1. In the opening scene, after Ruby violently pushes her brother Aaron, she reflects, "this is helplessness, this is guilt, this is fear. This is the true impetus for change." What is your reaction to this statement? Is it a valid observation in the context of the novel? Do you agree or disagree in general that these feelings motivate people to change?
2. Discuss Ruby's relationship with each of her three brothers. Do you think Ruby would rather be "one of the boys" or is she more interested in carving out her own role in the family? Do you think Ruby is a good sister?
3. Josef Bronstein's past is described as "an envelope, tightly sealed, that [Ruby] carried but could not open." Is Ruby able to unlock her father's mysteries or does he remain unknowable to her? Does this metaphor resonate with you at all? If not, try to come up with another metaphor that creatively and accurately describes how a parent's past relates to you.
4. How do the Bronsteins deal with challenging situations and tragedy? In your view, do they remain strong and cohesive or in danger of splintering? Who is the most expressive member of the family? Who is the most honest? Who is the most compassionate?
5. Josef Bronstein lives by the maxim, "Life is the highest good... Whenever possible, choose life." What does this phrase mean, coming from a Holocaust survivor? What relevance does it have to a family that is forced to endure so much death? What