The Circle of Thirteen – Discussion & Interviews

The Circle of Thirteen –

Questions for Discussion Groups

The Circle of Thirteen is a novel of ideas. There are many themes in the story that book clubs and other discussion groups might wish to pursue. Here are a few suggested questions and discussion points. If you’ve read the novel, some of these questions might have already occurred to you. If you haven’t read it, they mayl give you an idea about the texture of the book.

  1. What do you think about the relationships between the characters in the book, particularly the female characters? Which characters were you able to relate to the most? Do you feel that the relationship between Julia and Maya is at the heart of the story?
  2. Julia’s relationship with the mother was thwarted at an early age. How well do you think she dealt with that problem? She became traumatized by the suicide of her mother and determined to find Jesse, the man who drove her mother to that point. Do you think her response was obsessive, or was it something that a strong-willed girl might decide to do?
  3. The Circle of Thirteen begins with an act of family violence that sets the stage for violence on a larger, world-wide stage many years later. Does spousal and family violence often affect those outside the family? Is family violence a greater source of general violence in our society than is usually assumed?
  4. What role does military violence play in fostering family violence among those who have fought in wars or those who have been directly affected by war?
  5. Jesse started hearing voices around the time he was brutalized by his father.  Does this explain his behavior? Does it excuse it in any way? How often do people who commit evil acts hear voices that urge them to act in a destructive manner?
  6. Maya Flores and Deva Chandri are first thrown together at the moment when they discover Amy Moro as a homeless child. This is the child who would grow up to be Julia’s mother. How did this first emotional encounter between Maya and Deva affect their lives? What do you think of the way that their relationship ultimately developed?
  7. One major thrust of The Circle of Thirteen is the prediction that the world’s environmental crisis will get worse in the next couple of decades and that it will manifest itself most severely in a food and water shortage. Do you agree with that assessment? What is it about our food supply that makes it especially vulnerable to changes in weather patterns?
  8. At one point in the story Jesse describes how the Uniworld criminal cartel consolidated its power during the environmental crisis:
    But that original group had a bigger vision. They never hesitated. Once they found all the hidden money around the globe, they knew they could link it into a powerful network. All the plutocrats around the world – the lazy sons of wealthy fathers – would either join them or get out of their way. The men behind the money didn’t need to meet with each other or even like each other. They didn’t even have to know each other. They only had to be linked together electronically and be disciplined enough to act in unison. …
    The men in that original group were smart enough to stay away from each other. They didn’t care how the others got their money. They focused instead on who needed to be bribed and who needed to be eliminated. They knew that if they used their power decisively, anyone outside the network would be forced to follow their lead. By the time they were ready to make their move, they had amassed enough wealth to buy anything – or anybody – and move everything out of the way.
    Given what we know about the power of money to influence and corrupt power, what do you think of that as a likely scenario in the future? Would it be possible for criminal elements to organize all of the world’s wealth behind the scenes and use it decisively for their own advantage?
  9. The thirteen leaders of Women for Peace built their movement around the tactic of confrontational democracy. This tactic brought them into the streets in much the same way as anti-war protestors and the Occupy movement have done in the past. How effective are these tactics likely to be in the 21st Century? Can well-organized protests gather enough world-wide support to make significant changes?
  10. Although The Circle of Thirteen is pessimistic about our ability to deal with environmental crises in the short run (the next 20 years or so), it is optimistic about our ability to solve the problem of global warming and environmental degradation over a longer period – in, perhaps, 50 to 60 years. Do you agree with that assessment?  If you believe that our society is heading into an environmental crisis, do you feel that we will somehow find the ability to work our way out of it?
  11. At one point in the story Aayan Yusuf, who was one of The Thirteen, says this:
    For years I’ve had the theory that equality for women is the key to everything else. I’m talking about true equality across the board – not just equality for western women; that’s too tenuous. But if you can achieve the kind of equality I’m talking about, then all of the other problems of the world become easier to solve. If you don’t, then society just keeps repeating the same mistakes.
    Maybe it’s just a dream,” she said, “but we could be at a point where that kind of change could happen.”
    Do you agree with that statement? How would you rank the importance of the gender-equality issue in comparison with other world problems?
  12. Julia grows up in a co-housing community – a close-knit community in which families hold the land in common but own their individual homes. Do you think it likely that these types of communities will develop over the next few decades? Do you think this is a good arrangement for raising children and increasing social stability?
  13. In the next 50 years or so, the story predicts that robots will have taken over many family and office chores. Do you think this scenario is likely? Will robots develop personalities of their own? If so, how should they be treated by human beings?
  14. At various points in the story there are groups of people who meet in holo-conferences. In these meetings people in different locations are linked together electronically so that they feel they are meeting face to face. Do you think this technology is likely to come about? How comfortable would you be in this kind of a meeting?
  15. At one point in her military career Julia is sexually assaulted by her commanding officer. What do you think of her response to the assault? Do you think that sexual assault in the military will still be a problem six or seven decades from now?
  16. In the story, one of the major achievements of The Thirteen is to help bring about a re-founding of the United Nations as a stronger, more effective world organization that can respond to crises in various parts of the world. Do you think that such a restructuring of the U.N. is likely to occur? How effective is the U.N., as it is portrayed in the story?
  17. At the time the story opens, The Thirteen are being remembered in a way that gives them almost mythic status. How does the process of myth-making come about? In this case, was it due to the achievements during their lifetime or did it have more to do with the manner of their death? How much was the adulation in this case is due to the fact that they were women? At what point does myth-making acquire a religious symbolism?