wife
includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Taylor M. Polites
. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Augusta “Gus” Branson, born of a prominent Southern family made destitute by the Civil War, is forced by her family into marriage with a wealthy upstart. Ten years after her marriage and the end of the war, she watches her husband Eli die from a horrifying blood fever. During the horror of Eli's swift demise, his most trusted servant, freed slave Simon, urgently questions Gus about a missing package that contains bribe money meant to sway politicians in an upcoming election. Gus plans to flee her Alabama town’s suffocating poverty and social constrictions, but once she realizes her husband’s fortune vanished in the Panic of 1873, she sets out to find the package.
Augusta begins to wake to the realities that surround her as a widowed woman in the antebellum South during Reconstruction: her social standing is stained by her marriage, she is alone and unprotected in a community that is being destroyed by racial prejudice and violence, and the deadly blood fever is ravaging her town. If Gus and Simon c