Winner of the Fabri Prize

Home The Author The Book For Reading Groups

Discussion Points

Spoiler Warning: 

These discussion points are intended for those who have already read The Great Days.

1. The methods of persuasion used by The Movement: fatigue, isolation, undermining of self-reliance, an “Us vs. Them” mentality, perpetuation of fear, threats of physical and mental dissolution, projection of a false enemy, and manipulation of language are nearly universal in abusive cults.  The so-called “brainwashing” of political prisoners is managed through an extreme application of the same techniques. In what ways do governments and advertisers also use these techniques to persuade populations?


2. To what degree have the initiates had their agency stolen? To what degree have they freely given away their own power?


3. Does August regain control of his life? When and how does this happen?


4. What makes a person vulnerable to cult recruitment? At what point in your life would you have been vulnerable?


5. What is a cult? How does it differ from a church or a self-help group?


6. How would you characterize August’s relationship to authority near the end of the book? How does he use his power to influence the initiates? Does he use it wisely?


7. Is August different from Papa? How so?


8. If you could change the world for the better how much authority would you be willing to implement to that end? If you could end war or poverty or illness, for example, how many people would you be willing to silence?


9. What is the definition of evil?


10. What role does August’s body play in his development? Is mental subjugation possible without physical subjugation?


11. In totalitarian systems the population is charged with policing their own thoughts. Are there things you yourself are not allowed to think or imagine? Are there things you are not allowed to want? What are the ramifications of unsanctioned desire?


12. How does an organization comprised of good people and good intentions turn sour?


13. What power do the Mothers have on the compound? Is a just patriarchy possible?


14. Are there topics which a spiritual leader should not counsel his followers on? Are there facets of human experience which a spiritual leader should not attain mastery of?


15. Is it appropriate for a spiritual leader to break civic laws?


16. Breaking the rules of the compound results in confinement and punishment in z-trailer. What are the results of breaking rules in your communities?


17. Is torture ever justified? Is there a difference between physical and psychological torture?


18. How is August’s point of view different at the end of the book than at the beginning? Does he achieve freedom?