Discussion Questions

Discussion questions can help you appreciate books in new and deeper ways. Share these questions with your book group, or if you’re not with a group, spend some time thinking about them yourself. Adapted from litlovers.com

Strength in What Remains

  1. The first section of the book entitled “Flights” describes two kinds of flights: those in Africa, which are obvious flights for physical survival, and those in New York City. What kind of “flights” does the New York part of the book refer to?
  2. What does Deo feel about Sharon McKenna and her personal quest for his redemption? How do you feel about her interventions? Why is McKenna so insistent?
  3. Talk about the meaning of this observation from Chapter 7 regarding history: “…history, even more than memory, distorts the present of the past by focusing on big events and making one forget that most people living in the present are otherwise preoccupied, that for them omens often don’t exist.”
  4. Kidder conducts numerous interviews about Deo — Drs. Joia Mukherjee and Paul Farmer, Sharon McKenna, Charlie and Nancy Wolf. What are their various interpretations of Deo? Do you agree or not with any (or all?) of their assessments?
  5. How does Deo’s involvement in Partners in Health open up a new world for him?
  6. Upon hearing Deo’s account of his life, Kidder admits that he himself would not have survived. What qualities does Deo possess that enabled his survival? How do you think you might have fared under the same circumstances?
  7. Talk about Deo’s belief that the primary cause of genocide is misery. Do you agree with his observation? What other books or films have you seen that have focused on this problem, not just in Africa but in other parts of the world? Do you see genocide as a localized problem or a global issue?
  8. Deo laughs while recounting the suicide of a Belgian colonial. He also laughed earlier, in Chapter 9, while hiding among the corpses. Talk about this strange reaction and what it suggests about Deo’s state of mind, personality or the culture in which he grew up.
  9. In the epilogue, Deo talks about the Burundian volunteers who are building a road to his clinic. Talk about why they are so committed to bringing Deo’s dream to fruition.
  10. In what way, if at all, has this book changed your thoughts about love, forgiveness and compassion?