Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
An exclusive interview with an elusive Lebanese crime king and thugthe
kind of opportunity that every journalist lives for in the war-torn Middle East.
But for Caddie Blair and her colleagues en route to just such an assignment,
things are off-balance from the start. Not long into the trip, their Land Rover
is ambushed by a band of radical militiamen, and photojournalist Marcus LancourCaddie's
colleague, friend, and loveris shot and killed in an assignment gone awry.
So begins this engaging account of an impassioned journalist who believes
that getting the storywhile remaining detached from the situation and the
people involvedis everything. As Caddie says, if you get too close, you feel
too much. And when you feel too much, you're sunk.
But her world soon begins to unravel when these long-held beliefs in
objectivity and fairness ultimately lead to great personal loss. What follows is
a sometimes unsettling yet always compassionate look at Caddie's tenuous
struggle between a desire for revenge and freedom from the guilt she feels for
having survived as she learns to incorporate her losses and recast her life.
In her latest novel, Masha Hamilton, a seasoned journalist herself, gives
readers an insider's perspective about the decisions that war correspondents
sometimes face and the impact these decisions have on their lives. The
Distance Between Us
allows readers to reconsider their own judgments and
views about reporting, knowing that objectivity and detachment often come at a
- The essence of this book is in its title. Distance exists in the political
landscape of this novel as well as in Caddie's life. What are some of the
historical and cultural differences that create distance between the
Palestinians and the Jews in this story? How does creating distance influence
Caddie's relationship with Marcus? her professional colleagues? her friends? her
- In an instant, Caddie loses the two elements of her life most dear to her:
Marcus and her professional detachment. How has reporting about violence in the
past affected her?
- After Marcus's death, Caddie finds herself drawn closer and closer to
dangerous situations, putting herself at increasingly greater personal and
professional risk, as if she were invincible. What drives this reckless
behavior? What other professions encourage similar forms of escape? Does
escaping become addictive?
- What is behind Caddie's strong attraction to Goronsky? From the beginning,
he is not honest with her yet she continues to rely on him.
- Lingering thoughts of revenge plague Caddie. Did you expect this? How do
her experiences with Goronsky, Avraham, Halima, and others affect her attitude?
- The female characters in this novelincluding Ya'el, Sarah, Halima, Anyaare
diverse women who represent many cultures and values. How does each affect
Caddie's actions and influence her decisions?
- Memories of Marcus's death haunt Caddie. Is she in any way responsible for
his death, or is she struggling with her own guilt for surviving the ambush? How
does Marcus's journaland perhaps his deathhelp her to heal?
- Sarah tells Caddie, "Two kinds of people find their way to this
place. Those who leave, and those who stay." Does Caddie's decision to stay
surprise you? Will her personal and professional losses reshape her reporting
- This fictional account of violence in the Middle East parallels many
real-life, contemporary scenarios, both at home and abroad (for example, the war
in Iraq, September 11, Columbine High School, Kosovo, Sarajevo, and Sudan). What
motivates the kind of coverage given to these events? Is the reporting
informative or voyeuristic, merely feeding the general public's appetite for
- This book is dedicated to Kevin Carter, a photojournalist who won a
Pulitzer Prize for his disturbing photo of the famine in Sudan. In the picture,
a gaunt Sudanese child crouches low to the ground while a vulture lurks nearby.
Not long after winning the Pulitzer, Carter took his life. As a strict observer,
journalists sometimes may have to let violence and brutality occur because if
they become involved, they may change the outcome of the event or the public's
understanding of a situation. Are there situations when a journalist should
become a participant or is it better to remain an observer?
Robert Stone. Damascus Gate (1998)
Anita Diamant. The Red Tent (1997)
Fadia Faqir. Pillars of Salt (1996)
Alexandra Fuller. Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood
Masha Hamilton. Staircase of a Thousand Steps (2001)
Francesca Marciano. Rules of the Wild (1998)
Azar Nafisi. Reading Lolita in Tehran (2003)
Henry Scholder. The Honorable Correspondent (2003)
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