- Pong and Somkit disagree about whether it is worth fighting over a fallen mango. Which do you agree with? How does this shape their character later in the book?
(Pong, who had been ready to fight, eventually becomes someone who plans to run away from troubles. Somkit, who had been ready to forfeit, eventually becomes someone who plans to stay and fight)
- “Fruit falls straight down from the tree.” This is a saying used in the book to judge children by the crimes of their parents. What does this reveal about their beliefs?
(Bigotry. The “good” people in this society have clever proverbs to rationalize the injustice of their treatment of the “bad” people)
- The author uses prisoner tattoos to make a parallel to another famous story. Which story is this?
- In chapter 13, Father Cham states that “we don’t need an official to tell us whether our neighbors are taking good care of one another.” What is he really saying?
(Father Cham is suggesting that there is some self-sufficiency in providing care for our own community. It should be our duty.)
- Nok’s family burns good luck candles even though it is against the law. Does the hypocrisy strike them?
(No, they are able to rationalize this minor indiscretion because they have been taught that they are good people.)
- Nok is a very ambitious girl who wants to fight for justice. Along the way, she has encounters that open her eyes. How does her interaction with the Governor change her point of view?
(The Governor sees only her father’s flaws in her. Nok is now able to walk a mile in Pong’s shoes. Instead of being grateful that Nok warned him of sabotage, he condemns her, revealing that her real mother was a prisoner. True to form, he shames her, while breaking his own law and sabotaging a plan for peaceful protest.)
- What inspires Pong to free Nok from the Governor?
(Pong sees something familiar in Nok. This becomes one of the main themes of this book: mercy)
- During his escape, Pong is visited by the ghost of Father Cham who reminds him to think bigger when it comes to finding what you’re looking for. What does Pong come to realize?
(Darkness is everywhere and you can’t escape it. You must shine a light on it)
- Nok has always been a bit ashamed and embarrassed by her father. How does their healing come about?
(Her father explains his shameful affair and apologizes to her for making her life so difficult. Nok now understands that her step mother loves her very much. Nok also apologizes for putting a target on her family’s back because of the Governor.)
- In the end, using fire once again becomes the practice. The topic of safety versus freedom is mentioned. In your opinion, is it possible to have an absolute statement about the balance of freedom and safety, or does it more frequently depend on the situation?