Not Logged in.
Book Jacket
Black River
Four starred reviews for this debut that will turn readers' hearts inside out.
Summary and Reviews
Excerpt
Reading Guide
Author Biography

Do you believe that Bobby Williams's jailhouse conversion to Christianity was authentic?

Created: 01/08/16

Replies: 25

Posted Jan. 08, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 1318

Expert

Do you believe that Bobby Williams's jailhouse conversion to Christianity was authentic?

Do you believe that Bobby Williams's jailhouse conversion to Christianity was authentic, or that he is, as Wesley asserts to his brother-in-law Arthur, a sociopath just trying to con the parole board with a story of rebirth and reform?


Posted Jan. 11, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
mal

Join Date: 09/09/13

Posts: 155

Expert

RE: Do you believe that Bobby Williams's jailhouse conversion to Christianity was authentic?

Hard to tell really. On the fence with this, certainly something I pondered long after reading the book. I hope he was sincere for his sake, his victims, survivors and society.


Posted Jan. 11, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
poornimaa

Join Date: 05/16/12

Posts: 52

Expert

RE: Do you believe that Bobby Williams's jailhouse conversion to Christianity was authentic?

I couldn't figure it out myself but I guess the cynical point was: did it ring true enough to the parole board? And in the end, did it matter to Wes? The beauty lies in those answers.


Posted Jan. 11, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
bobbie7

Join Date: 09/19/13

Posts: 49

RE: Do you believe that Bobby Williams's jailhouse conversion to Christianity was authentic?

Williams is a psychotic masochist. I do not believe he was able to abort his true nature in prison. He is a cunning manipulator and I think he duped the system into paroling him. The parole board let loose on society a dangerous, deranged criminal who should have been behind bars for life. Let's have a sequel and find out what happens next.


Posted Jan. 11, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
jeannewny

Join Date: 01/10/16

Posts: 20

RE: Do you believe that Bobby Williams's jailhouse conversion to Christianity was authentic?

That could go either way...I'm just not sure...but he was believed by the professionals and released. I'm still not sure how I feel about that.


Posted Jan. 12, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
bethb

Join Date: 04/08/13

Posts: 20

RE: Do you believe that Bobby Williams's jailhouse conversion to Christianity was authentic?

I believe only Williams knows for certain. We can guess --- and hope --- that he was being truthful but can't judge what is within him.


Posted Jan. 12, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
kimk

Join Date: 10/16/10

Posts: 279

Expert

RE: Do you believe that Bobby Williams's jailhouse conversion to Christianity was authentic?

One of the things brought up again and again was Wes's belief that people don't change (for example he thought for sure Scott was bad news because his father was bad, lots of talk about characteristics being "in the blood," etc.). So, I think the author's intent with Williams's conversion was for Wes to accept that change is INDEED possible, which led him to try to talk to Dennis. So I'm going to go with yes, it was real.


Posted Jan. 12, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
kimk

Join Date: 10/16/10

Posts: 279

Expert

RE: Do you believe that Bobby Williams's jailhouse conversion to Christianity was authentic?

I was also interested in the fact that the parole hearing was so perfunctory. There was nothing to indicate whether or not the conversion was real, so nothing to help Wes know one way or the other. It therefore had to Wes's choice alone to believe in change.


Posted Jan. 13, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
jww

Join Date: 05/31/11

Posts: 128

Expert

RE: Do you believe that Bobby Williams's jailhouse conversion to Christianity was authentic?

Absolutely not. He was a manipulator, a sadist, a psychopath - but not a convert to Christianity or any other religion. It was Wes's need for faith that let him accept the possibility of the conversion.


Posted Jan. 13, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
angelaj

Join Date: 06/13/12

Posts: 5

RE: Do you believe that Bobby Williams's jailhouse conversion to Christianity was authentic?

I don't think so. By his demeanor, and the way he spoke to Wes at the bus station shows he is a casebook psychopath - no conscience, no remorse, no guilt about his actions. Although Wes himself believed that no one can change, I think he felt that he had to believe Bobby so Wes could go on living.


Posted Jan. 13, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
lynnw

Join Date: 09/01/11

Posts: 124

Expert

RE: Do you believe that Bobby Williams's jailhouse conversion to Christianity was authentic?

Not at all. The most telling thing to me was when he said he hadn't known Wes was a fiddler and would have ruined his hands first. He was a manipulating psychopath.


Posted Jan. 13, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
peggya

Join Date: 06/03/15

Posts: 11

RE: Do you believe that Bobby Williams's jailhouse conversion to Christianity was authentic?

I don't think its at all relevant to the driving narrative which belongs to Wes. This book was for me all about his moral evolution as a person especially as it related to father/son relationships: Dennis and Scott. Although, it does leave you wondering!


Posted Jan. 13, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
caroler

Join Date: 01/12/16

Posts: 7

RE: Do you believe that Bobby Williams's jailhouse conversion to Christianity was authentic?

I agree with Peggya, I don't think it matters. I think Wesley's kind of faith and the doubts he had were what drove him back to Black River. I also think that Bobby's comment about the effect of the prayer during the riot rang true. For Wesley's life to go forward, he had to have that final confrontation and realize he could walk away from Bobby but not Dennis.


Posted Jan. 14, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
tracyd

Join Date: 05/31/15

Posts: 30

RE: Do you believe that Bobby Williams's jailhouse conversion to Christianity was authentic?

I agree that it isn't particularly relevant. I personally doubt it but he sold it to the parole board. Like was said, it was only going to help Wes if Wes changed. Bobby could have become the Pope but if Wes was still angry and bitter, it wouldn't have mattered a bit.


Posted Jan. 17, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Mary J

Join Date: 04/26/15

Posts: 37

RE: Do you believe that Bobby Williams's jailhouse conversion to Christianity was authentic?

Williams conversion to Christianity seemed authentic, but the truth is known only to himself and God. He did seem to have changed in the past several years. He told Wesley that Wesley's prayer during the riot was the first time he had heard someone witness to faith and that it had changed his life. Wesley answered that all he had was Williams' word that he was what he said he was and that he chose to believe him.


Posted Jan. 17, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
pennyp

Join Date: 03/22/12

Posts: 271

Expert

RE: Do you believe that Bobby Williams's jailhouse conversion to Christianity was authentic?

I agree with so many of the others. I think Bobby was a psychopath incapable of change. He was a real manipulator who got through live using others.


Posted Jan. 17, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Barbara H

Join Date: 04/21/15

Posts: 6

RE: Do you believe that Bobby Williams's jailhouse conversion to Christianity was authentic?

No, I don't believe it was authentic. He knew that was a way for him to leave the prison, but I agree with others who said this was just another part of his manipulative manner. I also believe that one's responses to this question would be influenced somewhat by your own religious experience and belief.


Posted Jan. 18, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
barbaraf

Join Date: 05/27/13

Posts: 6

RE: Do you believe that Bobby Williams's jailhouse conversion to Christianity was authentic?

no I do not think it was based on his answer to Wes at the end that he would have started with his fingers if he had known he was a fiddler.


Posted Jan. 19, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dbsprings

Join Date: 01/19/16

Posts: 5

RE: Do you believe that Bobby Williams's jailhouse conversion to Christianity was authentic?

I believe he was using "Christianity" to sway the parole board and it worked in his favor. This is similar to the quotation "there are no atheists in foxholes." if S.M. Hulse does write a sequel to "Black River", i think it might be interesting to update Bobby Williams's character and see how he doing living as a Christian.


Posted Jan. 21, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
kathleenb

Join Date: 09/14/12

Posts: 72

Expert

RE: Do you believe that Bobby Williams's jailhouse conversion to Christianity was authentic?

The worst person can be Saved by a belief and surrender to Jesus Christ, I believe it would be difficult to sustain this for ten years if it was a hoax. So yes I believe it was authentic.


Posted Jan. 25, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
ABeman

Join Date: 01/14/15

Posts: 20

RE: Do you believe that Bobby Williams's jailhouse conversion to Christianity was authentic?

Just reading the group's responses to this question is fascinating, and I think the author would be pleased with our discussion. Hulse left it open for us to decide based on the character she had drawn for us. But in the end, it was Wesley's character we were most concerned with. Wesley changed dramatically in the end. Why not Bobby Williams too?


Posted Jan. 26, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
cm28015

Join Date: 11/01/15

Posts: 26

RE: Do you believe that Bobby Williams's jailhouse conversion to Christianity was authentic?

I don't think it matters to the story. I think what matters is that Wes was able to believe that he made a difference.


Posted Jan. 26, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Tired Bookreader

Join Date: 08/19/11

Posts: 70

Expert

RE: Do you believe that Bobby Williams's jailhouse conversion to Christianity was authentic?

Nothing in this book would give an indication if Bobby was enlightened. Without an sincere apology, I would opt for no.


Posted Feb. 01, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
scottishrose

Join Date: 07/24/11

Posts: 38

RE: Do you believe that Bobby Williams's jailhouse conversion to Christianity was authentic?

I am not sure either. There were times that I felt the answer was yes, he did change. Like when he told Wes that it was his prayer when he was being tortured that made the difference, how he couldn't get it out of his head. But on the other hand, Wes would talk about the look in Bobby's eyes and it would make me wonder if he was just playing games to get out of prison.


Posted Feb. 04, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
leslie

Join Date: 06/13/11

Posts: 2

RE: Do you believe that Bobby Williams's jailhouse conversion to Christianity was authentic?

I agree with the others who feel that we will never be able to know if this conversion was authentic and that it actually isn't the point. It's really Wesley's story, and he was able to let go of the anger and ideas of revenge (either in his own suicide or by killing Williams)--a form of grace for him. On the plus side for Williams' conversion, though, we have testimony of lengthy change from a corrections officer. This gray area is one of the many reasons this book is so good for discussion!


Posted Feb. 05, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
JLPen77

Join Date: 02/05/16

Posts: 130

Expert

RE: Do you believe that Bobby Williams's jailhouse conversion to Christianity was authentic?

I think this is left ambiguous to us, as it was to Wes, for a reason: so we can choose, as Wes had to choose, what we WANT to believe. Do we want to be the kind of person who is open to transformation, or do we want to believe that nobody, ourselves included, can ever overcome our inner demons? I think this comes to a head for Wes when he confronts Williams with the gun. At that moment he has to accept that he'll never know for sure, and the threat of more violence won't resolve anything. All he can do is act AS IF transformation is possible -- and regardless of whether it happened for Williams, Wes's choice will make a difference to how he sees himself. In choosing to keep the possibility of transformation open, and walk away, Wes puts himself on a path toward healing himself-- and that's all any of us can do.

This reminds me of The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Moshin Hamid. It similarly ends with ambiguity that forces readers to make a choice about what we think happened, a choice that forces us to confront our own assumptions of who, if anyone, is the victim, who the terrorist.


Reply

Please login to post a response.