Shrapnel Readers' Guide
1. Bing Butler, the main character, has a lot of "isms": racism, sexism, homophobia, classism. How are his "isms" made known to the reader? How are his "isms" challenged throughout the novel? Are any of his "isms" changed by the end of the book?
2. Bing comes to West Virginia with his head filled with Appalachian stereotypes, which gives him a sense of smug superiority. What are some of his assumptions about West Virginians?
3. How is Bing also stereotyped by family members and people he meets throughout the novel? What do his family and other folks think of this retired man from Texas?
4. Though Bing and his daughter Susie appear quite different from one another, how are they alike?
5. While Bing is in Texas, his attitude toward Latinos is made known. What do the Latinos he encounters in West Virginia represent to him?
6. What do you make of the scene where Bing finds himself in a remote West Virginia holler where he meets Odell? What might Odell represent to Bing? How is Bing changed by his encounter with Odell?
7. How does Bing's relationship with his grandson Brian help Bing deal with his unfinished relationship with his son Roger?
8. In what ways is Shrapnel a faith journey for Bing? What were his beliefs prior to arriving in West Virginia, and what might they be at the end of the novel?
9. Manilla doesn't tidy everything up at the end of Shrapnel. Readers are left to imagine the fates of the characters and their various relationships. What do you think is going to happen to Bing, Susie, Glen, Reenie, Junior, and Ellen?