Agnes and the Hitman Reader’s Guide

Having written about a book about sisterhood and magic with the Krissie and Eileen, I wrote a book about cooking and mobsters with Bob. Our heroine loved the Dixie Chicks. So we stole some Chicks’ titles for the questions.

  1. Long Time Gone A tragic history comes back to haunt many of the characters. Did you find the back story echoed and enhanced the main plot, adding richness to it, or drew attention from Shane and Agnes? If the weight of the past hadn’t been shadowing all of the characters, would the book have been lighter? What impact would that have had on the story, for better or for worse?
  2. Cold Day in July A big motif in Agnes is loneliness. Who in this book is lonely? How have they brought that isolation on themselves? What events, characters, symbols can you find that show how loneliness and longing is one of the subtle motivators in this story? What events inspire the characters to retreat deeper into isolation or to reach out for each other?
  3. I’ll Take Care of You Most readers have pointed to the air conditioner as the moment they knew Shane was a good guy. How does taking responsibility for others characterize the people in this story beyond the romances? What other examples can you find? How does this acceptance or refusal of responsibility make or break the families and communities in the novel?
  4. Tortured Tangled Hearts Several critics have mentioned that Shane and Agnes hit the sheets pretty fast and then commit to each other in just seven days. Did you find this believable? Do you think the unusual circumstances—constant danger while trying to put on a high stress wedding—had a impact on this? Do you think that their individual histories have an impact on it? Did you notice that neither of them ever say “I love you”? Did that make you distrust their future at the end?
  5. Not Ready to Make Nice Agnes is about anger, one of the reasons we named her Agnes, because it was so close to “anger.” Agnes has made her reputation on being cranky, but she’s not the only one with a small rage problem. Who else is repressing or not repressing enormous rage? Why? How does the motif of anger both create the conflict in the story and help pull the story together? Is anger always a bad thing in this story?
  6. Voice Inside My Head As part of her efforts to control her anger, Agnes has long internal conversations with her court-appointed psychiatrist, Dr. Garvin. Did you find this believable and/or effective? How did the Dr. Garvin conversations both characterize Agnes and show her character arc?
  7. Let ‘Er Rip Agnes makes her living as crabby food columnist. Did the Cranky Agnes excerpts at the start of each day in the book add to her character or disrupt the book? Do you think the fact that Agnes cooks all the way through the book added to the plot or distracted? What role does food play in this story?
  8. Goodbye Earl Twelve people died in this book, although the authors feel that none of them will be much mourned. Did the high body count strain the credibility of the story or raise the stakes? Did anybody die you couldn’t spare? What place does violence have in romantic adventure? What place does it have in this story; that is, was it necessary to this story to have this much violence? And why does Agnes quote “Goodbye Earl” to Shane?
  9. Are We the Only Ones? Agnes and Lisa Livia are close friends. Is friendship in a book important to you? Did you believe in their friendship? Why or why not? What impact did their friendship have on the story; that is, did you feel their friendship was necessary to the story? What other strong friendships or missed friendships are important in this story?
  10. Baby Hold On A big theme in Agnes is the failure of parenting. What actual, perceived or symbolic parenting failures are there in this book? How do they parallel and contradict each other? Are there signs at the end of the book that things will be different, that there will be good parenting in the future?
  11. A Home The house and land at Two Rivers are the MacGuffin in this story, something that several people are ready to risk everything for. What does Two Rivers mean to Agnes? To Brenda? To Shane? To Taylor? To Lisa Livia? To Garth? What is the effect of all these people seeing the house through their own prisms of reality? What impact of the geography of the house (the basement, the bomb shelter, the kitchen, the screen porch, the front porch, the various bedrooms) have on the adventure plot? On the romance plot? That is, how did the authors use the house to symbolize events and relationship arcs? How do you feel about Two Rivers?