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Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane July 2, 2006

Posted by pvccbookclub in Current Discussion.

U.S. Marshal, Teddy Daniels, is shipped off to Shutter Island to Shutter Island investigate the disappearance of a patient from a hospital for the criminally insane. He and his partner, Chuck Aule, know that it was impossible for multiple murderess, Rachel Solando, to have escaped from her highly guarded cell. At least, not without help from someone on the inside. The hospital staff seem to stonewall any of their efforts to extract information about the hospital. Their fear and confusion are magnified when a terrifying hurricane traps them on the island and Teddy becomes convinced that he is being dosed with psychotropic drugs to prevent him from unearthing the conspiracy.

This is a fast-paced psychological thriller that will leave you with even more questions once the mystery is revealed.

This novel has a surprise ending so you may want to finish reading it before reading the discussion questions.

Questions to consider for discussion:

What is the purpose of the prologue? What kind of foreshadowing does it provide and what does it reveal about Dr. Sheehan and Teddy? Did you go back and read it again after finishing the novel?

Teddy is a tough and prickly character. How then does he come to trust Chuck so easily? What experiences create a bond between them? Once Teddy encounters George Noyce at Ashecliffe, he begins to doubt Chuck’s loyalty. Why?

How much of Chuck’s story do you think is real? How much has been fabricated, and by whom? Do you think Chuck betrayed Teddy or helped him?

How much of Teddy’s history is true? Was his fear of open water born during his childhood when he discovered he could never be a fisherman like his father? Or did that fear come later after the tragedy with his wife and children?

Describe Teddy’s relationship with his wife, Dolores. What draws them together? If he is so much in love with her why can’t he see that she is about to self-destruct?

Is Teddy effective as a U.S. Marshall? Does his fascination with codes now seem childish and/or melodramatic?

Teddy’s encounter with the warden is disturbing on many levels. How does the warden’s view of the patients at Ashecliffe reflect that of society at large? Does his attitude make you feel that Dr. Cawley’s experiment was justified?

Dr. Cawley had many powerful opponents. What clues indicated that his methods of treatment were not sanctioned by many of his colleagues?

How do you feel about Dr. Cawley and Dr. Sheehan’s experiment? Was it ethical? How was it dangerous and who stood to get hurt? Was it worth the risks involved? Were they deluding themselves to think it would ever work?

Would Teddy have been better off if they had never allowed the experiment to take place? He says at one point that Dr. Cawley was the “man who’d come to save him.” Do you agree with this assessment?