Reading Group Guide
About the Author
· I don’t just write about medicine and surgery. I am a practicing surgeon and draw the medical landscape with true colors from my experiences.
· I grew up in Eastern Virginia on a finger-river of the Chesapeake Bay, so when I write a salty tale, I draw from my days fishing and crabbing in the salt water of Virginia.
· I spent four years serving as a surgeon in Kenya, where I worked with the Somali people. This inspired me to include a Somali character in this novel.
· This novel was entirely crafted while I worked in Africa in a village hospital. The finale was written while I was on a medical outreach in northern Somalia. Working in Africa wasn’t a “have-to.” It was a “get-to.” The experiences my family had there have enriched our lives beyond what we could have ever given.
About The Book
· How did you come up with the concept for this story? I was initially intrigued with the idea of whether a parent could forgive a man for abducting/killing his or her child. I envisioned a scene where the parent and the perpetrator of this horrible crime could meet face to face. What would they say to each other? Would it be possible for a parent to forgive?
· Forgiveness is such a challenging issue. Do you think it’s possible for a parent to forgive the impossible? Not only possible, but necessary. Remember, until we forgive, we are bound in a prison of our own bitterness. Will it be easy? Never!
· Can you share a few things that might make forgiveness easier? It is never easy, but it is easier if we remember a few things. 1- The ground is level at the foot of the cross. In other words, we’ve all sinned. We come as sinners to forgive those who have sinned against us. 2- We need to ask God to let us see the ones who have hurt us through his eyes, the eyes of a loving God who gave his son to die in their place. 3- The person who hurt us is not our enemy. Often they are the victim of our true enemy.
· How is your life in Africa reflected in this book? In many ways, Africa has started seeping into my writing. My life as a surgeon has been a continuous source of drama, bringing me into contact with all kinds of human conflict…great stuff for fiction! A village hospital in Africa can be a difficult place to be, a place of human suffering and blood, a place of pain and sweat…exactly the type of thing we delight in reading about (to experience vicariously), but would love to avoid in our personal experience. The Somali character in this book was inspired by my work with the beautiful Somali people who are refugees living in Kenya where I worked.
· How did you come up with this title? I was looking for a title with layered meaning. I wanted to use a metaphor, and use words that aren’t immediately linked in people’s minds. This title came to me while I was walking up the rocky dirt road leading from my house in Kijabe, Kenya to the hospital. Often writing ideas come to me like that. I’m not sitting at the keyboard trying to think it out; I’m away, doing something else, and my right brain comes up with it. It’s as if I’ve taken the issue off the front burner to let it simmer on the back burner and suddenly, without trying, the answer comes bubbling up! Salty not only refers to the fact that forgiveness sometimes demands sweat, the salt image comes up over and over because of the salt water setting.
· Why did you choose this issue (the issue of child abduction)? Because it is such an emotionally strong issue. It is charged, like dynamite. The explosion is so great in the life of my protagonist, Dr. Conners, that everything unravels. I wanted to use a strong issue to show that forgiveness isn’t just necessary for the one being forgiven; it is absolutely critical to rescue the life of the one who needs to grant forgiveness.
· Do you always write with a moral premise in mind? Not always in mind, but the moral premise is always there, in every story, or the novel will be groundless, always floating about looking for sure footing. The moral premise gives the novel direction. Without it, the reader may be entertained, but little else. The stories that stick with you long after the book is closed, always have a controlling theme. For Salty Like Blood, I’d state it like this: Unforgiveness leads to a loss of control and self-destruction; Forgiveness leads to emotional healing and wholeness.
1. So is Salty Like Blood is a metaphor? Or a simile? (Hint: it’s both! How?)
2. How is it ironic that David Conners ends up working in a prison?
3. How is David already in a prison?
4. What does the turtle (trapped in the crab pot) represent? How about the crabs scraping the inside of the boiling pot?
5. Explain the tension David feels between being a doctor and doing what he is capable of doing for his father, and acting only as his son, out of love for his father.
6. Does love mandate the use of every possible treatment to combat illness?
7. Not only is David bound by his bitterness against the man he presumes is responsible for his daughter’s disappearance, he is bound by events in his own childhood. How is his childhood horror mirrored in his adult experience?
8. What will be the keys to David’s freedom? Is the issue, can he forgive Riley, or can he forgive himself?
9. What is hampering David’s ability to love and support his wife? Is it related to his inability to love himself?
10. In the final scenes with David and Riley, David has choices to make. How does his choice reflect the advice his wife gave him regarding the treatment of David’s father?
11. How is forgiveness bloody? Salty?