Discussion Guide: Hattie Big Sky

1. Describe Hattie’s relationship with Aunt Ivy and Uncle Holt. What does Uncle Holt see in Hattie that Aunt Ivy doesn’t? How does Uncle Holt continue to support Hattie after she moves to Montana?

2. Hattie travels to Montana on the Great Northern Railway. She reads a pamphlet on the train that describes Montana as “the land of milk and honey.” Discuss Hattie’s first impression of Montana. How might Hattie describe this land by the end of the novel? In the last chapter, Hattie goes to Seattle. What does she expect to find there that she doesn’t have in Montana?

3. Explain what Perilee Mueller means when she tells Hattie that her resemblance to Uncle Chester goes beyond looks. How does this give Hattie a sense of family? Why are the items in Uncle Chester’s trunk so important to Hattie? There are many mysterious things about Uncle Chester. How does this mystery give Hattie the courage and determination to prove up on the claim?

4. Perilee and Karl Mueller meet Hattie at the train, and welcome her to their family. How does their relationship grow as the novel progresses?

5. Karl Mueller is mistreated by the citizens of Vida because he is German. How does Hattie’s friendship with Karl and Perilee make her a victim of bullying? How do the bullies create an atmosphere of mistrust and fear? At what point does Hattie experience the most fear? She says, “The worst thing of all is standing by when folks are doing something wrong.” (p. 164) Explain how Hattie attempts to right the wrongs.

6. Hattie says, “I guessed Charlie and I were in the same boat. We’d both signed on for something we’d envisioned as heroic and glamorous.” (p. 120) How is Hattie’s effort to save her uncle’s claim heroic? Discuss how Charlie's idea of a hero changes after he witnesses the death of his comrades.

7. Describe how Hattie changes in the year that she spends on the Montana prairie. Debate whether her idea of “home” is different by the end of the novel. Hattie says, “I’d arrived alone, and I wanted to leave that way.” (p.282) Why is this so important to her? How is she a success even though tragedy prevented her from proving the claim?

8. At the beginning of the novel, Hattie says, “My bounce around life had taught me that dreams were dangerous things.” (p. 3) Why was Hattie so afraid of dreams? How does she learn that dreams do come true? What about Charlie? Do his dreams come true? How do their dreams collide?