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Book Club Questions for The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff (+ Printable PDF)

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the vaster wilds book club questions

Book club questions for The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff explore the themes of adventure, survival, and resilience as the protagonist navigates the challenges of the wilderness. They delve into the impact of colonialism, questioning societal norms and the protagonist’s journey toward self-discovery.

This book is a raw expression of primal emotion and a thoughtful contemplation of the world’s beauty. Simultaneously a tale of horror and a story of love, it captures the enormity of the human experience as profoundly as it captures the vastness of the wilderness. I definitely recommend it.

What were your impressions of this novel? ✨

The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff
the vaster wilds book

In this blog post, you will find thoughtfully crafted discussion questions for The Vaster Wilds.

At the bottom of this post I have also prepared a downloadable PDF version of the book club questions for your personal use, along with some additional suggestions for novels that share similar themes and narratives.

Have a wonderful book club discussion! ✨

Book Club Questions | Additional Recommendations | Printable List

Summary | Ending Explained

About the Story

The Vaster Wilds is an adventurous novel about a brave servant girl. She escapes from a colonial settlement in the wilderness, armed only with her intelligence and determination. In this unknown land, she faces incredible challenges that challenge her beliefs and understanding of the world.

As she navigates this wild terrain, the story delves into her struggle for survival in a changing world, deeply impacted by colonialism. The novel vividly portrays her journey, highlighting the difficulties she encounters and the strength she discovers within herself.

Groff’s storytelling captures the essence of this girl’s resilience, painting a vivid picture of her fight for survival. The book not only provides an exciting adventure but also raises thought-provoking questions about humanity’s ability to adapt in the face of overwhelming challenges. It’s a compelling narrative about courage, adaptability, and the power of the human spirit.

About the Author

Lauren Groff was born in Cooperstown, New York, near the Baseball Hall of Fame. She studied at Amherst College and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she earned a degree in fiction writing.

lauren groff author

Her short stories have been published in various journals and anthologies, including The Atlantic Monthly and Best American Short Stories.

She has won The Story Prize, the ABA Indies’ Choice Award, France’s Grand Prix de l’Héroïne, and the Joyce Carol Oates Prize, and has been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her work has been translated into thirty-six languages.

She now lives in Gainesville, Florida, with her husband and dog, Cooper.

Book Club Questions for The Vaster Wilds

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

  1. How does The Vaster Wilds engage with and challenge traditional American survival narratives, considering classics like Robinson Crusoe and contemporary media like “Naked and Afraid”? In what ways does Groff’s novel dispel common myths about survival?
  2. The female protagonist encounters Indigenous people with a radically different way of life than the colonial settlers. What does her experience reveal about the contrast between European and Indigenous perspectives on land, culture, and survival? How does she confront and overcome the prejudices of her time?
  3. The protagonist faces extreme conditions and numerous challenges in the wilderness. How does her ingenuity and resourcefulness impact her survival? What survival techniques did you find most impressive or surprising?
  4. Nature plays a significant role in the story, almost becoming a character in itself. How does the author depict the natural world? In what ways does nature act as both an adversary and a source of solace for the protagonist?
  5. Several elements in the novel, such as the girl’s names and her encounters with different animals, seem symbolic. What do these symbols represent, and how do they enhance the deeper themes of the story?
  6. Explore the protagonist’s intimate relationship with spirituality and God, detached from formal religious influence. How does her connection with nature shape her faith? What insights can we draw from her spiritual journey outside the confines of organized religion?
  7. Groff vividly portrays the protagonist’s physical and mental struggles in the wilderness. How does the novel capture sensations like hunger, cold, fatigue, and fear? How do these challenges shape her mental state, leading to new beliefs and philosophies?
  8. The Vaster Wilds delves into themes of power and ownership concerning both the land and people. In what ways does the novel examine the dynamics of power in the context of colonialism? How are characters disempowered within this system, and how do they resist?
  9. Groff’s rich and rhythmic language enhances the reader’s understanding of the protagonist’s extraordinary experiences. How does the descriptive language contribute to our immersion in the girl’s journey? How does it emphasize the uniqueness of her encounters?
  10. The protagonist’s journey in The Vaster Wilds is one of survival and self-discovery. How does her character evolve throughout the story? What pivotal moments shape her into the person she becomes by the end of the novel?
  11. The novel is set in the early 17th century during the Jamestown settlement. How accurately do you think the book portrays the historical context of that time? In what ways does it immerse the reader in the challenges faced by early settlers?
  12. The protagonist spends much of her life in isolation. How does the book explore the theme of loneliness? How does her solitude affect her mental and emotional state? Are there moments of connection or understanding that counterbalance her loneliness?
  13. The protagonist’s memories of loved ones sustain her during her trials. Discuss the different types of love she feels for characters like Bess and the glassblower. What do these visions represent, and how do they influence her resilience?
  14. Explore the tension between freedom and history, as well as freedom and identity, in The Vaster Wilds. How does the absence of a past create a sense of freedom for the protagonist? In what ways do historical constraints shape her identity and choices?
  15. Gender plays a significant role in the protagonist’s life, subjecting her to specific roles and expectations. How does her gender conscript her into particular forms of service in both England and the colonial settlement? How does the wilderness provide relief from these gendered burdens?
  16. The protagonist endures immense hardships yet maintains a sense of hope. Discuss the role of hope in the novel and consider the ending. Do you interpret the conclusion as hopeful, given all she has faced?
  17. The Vaster Wilds suggests multiple interpretations of its title. What significance does the title hold, and how does its meaning evolve throughout the story? How does it encapsulate the novel’s themes and the protagonist’s journey?
  18. Reflect on how The Vaster Wilds affects your own relationship with nature. To what extent do you view it as historical fiction, and how does it engage with contemporary environmental issues? In what ways did the book influence your perspective on our relationship with the environment?
  19. Without giving away spoilers, how did you interpret the ending of the story? Did it provide closure, or did it leave certain aspects open to interpretation? What do you think the author intended with the conclusion?
  20. Some readers found the book transformative, while others found it challenging. How do you think this novel might affect different readers? What kind of reader do you think would appreciate or resonate with this story the most?

Additional Recommendations

Hope you enjoyed the book club discussion questions and reading guide for The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff!

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

Deadlands by Victoria Miluch
deadlands book

From debut author Victoria Miluch comes the riveting story of a girl on the cusp of womanhood living in an arid wasteland and the encounter with two outsiders that upends her understanding of the world beyond it.

Only the most hardened survivalists can endure living in the scorched deadlands of the former state of Arizona. Among them is nineteen-year-old Georgia Reno, who lives in an isolated desert settlement with her father and younger brother. Roads don’t exist here; visitors are more dark fairy tale than reality.

But when two mysterious strangers arrive on their land, Georgia begins to question her sheltered existence. Soon, her tentative curiosity blooms into a fledgling desire to leave the settlement, even if it means venturing into a world her father has only ever warned against.

As their tenuous situation deteriorates, Georgia uncovers secrets about the visitors that could threaten her family’s fragile existence in the desert. But to leave the newcomers at the hands of her father could put everyone’s lives at risk—and force Georgia into an impossible decision.

Welcome to the deadlands, where survival is never guaranteed…and loyalty is put to the ultimate test.

Homecoming by Kate Morton

The highly anticipated new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Clockmaker’s Daughter, a sweeping novel that begins with a shocking crime, the effects of which echo across continents and generations

Adelaide Hills, Christmas Eve, 1959: At the end of a scorching hot day, beside a creek on the grounds of a grand country house, a local man makes a terrible discovery. Police are called, and the small town of Tambilla becomes embroiled in one of the most baffling murder investigations in the history of South Australia.

Many years later and thousands of miles away, Jess is a journalist in search of a story. Having lived and worked in London for two decades, she now finds herself unemployed and struggling to make ends meet. A phone call out of nowhere summons her back to Sydney, where her beloved grandmother Nora, who raised Jess when her mother could not, has suffered a fall and is seriously ill in the hospital.

At Nora’s house, Jess discovers a true crime book chronicling a long-buried police case: the Turner Family Tragedy of 1959. It is only when Jess skims through its pages that she finds a shocking connection between her own family and this notorious event – a mystery that has never been satisfactorily resolved.

An epic story that spans generations, Homecoming asks what we would do for those we love, how we protect the lies we tell, and what it means to come home. Above all, it is an intricate and spellbinding novel from one of the finest writers working today. 

The Pearl of Penang by Clare Flynn
the pearl penang book

“Following the death of my wife, I am in need of support and companionship. I am prepared to make you an offer of marriage.”

Evie Fraser, paid companion to a crotchety spinster, seems destined for a lonely life. Then out of the blue, a marriage proposal arrives by post. She met the handsome Douglas Barrington just once – at his wedding – but never forgot him. Now widowed, plantation-owner Douglas offers her a new life on the lush, exotic island of Penang. How can Evie resist?

But what are Barrington’s motives in marrying Evie when he barely knows her, and why is he so hostile and moody?

Evie soon finds herself pitched against Douglas on the one hand and the shallow, often spiteful world of the expatriate British on the other. Has she made the biggest mistake of her life?

Flynn’s tenth novel explores love, marriage, the impact of war and the challenges of displacement – this time in a tropical paradise as the threat of the Japanese empire looms closer.

Printable PDF

Feel free to distribute these discussion questions to your book club members before your meeting. Simply click the link below to download and print the PDF file.

Happy reading! ❤️