Reading guide for The Given Day by Dennis Lehane

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The Given Day

A Novel

by Dennis Lehane

The Given Day
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2008, 720 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2009, 720 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Diane La Rue

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About this Book

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Introduction

From the New York Times bestselling author comes a beautifully written novel set in Boston at the end of the Great War. The Given Day is an unflinching, utterly spectacular family epic that captures the political unrest of a nation dangling between a well-patterned past and an unpredictable future.


Questions for Discussion

  1. The Given Day transports readers to 1918 Boston and touches on the lives of two families—one black, one white—as they are swept up in the maelstrom of history. How are their experiences similar? How are they different?
  2. Dennis Lehane writes The Given Day from the perspectives of two very different men. What brings Luther Laurence and Danny Coughlin together? Does their friendship ring true?
  3. One of the themes of the book is the notion of family—both the blood kind and the kind a person willingly creates on his own. How are these ideas of family manifested? Do you see one as being more important than the other? Can a person belong to two kinds of family at the same time?
  4. The Given Day centers on the Boston Police Strike of 1919 at a time when fiercely held convictions about work and freedom underwent enormous change at great cost to human life and relationships. Nearly a century later, what is the role of unions in America today? How do the working conditions for Luther and Danny compare to contemporary conditions? Do you think unions are necessary today?
  5. How do the themes in the book—race, politics, class, family, immigration, nepotism, corruption—reflect issues facing America today?
  6. Injustice is another theme that Lehane explores in the novel. How does injustice manifest itself in democratic societies? Can it be redressed? If so, how?
  7. What role does Babe Ruth play in the narrative? What did the introduction of his character add to your understanding of the novel's main themes?
  8. Who do you think is the most sympathetic character in the story? Why?
  9. What is the relationship between Danny Coughlin and his brothers Connor and Joe? What role does Danny play in each character's development? How do they, in turn, influence him?
  10. Talk about the relationship of Danny and his father. How are they alike? How are they different? How do their similarities and differences shape their relationship?
  11. What role do women play in the novel? How do they impact the men?
  12. How are anarchists and immigrants portrayed in the novel? Do you see any echoes of the government's response to events then in the America in which we live today?
  13. Consider your own life experiences. How would you have fared in the America of a century ago? If Danny and Luther were transported to 21st-century America, what might they think of our world?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Harper Perennial. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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