Desert Dwellers Trilogy - Discussion Guide

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Discussion Guide

  1. What does the author hope to convey with the title Desert Dwellers Trilogy, and by references throughout the series to the transformative powers of the wilderness? 
  2. How does pioneering in California change various members of the Levie family? How do their experiences in an increasingly urban setting contrast with those of the Goldson clan on the Arizona-Sonora border? 
  3. In what ways does the trilogy differ from a traditional Western? An American Jewish immigrant story? A female bildungsroman?  
  4. Contrast Frieda's behavior among the Sisters of Service, at Levie's Kosher Boardinghouse, as Frieda Levie Goldson in Dos Cacahuates? Frieda on her own in the Arizona Territory? Which setting would you choose for her? 
  5. Did Bennie's harrowing frontier experiences explain his ability to accept setbacks and move on? If so, what in Frieda's earlier years induce her to join him in pioneering? 
  6. An actual 1886 family murder and kidnapping in the Arizona Territory inspired the third novel. Toward what end did the author choose to involve her characters in a calamity of this nature?  
  7. Were the Levies thinking of their own or of Ida's reputation when they insisted she stay in Dos Cacahuates until outward evidence of her tragic experience had vanished? 
  8. How do you interpret Frieda's method of extracting a confession from the murderer? What did she learn interacting at close range with this man who had inflicted life-altering pain on her and her loved ones?  
  9. The characters in these tragi-comic novels are depicted as complex human beings, alternately loving, dismissive, optimistic, dubious, elated, depressed, funny, grim, altruistic, self-centered. Is the author depicting a particular time, place, and circumstances, or human nature in general? 
  10. Frieda has gone from acquiescence to her parents' traditions, her group leader's feminist ideals, and her husband's schemes, to acting on her own moral promptings. Will she continue to set her own course?