Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
- Consider your first impression of Clark Rockefeller after reading the prologue. What kind of man is he? By the end of the book, how have your impressions of him - and Gerhartsreiter - shifted? Why did so many people fall for him? Would you?
- As Clark Rockefeller, Gerhartsreiter conned everyone in his path, including neighbors, pastors, college-admissions officers, and even his own wife, a Harvard Business school graduate. What does his successful streak of deceit reveal about human nature? What draws us to people, and signals to us that they are to be trusted?
- What role did Gerhartsreiter's interest in American media - specifically books, television, and films - play in the crafting of his multiple identities?
- In what ways do Gerhartsreiter's actions typify those of the archetypal immigrant? How common is it for people to reinvent themselves when they start a new life in a new place?
- What kind of personality do you think it takes to maintain a ruse for so long? Have you ever been tempted to pretend to be someone else?
- How does Mark Seal portray Clark's wife? Is he sympathetic to her, or condemning? What is your opinion of her? What clues might have tipped you off to Rockefeller's deceit had you been in her position?
- What do you think drove Gerhartsreiter to behave as he did for so many decades?
- One could argue that Gerhartsreiter was driven by a desire to achieve the American dream. What other public figures, high-profile or otherwise, can you think of who have permitted their aspirations to overtake their sense of right and wrong?
- Taking into consideration everything you've learned about Gerhartsreiter and his deceitful ways, are you able to believe the love he felt for his daughter was genuine?
- What is your opinion of the court's decision about the kidnapping charges? How do you think the murder charges will play out? If eventually released, what future do you imagine for Gerhartsreiter?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Plume.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.