Those Who Wish Me Dead
by Micheal Koryta


West Maui Book Club Discussion Questions

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Any page numbers refer to iPad edition.


1. Koryta writes: “Trouble might come for you when you showed fear, but trouble doubled-down when you lied about being afraid.” (pg 3) Consider your own life and ask how this might apply. Can you share the circumstances?

2. In separate but connected crossroads, Ethan makes a choice: one is to accept responsibility for Jace as Connor against Allison’s instincts and the other is to leave the other children behind to be with Allison in the hospital after Connor goes missing. Based on the two crossroads from the story, how does the fate of one affect the irony of the other?
    (pg 21) “'It’s a promising start,' Ethan said. 'Any job that arrives with a blizzard has to bring good things." It was a joke then. There in the wind and the snow and the orange signal flares. It was only a joke. Weeks later, though, in the sun and the smoke, he would remember that line, and it would turn him cold.”
    (pgs 168-169) “Any job that arrives with a blizzard” is recalled after learning that the sheriff is dead and perhaps killed in the fire and the two men after Connor Reynolds was now missing were the men who put Allison in the hospital. Ethan says he’ll come back for the boys but he doesn’t. “He would never see them again.”

3. This story explores loyalty and trust between people. Most telling comes from the quote: “A wise man didn’t rent attack dogs, he raised them himself. Why? Because he’d never be able to fully trust them otherwise.” (pg 37) Discuss trust and who in this book trusted who and why or how those alliances formed. Ie: the brothers (Jack and Patrick Blackwell) and sister (Jamie Bennett), Hannah Faber and Nick, Allison and Ethan Serbin, Ethan and the boys, and even, if you can consider it, Jace Wilson and Connor Reynolds or the boys on the trail.

4. After learning the origin of “bewildered” (pg 74) – for fun -- can you think of other words and their roots that we use incorrectly today? Ie: irony (is not something funny but contrary), traversty (is not a tragedy or misfortune but a mockery or parody), ultimate (not the one, only or best but the last item of the list), bemused (not amused but confused), and terrific (not fantastic as it says in the dictionary but based on terror as in horrific). Source:

5. Ethan tells the boys that the priorities of survival are: positive mental attitude, wilderness first aid, shelter, fire, signal, water, food. (pg 75) How does each of these priorities save various lives in the story?

6. Ethan tells the boys that if you stop, you die. Then he gives them the acronym “STOP” for sit, think, observe, plan. (pg 151) Again, how does STOP help save the lives of Ethan and Jace in the story?

7. What did you learn about how a fire fans, breathes and grows? (pgs 341,364,373). Also what did you learn about lightening and air pressure based on the Buys Ballot’s law (pg 294) and the corona effect? (pg 297)

8. Ethan's father never approved of him being a teacher, wanting him instead to be a marine fighter of which there were only two kind: the killing kind and the dying kind. As a result, Ethan often wrestled with this. So when Ethan finally learns that the last step in survival doesn’t end when you were found” but does with “rescue, rejoice, rebuild” (pg 385), does it at all settle the conflict he held with his father?

9. Koryta writes: “The land would hold the scars for a long time, but it was already working on healing them and it would patiently continue to do so. That was the way of it.” (pg 388) Would you say this is representative of the characters that survived? That this is that last step and the way for them as well?

From Back of Printed Book:

1 How does the rural setting of “Those Who Wish Me Dead” influence the plot and the characters’ actions?

2 How does the Blackwell brothers’ way of speaking influence your perception of them?

3 How does Jace utilize the survival and tracking techniques taught to him by Ethan to evade capture? How does the confidence that he gains during his training help him survive in the wilderness?

4 What is Hannah Faber’s job at the beginning of the book? How does she come into the lives of Ethan, Jace and Allison?

5. Forest fires play a prominent role in “Those Who Wish Me Dead.” What did you learn about how they are tracked, how they move, and how firefighters fight them?

6. What differences are there between Jace Wilson and Connor Reynolds? By the end of the book, does Jace become more or less like his witness protection identity?

7. What does the idea of rebirth come to signify for those who survive the forest fire?

West Maui Book Club discussion questions compiled by:
Elaine Gallant
West Maui Book Club
Sept, 2015