This reading group guide for The Descent includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. 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.
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For Lanore McIlvrae, immortality has been more of a curse than a blessing. It has distanced her from the rest of humanity and left her lonely and unhappy. Too, she has been haunted by guilt for the things she’s done in order to survive. She’s especially haunted by what she did to Jonathan, the first man she ever loved.
After being desired, scorned, and widowed throughout the hundreds of years of her life, the one thing she desires more than anything—to feel loved—has eluded her. In the conclusion to The Taker Trilogy, Lanore sets out on an epic mission to release Jonathan from the prison of the underworld. Just like immortality, the mission turns out to be more than she bargained for, and the powers of darkness threaten to snuff out her chances for true love once and for all. Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. As the book opens, Lanny is haunted by dreams of Jonathan being tortured, and she determines to go to help him. Given the history of their relationship, what do you think compelled Lanny to pursue this mission? Would you have been willing to make the same choice?
2. Lanny convinces the captain of the boat she’s hired to leave her on an island off the coast of Sardegna (Sardinia) where she hopes to find Adair. What does this decision reveal about Lanny and how she feels toward Adair? What did you feel as she got out of the boat and signaled the captain to leave? Would you want to be left on a seemingly barren island without any plan for an exit? Why or why not?
3. Why do you think Adair allowed Terry and Robin to stay on the island with him in spite of his suspicions about them? What role do they play in the story? What does it say about Adair that he was willing to risk their companionship?
4. In part, The Descent
is an exploration of one of the great mysteries of life: what happens when we die? On page 37, Lanore describes the process of being with Luke during his final days. How did she respond to his imminent death? Have you been with someone at the moment of death? Do you agree with Lanny’s observation that “they’re afraid of what’s coming, afraid and confused”? How do you feel about death? Have you contemplated your own mortality?
5. Lanny confesses that “Immortality had made me less human” and “robbed me of the ability to feel real emotion in the face of death.” How do you feel about this tradeoff? Would you be willing to trade being fully human for the “gift” of immortality? Why or why not? Do you think people would behave differently if they knew they would never die?
6. At the point where Lanny asks Adair for his help to accomplish her mission of going to Jonathan, she realized that “Adair had truly changed.” Do you agree? Describe. Had Lanny changed? Describe.
7. How does Adair’s island home foreshadow his identity? What role does the weather on the island play in the story?
8. When Lanny arrives in the underworld, she initially is transported to various experiences and relationships from her past. What purpose did these travels serve in her journey? If you could travel to a prior time and place, what would it be and why?
9. During Savva’s visit with Lanny, he says about Adair: “We’re rarely attracted for the reasons we think...There was something in him that we were looking for, each of us in our way.” What do you think Lanny was looking for in her relationship with Adair? Did she find it?
10. Describe some of the qualities of Adair during his youth in Venice studying under the bishop and ultimately Cosimo. What was the main desire that fueled his hunger to learn alchemy? How was the profession of alchemy ultimately a cover for his true identity?
11. During Lanny’s reunion with Luke in the underworld, she reflects that “being alone was what I feared most.” Why do you think someone who was immortal would be afraid of being alone? What was her strategy to avoid aloneness? Is fear of being alone universal? Do you resonate with this fear? If so, what is your strategy to avoid it?
12. When Lanny finally meets Jonathan in the underworld, how is their reunion different from what she imagined? How does her journey to help him turn out to be ironic?
13. Do you think Lanny and Adair are capable of true love and fidelity to each other? Why or why not?
14. What was your response to the end of the story? How did it compare or contrast with your imagined ending?
15. What was your favorite scene or chapter in the book? Explain. Enhance Your Book Club
1. Visit www.AlmaKatsu.com to learn more about the author and listen to an interview with her.
2. The author calls The Taker series “anti-romance” in that it reveals the dark side of love. Make a list of examples from the book that connect various characters’ evil/dark actions to a corresponding desire to be loved. Discuss your lists at your next book club meeting. What do you learn or observe from this exercise about the human heart? How do the experiences of the characters in the story compare and contrast with your own experiences with love, or the experiences of people you know?
3. The Descent
describes Eternity as a breaking apart and disintegration into absolute emptiness. Is this view of man’s place in the cosmos similar to, or different from, that of religions with which you are familiar? Read The Universe Next Door
by James Sire and contrast the various views of eternity presented. Which view most closely resembles your own? Discuss.
4. Make a list of the things you would do, risks you would take, places you would visit if you knew you were immortal. How is this list similar to or different from your actual bucket list?