Fractured Land Discussion Questions


Book club discussion questions can be so serious. And when my husband Dave read the questions I came up with for Fractured Land: The Price of Inheriting Oil, he said, “Those are hard!” I decided to keep them anyway. For those of you who go to book club just to drink wine, I’ve added a few of Dave’s easier questions at the end.


Fractured Land is a work of creative nonfiction. The text is factual, but it has fictional elements such as characters, dialogue, and setting, and the writing style and structure of the factual story are as important as the content.

What writing style did the author employ? Why?

Who are the main characters in the book? How do you know?

Why did the author use the clauses of a legal agreement as a structure, or frame, for the book?

The contract excerpts at the chapter openings are a little overwhelming! Why did the author include those hard-to-understand passages? Legal concepts in a contract sometimes find expression in real life. Can you find any examples of the oil lease concepts playing out in the author’s life?

Creative nonfiction is often written in scenes, which move the story forward. Did you have a favorite scene? Why did you like it? Was there a scene you didn’t like? Why?

The writer is an environmentalist about to inherit money from the extraction of fossil fuel, a highly polluting fuel. But she also explores her Swedish American roots and her ancestors’ efforts to make it on the Great Plains. How does she connect her family’s history with her contemporary dilemma?

A memoir is a writer’s commentary on the people and/or events that have influenced a particular phase or aspect of her life. Who are the influential people in the writer’s life? And what are the events that are shaping her life as a 21st century citizen?

Why did the author bother writing such a personal story about an issue that is clearly national and global in scope?

My father’s ashes drifting over North Dakota near Tioga. Photo by Antonio Rodriguez

My father’s ashes drifting over North Dakota near Tioga. Photo by Antonio Rodriguez

The writer feels that even if she sells her mineral rights, she’s still complicit in the business of extracting fossil fuel: everything she buys is brought to her via cheap fossil fuel.  To what extent do you, the reader, feel complicit in the oil boom by virtue of your lifestyle?

The author’s father was a serious black and white photographer. How does this black and white theme inform the author’s resolution of her personal dilemma?

Environmentalists across the country have attacked the practice of hydraulic fracturing. Why doesn’t the author attack the fracking that has greatly increased North Dakota oil production? Can she really be an environmentalist if she doesn’t attack fracking?

Some of the scenes at the end of the book are imagined and set in the near future. What’s going on in the dining room scene?


In case those questions wore you out, here are a few of Dave’s:

What color do you think the author’s husband’s wedding jacket was? Would you have worn that style of jacket, even in 1975?

How much would you pay for a night in a hotel in Williston? What if they gave you ear plugs so that you couldn’t hear the trucks?

How many birthday candles do you think would equal one North Dakota gas flare?

Why can’t the author ever fold a map properly?


Want to share some of your own questions and answers with me? Contact me here.