1. Why do you think Valentina’s father chooses to blame her for her sister’s injury?
2. Despite working with the rebels, Arkin still can’t help but feel compassion for the Ivanov women. Discuss the disparate nature of his behavior throughout the novel. Why do you think the Ivanov women affect him the way they do?
3. Why do you think, after their initial meeting, Valentina continues to visit Varenka and give her aid, despite her Bolshevik ties?
4. How do you believe Valentina’s desire to become a nurse is informed by her guilt over both her sister’s injuries and the death of Madam Davidova in the mine explosion? Do you think she would have still made the bargain with her father had Madam not died in the mine?
5. Discuss the relationship between Valentina and her mother. Why do you think Elizaveta acquiesces so readily to her husband’s demands, while Valentina rebels against him?
6. Despite their opposing political views, Arkin and Valentina do on occasion see eye to eye. Discuss the similarities between the two characters.
7. The Ivanovs are injured and tormented by the revolutionaries throughout the novel. What do you think it is about their family specifically that makes them constant targets?
8. Do you believe that Valentina should simply have allowed Jens to kill Arkin following Katya’s death?
9. Discuss Minister Ivanov. What about him makes him so ruthless in his pursuit of power and money? Had he allowed Valentina to simply make her own choices in life, do you think things may have turned out differently for the family?
10. When Valentina finds the box of explosives in her family’s shed, she chooses to warn Arkin through Father Morozov instead of turning him in. Why do you think she made that decision?
11. Discuss the relationship between Elizaveta and Arkin. Do you think the tumultuous climate of the time informed her decision to be unfaithful after so many years of marriage? What do you believe it is about Elizaveta that draws Arkin to her, and vice-versa?