Reading guide for Barbed Wire Heart by Tess Sharpe

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Barbed Wire Heart

A Thriller

by Tess Sharpe

Barbed Wire Heart by Tess Sharpe X
Barbed Wire Heart by Tess Sharpe
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2018, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2019, 416 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Tomp
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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. In the opening scene, we see Duke kill Ben Springfield in revenge for what happened to Jeannie. Do you think Duke's actions are justified? After all, the Springfields knew what they were risking by attacking Duke's family. Or is killing wrong, no matter the circumstances? Does the fact that Ben has two young children change your answer?
  2. How does what Harley witnesses affect her? How long do you think children should be sheltered, and what do you think is an appropriate age to begin teaching a child about some of the horrors that exist in the world?
  3. Is there ever any justification for killing someone? Should Harley be punished for Dan's death?
  4. The McKennas love "hard and fast and only once." Do you think this is a realistic depiction of love? Are there people in your life you feel this fiercely about? Are there crimes that are forgivable, if they're committed in the name of love?
  5. Barbed Wire Heart has many strong and complicated female characters: Harley, of course, but also Mo, Jeannie, Brooke, Jessa, and Molly, to name just a few. How do you feel about the portrayal of women in Barbed Wire Heart? Is there a character you particularly identify with?
  6. And what about the men in the novel? Do you feel that Duke, Carl, Will, and the other men are realistically portrayed?
  7. Harley and Duke have an incredibly complicated relationship. Do you think they love each other?
  8. Duke believes he's doing the best he can for Harley by raising her to be tough and by teaching her to defend herself. Do you agree? Do you think Harley agrees? If you were in Duke's position, would you have made different choices? Is Duke a good father?
  9. One of the most heart-wrenching scenes in the book is the one where Duke "kidnaps" young Harley as a test, forcing her to escape from the locked trunk of a car. What do you think Harley learns from this experience? Do you think she learns the lesson Duke meant to teach her?
  10. Do you think Harley would have had a better life if Jake had been successful in his attempt to take her away from Duke?
  11. At one point, Harley threatens to run away. Why do you think she never does? When Jake tries to rescue her, why doesn't she let him?
  12. If you were born into the McKenna family, would you participate in the family business? Or would you leave town, abandoning your family?
  13. Why do you think it is so important to Will to find his birth family?
  14. What do you think Carl Springfield wants from Harley? Does he want to kill her, or is there something else he wants from her?
  15. Carl Springfield attacks Harley three times, and she doesn't tell her father that it was Carl. Why do you think she remains silent?
  16. Is a person's personality governed by their genes or by how they've been raised? Do you believe in nature or nurture?
  17. Does Harley take after her father or her mother? Both? Neither?
  18. In choosing to remain in her hometown rather than escape and forge a new life for herself, Harley feels the weight not only of her father's expectations but also of her responsibility to protect the Rubies and to prevent an even more violent group from coming in to take control of the town. Do you think she makes the right choice in deciding to stay?
  19. As Harley gets older, she doesn't always behave the way Duke would like her to - notably, when she insists that Will go to college. How do you think Duke feels about the woman Harley has become?
  20. Why do you think Harley chooses to rescue Carl from the fire? Should she have left him inside the burning house?
  21. Were you satisfied with the book's ending? Would you call it happy?
  22. What meaning did you take from the title? Is a barbed wire heart, ultimately, something to aspire to? Or something to rid oneself of? What is your heart made of, would you say?
  23. If Barbed Wire Heart were to be adapted into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?


Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Grand Central Publishing. 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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