Waking the Ancients: A
Novel of the Mogollon Rim follows a small band of modern-day seekers
who turn their backs on civilization to hide out in a cliff
dwelling in the Arizona wilderness. From their experiences
arise questions about the practicality and moral implications
of such an outrageous experiment.
1. Many people yearn to live a simpler, less materialistic
life. Do you think anyone would really go so far as to sever
all relationships and disappear into the woods?
2. Today’s people, particularly in the United States,
have lived their lives with relative comfort and convenience.
Few have ever had to hunt for food or build permanent shelters.
Do you think modern people are capable of living as people
did a thousand years ago?
3. Beyond survival skills, all members of the group would
have to share a vision of the life they are trying to create.
What other personal qualities would be needed? How important
is a strong leader to the group’s vision?
4. At the beginning, Howlin’ Jim is the undisputed
leader. Where does his power come from? How does Branson contribute
to elevating Jim’s status? What is BJ’s role?
5. Even Leah, who is emphatically against the new society,
has a part in allowing her family to be sucked into this bizarre
setup. Why do you think she initially turns over her power
to Howlin’ Jim? What events in Leah’s life caused
her to let Jim take control of her family?
6. How does the group dynamic change, once Leah begins taking
charge and Branson becomes more confident of his abilities?
How does Jim react when they challenge his authority?
6. Author Gail Wanman Holstein, an advocate for survivors
of domestic violence, sees metaphors and parallels in her
plot: isolation from outside influences, required compliance
with a leader’s directives, the leader holding all the
knowledge cards, escalating threats and punishments for disobedience,
loved ones being held “hostage,” and the heroic
effort required to break free. Do you see other similarities?
7. What parallels do you see with the way cults get started?
Are cults bad? Good? What functions do cults have in society?
8. Twelve-year-old Geoffrey and eight-year-old Alissa go
along with their parents. Do you see them as co-conspirators
or as victims?
9. Is Geoffrey old enough to do the right thing, even when
his parents are behaving badly? How much responsibility can
we expect from a twelve year old?
10. Through Branson has disowned his father, Geoffrey Ellis
Senior dedicates his life to saving Branson and his family.
Is this a realistic portrayal of parental love?
11. How do you see Leah’s future? What about BJ and
the children? How will their ordeal affect their lives?
Remember: Thundercloud Books loves book clubs and offers a
20% discount and reduced shipping costs for orders of five
or more books.
Gail Holstein would enjoy hearing from you. Email her at