Burning SkyBurning Sky
Lori Benton
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The 18th century New York frontier bred courage in those who survived its perils. Willa Obenchain has courage to spare. Returning to her white parents' abandoned homestead after twelve years of Indian captivity, Willa believes a solitary life is the only way she'll never lose again what's twice been lost: her family, and her heart. As she begins the backbreaking work of reviving her farm, Willa's determined isolation is threatened. First by injured botanist Neil MacGregor, found unconscious on her land, and also by her Mohawk clan brother Joseph Tames-His-Horse, a man who cannot give up the woman he calls Burning Sky. Willa is a woman caught between two worlds and the residents of the nearby frontier village, still reeling from a bloody revolutionary war, are reluctant to welcome her home. As tensions rise, challenging her shielded heart, Willa must find a new courage--the courage to again risk embracing the blessings the Almighty wants to bestow, and answer the question, "am I brave enough to love again?"
     

 

 Burning Sky: Discussion Questions by Lori Benton


 

Burning Sky Readers Guide Heroes and heroic characters abound in Burning Sky…

1. Describe Willa Obenchain. How did her years with the Mohawks prepare her for the challenges she faced upon her return to Shiloh? How does she change over the course of the novel?

 

 

2. Neil MacGregor and Joseph Tames-His-Horse are very different men, each with their own brand of heroism. Each helps Willa in her time of greatest need. Compare their actions and their heroism. How might the story have unfolded had either man not followed that still small voice in the end?

 

 

3. Neil sees himself as one of the “weak things of the world,” yet knows he serves a mighty God. Have you ever faced a challenge in which you let God be strong in your weakness?

 

 

4. Had Francis Waring lived today he would undoubtedly be diagnosed based on “his odd ways,” as one character describes him. What do you think that diagnosis would be? What was your reaction to this unlikely hero?

 

 

 

5. Anni Keppler is the first to welcome Willa back to Shiloh—a brave act, considering how most frontier settlers viewed anyone suspected of British or Indian sympathy—though at times the person Willa has become is hard for even Anni to accept. What do you think of Anni? Is she a good friend to Willa in the end?

 

 

 

 

War, and the damage it inflicts upon the soul, is a theme that permeates Burning Sky.

1. In the early chapters, Willa is a woman on the brink of giving up, feeling crushed beneath the weight of her losses.

 

 

 

What was it about finding Neil MacGregor that helped her summon the strength to keep living? What does she recognize in him?

 

 

 

2. Contrast Neil’s response to brutality with that of Richard Waring, or Aram Crane. Do the differences in these men’s wartime experiences give clues as to why each became the man we meet in Burning Sky? In what ways?

 

 

 

3. Do you think Willa correct in surmising Colonel Waring is too close to Richard to be objective about the psychological damage his son has suffered? Have you ever failed to see someone clearly because they were close to you?

 

 

 

4. Were you previously aware of the hostility endured by those who didn’t declare themselves Patriots during the Revolutionary War? What was the most interesting or surprising thing about this time period you learned from reading this story?

 

 

 

 

Loss is an inescapable reality of war, as each character in Burning Sky experienced.

1. Examine the different types of loss the characters suffered. Do you identify with one character’s loss more than others? In what way?

 

 

 

2. Neil’s injury-induced dyslexia is crippling to his desire to become a noted botanist, yet God doesn’t take away that desire. Looking back on the story, is God’s strengthening hand upon Neil as he steps out in faith visible? In what ways? In times of testing, from where do you draw your strength?

 

 

 

3. Willa suffers tremendous loss, including her identity—twice. Much of her journey centers on discovering who she is after these losses. Is she successful in this? Have you ever been forced to redefine yourself after a significant loss?

 

 

 

4. Joseph enters this story nursing a hope, but is eventually forced to relinquish it. Have you had to give up a dream or a hope when it was clearly not part of God’s plan for you? What did that teach you about trust, or God’s nature?

 

Home and family, and how one defines them, is another theme of Burning Sky.

1. After losing two families, Willa fought hard against accepting Neil and the children into her heart. What is the turning point for her regarding each of them? Can you find a specific scene or moment?

 

 

 

2. Many impediments stood in the way of Joseph’s heart’s desire, including the traditions of his Iroquois clan and family. Have you had to choose between a cultural or family tradition and pursuing a personal desire?

 

 

 


 

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