Below are a list of prompts to get the conversation flowing after reading The Storyteller. Questions in bold and marked with an asterisk were part of a blog series and have the author’s thoughts recorded.

  1. Look up and discuss the definition of abuse
  2. Look up and discuss the definition of “mental illness.” Look up and discuss the definition of schizophrenia.
  3. Dusty has schizophrenia, specifically presenting with auditory and visual hallucinations and paranoia. While undiagnosed, is he responsible for his crimes? What if it were a diagnosed, but untreated, illness?
  4. Is there any circumstance in which abuse is ever justified? If the definition of “abuse” is “cruel and violent treatment of a person or animal,” is self-defense abuse?
  5. Daphne says, If he realized she were gone, the spirits would come back and ignite his anger. How much of Dusty’s anger toward Daphne was mental illness, how much was resentment or jealousy and how much was conscious choice?
  6. Dana gave up her life to be a mother. Are there any dreams worth dying for?
  7. What is a fairy tale?**
  8. What effects might it have on a child to believe her parent is afraid of her?
  9. Discuss the sorts of things parents project onto their children, and the effect these projections might have.
  10. Discuss the role Tully plays in the book. Dogs are often referred to as “a man’s best friend” and yet being compared to one is a sign of belittlement, unworthiness. Why?
  11. Sometimes narrowing one’s focus to only what can be detected with the five senses can get one through intense pain. How? Compare and contrast this defense mechanism with others.
  12. Numbness is also a defense mechanism. It is meant to be temporary relief. If you don’t heal properly and thaw the numbness, what could be the effects of going through life numbed?
  13. Dusty comes from a violent, dysfunctional family. His father chased him around with a knife. What was Dusty’s defense mechanism?
  14. Dusty was a teenager, around seventeen, when Henry chased him around with the knife. Schizophrenia usually presents in males during late teens (or early twenties). Henry also had schizophrenia. Do you think trauma or biology triggered Dusty’s mental illness?
  15. What says more: words or silence?
  16. Daphne becomes selectively mute as a result of trauma. What are some ways trauma can manifest itself physically?**
  17. Daphne doesn’t speak because of trauma and abuse. Because total silence is abnormal, Dusty believes it’s proof she is possessed by evil spirits, and needs “cleansing.” He is afraid that Daphne means to hurt him, yet instead of building a small shed or outdoor shelter in which to keep her, he keeps the box in his bedroom. He believed that when friends texted Dana, they were a threat to his relationship with her. Discuss the irrationality that often drives abusive behavior.
  18. Daphne thinks frequently of her mother and draws strength from the love she felt from her. In what ways was Daphne similar to her mother?
  19. Marking Daphne was to announce to the spirits that she was taken. The use of a bodily mark to identify groups of people is foretold as a Biblical end of world sign. Historically, Jews were forced to wear the Star of David to mark them as an “undesirable.” In both these examples, body markings are feared. Today, some companies are implanting biochips in the hand of volunteer employees to make accessing information easier. Should this be feared?
  20. How did Dana change over time?
  21. Dana dreamed of “picket fences and babies.” Cole dreamed of horses. What were Daphne’s dreams and how do you know?
  22. Daphne talks herself into doing scary things, such as walking to the farmhouse, by asking herself what her mother would do. It’s been over a decade since Dana died, and Daphne was very young when she did. How would she have known what Dana would have done? Do we sometimes create motivating circumstances based on what we need at the time rather than cold, hard facts?
  23. Discuss the power of names. How does a name influence one’s sense of worth?
  24. Cole says, love is too soft a word, too overused. Do you agree?  Define love and discuss what it is capable of.**
  25. When faced with a lose-lose situation, how much does emotion factor into your decision?
  26. What, if anything, is the difference between “desperate rage” and “righteous anger?”
  27. Anticipating abuse, knowing it’s coming but uncertain when, is a form of emotional abuse. Describe the fear of anticipating something terrible.
  28. What happened to Henry?**
  29. Despite all that he puts her through, Daphne never feels anger toward Dusty. Is it easier to feel guilt that isn’t deserved than to acknowledge someone else’s wrongdoing? Why or why not?
  30. When Daphne went in search of food, she first checked the truck. The keys dangled in the ignition which suggests they were routinely left in the truck and yet Daphne never thought of driving away. Why wouldn’t this have occurred to her?
  31. Stories connect each of the characters. Dusty’s superstitions come from the Native American legends and his father. The Storyteller connects both families. Daphne is unaware of classic stories most take for granted. What would our lives be like without stories?
  32. Cole calls Daphne “hero” at significant points in her life. What is a hero? Who are your heroes, and why? **
  33. The story of Wind Horse is about sacrificial love. Which character(s) display this kind of love, and how?
  34. What was the single most important event that helped Daphne move toward healing?
  35. Which “story” told was your favorite. Why?
  36. Nightmares plague Daphne—she has them occasionally even in the epilogue. Discuss dreams and what, if anything, they mean. Do you keep a dream journal? If so, are there patterns? 
  37. Cole calls Daphne “Cinderella” because of her bare feet, but it’s the story of Rapunzel that most touches Daphne. What similarities exist between the story of Rapunzel and Daphne’s?
  38. If Tully hadn’t been with her, do you think Daphne would have survived? Do you think she’d have been the same person, if she had survived?  Why or why not?**
  39. What are the effects of sexual abuse?
  40. Do you ever fully heal from prolonged trauma like sexual or physical abuse?
  41. Olivia implies that Daphne sees someone different in herself than what others see in her. Do you think most people see themselves the same way others see them? If not, which version is likely closer to the truth of who we are?
  42. Discuss the “ants crawling inside me” feeling Daphne described. Why do abuse survivors feel shame for acts that were out of their control?
  43. How is shame defeated?
  44. Daphne suffers from nightmares. The memory of her father’s demeaning criticisms compete with Cole’s affirmations. Even in the epilogue, shadows of uncertainty make her ask for physical touch instead of initiating it. Could Daphne be carrying an undiagnosed mental illness? If so, which one(s)?**
  45. What is Cole’s greatest flaw? What’s his greatest strength?
  46. Traveling storytellers really did exist. They were homeless, and they were revered, idolized. How are the homeless seen today? What might have led to the differences? How could it be remedied?
  47. Should “mental health days” (days off from school, work) be allowed? In our culture, do we provide adequate support for the prevention and treatment of mental illness, or is progress and success valued more?
  48. What is normal?