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Book Club Questions for The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon

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Book club questions for The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon explore the themes of justice, resilience, and the role of women in a historical context.

I loved this novel! The writing is beautiful, and I felt so connected to the main character, with a family and past full of pain. This is a great historical mystery with a satisfying ending that I thoroughly enjoyed.

What are your thoughts on this novel? ✨

The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon

In this blog post you will find the discussion questions for The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon. I’ve also added some additional recommendations worth reading below.

Have an amazing discussion analysis with your book club! ✨

About the Author | Book Club Questions

Additional Recommendations

About the Story

The Frozen River is a historical mystery novel set in Maine in 1789. The story revolves around Martha Ballard, a midwife and healer, who is summoned to examine the body of a man found frozen in the Kennebec River.

Martha’s diary serves as a record of the community’s births, deaths, crimes, and scandals. Months earlier, she documented an alleged rape involving two respected gentlemen, one of whom is now found dead. When a local physician dismisses it as an accident, Martha takes it upon herself to investigate the murder.

As the winter unfolds, Martha faces challenges, prejudices, and a growing scandal. The novel explores Martha’s pursuit of justice in a time when women were often silenced.

About the Author


Ariel Lawhon is a bestselling historical fiction author from Nashville, Tennessee. She wrote books such as “The Wife, The Maid, and The Mistress,” “Flight of Dreams,” “I Was Anastasia,” and “Code Name Helene.” Her latest novel, “The Frozen River,” has been released in December 2023.

Ariel’s storytelling has earned her critical acclaim and a spot on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. Her books have been translated into many languages and have been selected by Library Reads, Indie Next, Amazon Spotlight, Book of the Month Club and more!

Ariel lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband and four sons, and according to her bio, splits her time between the grocery store and the baseball field.

Book Club Questions for The Frozen River

Disclaimer: the following discussion questions contain spoilers, so proceed with caution if you haven’t finished the book yet.

  1. How does the portrayal of the legal system in 1789 impact Martha’s pursuit of justice? Discuss the challenges she faces in seeking truth within the constraints of the time.
  2. Explore Martha’s character as a midwife and healer in the 18th century. How does she challenge societal norms regarding women’s roles, and in what ways does she elevate the status of women in her community?
  3. Martha’s diary is a central element in the story. How does the use of her diary entries contribute to the unfolding of events, and what significance does it hold in the investigation?
  4. The novel revolves around a scandal involving rape allegations and murder. How does Martha’s involvement in documenting these events affect her relationships and the community dynamics?
  5. What did you think about the character of Colonel North and his influence over the town. How does he add complexity to the mystery, and how does Martha navigate her interactions with him?
  6. The brutal winter of 1789 plays a significant role in the story. Discuss how the extended winter affects the community and adds to the tension in the narrative.
  7. How does Martha’s character evolve throughout the novel? Examine her courage, tenacity, and the impact of the scandal on her personal growth.
  8. The book is inspired by the real-life diary of Martha Ballard. How does the author incorporate historical facts into the narrative, and what aspects of Martha’s life and the community are particularly revealing of the time period?
  9. Considering the historical basis of the novel, discuss how the author’s research is evident in the narrative. Are there specific historical details that stood out to you as particularly well-researched or interesting?
  10. The reviews mention the elegant prose of the novel. How does the writing style contribute to the overall reading experience, and in what ways does it enhance the portrayal of Martha’s world?
  11. Reflect on Martha’s legacy as portrayed in the novel. Despite her significant contributions, why do you think she remains nearly forgotten in history?
  12. Explore the dynamics within the close-knit community of Hallowell. How do prejudices, whispers, and loyalties shape the events of the story?
  13. Martha is described as a woman who refused to accept anything less than justice in a time when women were often silenced. In what ways does the novel portray Martha as an empowering figure, and how does she challenge gender norms?
  14. Did you feel a strong connection to Martha’s character. Share your personal reactions to Martha’s journey, and discuss any specific moments or themes that resonated with you.
  15. For those who read the Afterword, how did the additional information provided by the author enhance your understanding of Martha Ballard and the historical context of the novel?

Additional Recommendations

Hope you enjoyed the book club discussion questions and reading guide for The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon.

Here are some more of my book club recommendations related to this book:

Crow Mary by Kathleen Grissom
crow mary book

The New York Times bestselling author of the book club classics The Kitchen House and Glory Over Everything returns with a sweeping and “richly detailed story of a woman caught between two cultures” (Sandra Dallas, New York Times bestselling author) inspired by the real life of Crow Mary—an Indigenous woman in 19th-century North America.

In 1872, sixteen-year-old Goes First, a Crow Native woman, marries Abe Farwell, a white fur trader. He gives her the name Mary, and they set off on the long trip to his trading post in Saskatchewan, Canada. Along the way, she finds a fast friend in a Métis named Jeannie; makes a lifelong enemy in a wolfer named Stiller; and despite learning a dark secret of Farwell’s past, falls in love with her husband.

The winter trading season passes peacefully. Then, on the eve of their return to Montana, a group of drunken whiskey traders slaughters forty Nakota—despite Farwell’s efforts to stop them. Mary, hiding from the hail of bullets, sees the murderers, including Stiller, take five Nakota women back to their fort. She begs Farwell to save them, and when he refuses, Mary takes two guns, creeps into the fort, and saves the women from certain death. Thus, she sets off a whirlwind of colliding cultures that brings out the worst and best in the cast of unforgettable characters and pushes the love between Farwell and Crow Mary to the breaking point.

From “a tremendously gifted storyteller” (Jim Fergus, author of The Vengeance of Mothers), Crow Mary is a “tender, compelling, and profoundly educational and satisfying read” (Sadeqa Johnson, author of The Yellow Wife) that sweeps across decades, showcasing the beauty of the natural world, while at the same time probing the intimacies of a marriage and one woman’s heart.

Bright Lights, Big Christmas by Mary Kay Andrews

From Mary Kay Andrews, New York Times bestselling author of The Homewreckers and The Santa Suit, comes a novella celebrating love and the warm, glittering charm of the holiday season.

When fall rolls around, it’s time for Kerry Tolliver to leave her family’s Christmas tree farm in the mountains of North Carolina for the wilds of New York City to help her gruff older brother & his dog, Queenie, sell the trees at the family stand on a corner in Greenwich Village. Sharing a tiny vintage camper and experiencing Manhattan for the first time, Kerry’s ready to try to carve out a new corner for herself.

In the weeks leading into Christmas, Kerry quickly becomes close with the charming neighbors who live near their stand. When an elderly neighbor goes missing, Kerry will need to combine her country know-how with her newly acquired New York knowledge to protect the new friends she’s come to think of as family,

And complicating everything is Patrick, a single dad raising his adorable, dragon-loving son Austin on this quirky block. Kerry and Patrick’s chemistry is undeniable, but what chance does this holiday romance really have?

Filled with family ties, both rekindled and new, and sparkling with Christmas magic, Bright Lights, Big Christmas delivers everything Mary Kay Andrews fans adore, all tied up in a hilarious, romantic gem of a novel.

For my book club questions for this novel, click here!

Resurrection Walk by Michael Connelly 
resurrection walk book

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Michael Connelly: Lincoln Lawyer Mickey Haller enlists the help of his half-brother, Harry Bosch, to prove the innocence of a woman convicted of killing her husband.

Defense attorney Mickey Haller is back, taking the long shot cases, where the chances of winning are one in a million. After getting a wrongfully convicted man out of prison, he is inundated with pleas from incarcerated people claiming innocence. He enlists his half brother, retired LAPD Detective Harry Bosch, to weed through the letters, knowing most claims will be false.

Bosch pulls a needle from the haystack: a woman in prison for killing her husband, a sheriff’s deputy, but who still maintains her innocence. Bosch reviews the case and sees elements that don’t add up, and a sheriff’s department intent on bringing quick justice in the killing of one of its own.

Now Haller has an uphill battle in court, a David fighting Goliaths to vindicate his client. The path for both lawyer and investigator is fraught with danger from those who don’t want the case reopened and will stop at nothing to keep the Haller-Bosch dream team from finding the truth. 

Happy reading! ❤️