Reader’s Guide


Discussion Questions for WHEN MOUNTAINS MOVE

1. Do you think Millie makes the right decision by marrying Bump?

What makes some marriages stick while so many others fall apart,

and what would you advise a young couple wanting to get married

today? If you are not married, what do you expect of marriage and

a spouse?

2. What do you think about Millie’s decision not to tell anyone

about the rape? So many victims of sexual violence never report the

incident, and like Millie, many victims feel as if they have no voice.

Why do you think this is the case? What can we do as a society to

support people who become victims of violent acts?

3. When it’s time for Millie and Bump to leave Mississippi, Millie

realizes she is loved by many: Janine, Mr. Tucker, Mabel, Camille,

even Diana. Who are those special people in your own life? Is there

someone you know who might need such a person in his/her life?

4. As Millie enters her new marriage, she struggles to develop

a fully open and trusting intimacy with Bump. She also resists

the urge to tell him why this is the case. Although Millie has

been determined not to repeat the mistakes of her parents, how is

she continuing certain cycles of dysfunction? Have you ever hurt

someone you loved when your intentions were to protect them or

shield them from a truth you thought would hurt them more? Is

there anything your loved ones could tell you that would make

you love them less?

5. In Colorado, Millie and Bump are met with many challenges.

How does this experience bring them closer? Tear them apart? What

are some of the most challenging situations you’ve ever had? Have

you missed big opportunities because you were afraid of change or

afraid to fail?

6. When Kat and Millie become friends, Millie admires Kat and

wants to be like her in certain ways. Do you have a friend you admire?

Have you ever been jealous of a friend? Have you ever been deceived

by a friend? Eventually Millie realizes Kat is not a good friend after

all. Millie is hurt by that betrayal but still does the right thing when

Kat needs help. If you were in Millie’s situation, would you have sent

your husband to help Kat?

7. Millie becomes convinced her husband is having an affair with

her only friend. What’s the worst thing your partner or friend has

ever done to hurt you? Were you able to forgive? And likewise, how

have you hurt the ones you love? Have they forgiven you? If you

haven’t had to deal with infidelity, how do you think you would

handle learning your spouse is having an affair?

8. Millie’s grandmother, Oka, serves as the voice of reason in this

book. Do you like Oka? What did you learn from Oka’s character?

What did you learn from her Choctaw stories? How important is the

grandparent/child relationship in your family?

9. Millie admires Oka’s strength, beauty, talent, and wisdom. How

has Oka managed to survive traumatic events in her life and still

have such a sweet, genuine spirit? What does Oka teach Millie about

forgiveness and grace?

10. When Millie first meets Oka, she notices Oka is Catholic when

she makes the sign of the cross after her prayer. Oka mentions she

grew up around the missionaries, as did many who are members of

the Mississippi Band of Choctaw. Do you think Oka is a Christian?

How do you think her faith impacts her life, and what do you think

of the smudging scene at the end of the book? Do you think we

may have more in common across varying religious practices than

we sometimes believe?

11. Throughout the first section of this book, Millie is forced to make

a terrible decision when she learns she is carrying Bill Miller’s child.

What would you do if you found yourself in such a situation? What

if your young daughter was in that situation? Where do you stand on

the issue of abortion and what circumstances might make you feel

differently? Have you ever had an abortion? How would you handle

the situation if you were put there again? Have you ever adopted a

child in need of a family?

12. At one point, Millie feels as if there is no right choice at all. Any

route she takes brings pain to someone. We like to divide life into

black and white categories, but sometimes life is messy and there is

no perfect solution. Have you ever been in such a situation? Have

you ever made a decision you regretted? How have you forgiven

yourself for a bad choice? And how have you learned to move past

that mistake and make the most of your new situation?

13. Near the end, Millie is given a second chance to choose her first

love, River. Were you glad when River showed up to fight for Millie?

How did you feel when Millie kissed River? How did you feel when

you realized Bump saw this kiss? Were you glad when Bump finally

fought for Millie too? Have you ever had to choose between two

loves? What would you do if you were given a second chance to

choose again?

14. What do you think about the way the book ends? What is the

significance of the mountain lion throughout the book? How does

nature have its way again and again in Millie’s life?

15. In the end, Bump tells Millie he has always been on her side. Do

you have someone in your life like Bump, who loves you through

and through? Does such perfect love exist outside of a novel? Why

do you think so many people struggle to find healthy relationships?

16. What do you think will happen next for Millie and Bump and

Isabel? What will happen to the other characters?

Writing Prompts for WHEN MOUNTAINS MOVE

1. When writing this book, I actually wrote six or seven different

endings before settling on this one. Pretend you are the author. Write

a different ending to this story.

2. Pretend you are one of the characters in this book. Write a journal

from that point of view. Now choose another character and repeat.

How do the entries compare/contrast?

3. What would you want to happen next to the characters of this

book? Write the first chapter of the next book in this series.

4. Choose one crucial scene in this book and rewrite it with a different

result. For example, rewrite the wedding scene so that Millie

and Bump do not end up getting married. Or the root-cellar scene so

that Fortner agrees to give Millie what she wants. Consider the birth

scene, the scene at the fencerow when Bump learns of the pregnancy,

the confrontation with River, etc.

5. Write a letter to the author about your reaction to the book. I love

hearing from readers.

6. Discuss the theme of nature, faith, forgiveness, or love from the


7. Compare and contrast character pairs from Into the Free and When

Mountains Move. For example, how do Mabel and Oka compare?

Diana and Kat? River and Bump? Sloth and Fortner? Mr. Tucker and

Sheriff Halpin?

Discussion Questions for INTO THE FREE

1. How do the Reverend Paul Applewhite (Millie’s grandfather)

and Jack Reynolds (Millie’s father) compare? Are they more alike

or different from one another? What characteristics of these two

men attract so many admirers (church members and rodeo fans)?

Are you more drawn to those who live on the edge of madness, the

more eccentric, creative, or wild personalities? Or do more stable

personalities demand your attention? Think of famous people in

today’s society. What is it that makes them so magnetic? What kind

of people do you most admire?

2. Throughout her life, Millie is trying to figure out whether or not

she really believes in God. Her mother seems to rely on her faith

to keep her anchored, singing hymns, praying, telling Bible stories,

and quoting Scripture, yet she never takes Millie to church. Millie

feels closest to God when she’s in nature, and she speaks of the

gypsy gathering as “holy.” How does Millie’s questioning make you

consider your own faith? When do you feel closest to God? What do

you like or dislike about organized religion and traditions? Have you

ever been judged, criticized, ostracized, or punished because of your

faith? Have you ever visited a country (or do you live in a country)

where religious worship is prohibited? What is the effect?

3. When Millie falls from the tree, she believes that a man catches

her and saves her life. She sees this man many times, often when she

feels most alone. Do you believe loved ones can watch over us after

death? Do you believe in angels? Why do you think Millie’s guardian

angel came in the form of Sloth rather than as one of her parents?

What role did Sloth play in her life?

4. When Millie is just seventeen years old, she faces a choice of loving

Bump or River. Do you think she makes the right choice? Do you think

women have more options now than Millie did as a disadvantaged

orphan girl in the 1940s? Even with more options, do women still tend

to determine their life course based on their husband’s job and priorities?

How does your religious affiliation affect the way you see yourself as a

woman? Do you agree or disagree with your church’s view of women?

5. Throughout the book, Millie struggles to come to terms with

traditional labels of “good” and “bad.” Bill Miller is described as a

good man, even describing himself with those words as he begins

to rape Millie. As a rodeo veterinarian, Bump might be looked

down upon by the likes of the upper-class Millers. And Millie was

surprised to find River a well-read, well-groomed adventurer, rather

than the illiterate, dirty stereotype she thought he’d be. What does

Millie learn about the way people are perceived and the truth about

who they really are? Do you portray your true self to the public, or

do you strive to maintain a perfect image, like the Miller family?

What stereotypes or class issues do you struggle to overcome, either

in the way you perceive others or in the way you are perceived?

How many people know the real you?

6. How do you feel about the way Millie handled the situation in

the steeple? Have you ever been a victim of sexual, verbal, or physical

abuse? How have you learned to take a more active role in your own

life in order to prevent further victimization? What would you do

differently if you could go back to that moment again? Have you

been able to forgive the person(s) who harmed you, and how has

that ability or inability to forgive affected you? Likewise, have you

ever been the one to inflict harm on another person? If so, take time

to evaluate the causes and effects of such events. What can you do to

break that cycle?

7. Even though Millie felt so alone most of her life, her life has

been filled with lots of people who loved her: Sloth, Miss Harper,

Mama. She also develops a special bond with Diana’s housekeeper,

Mabel, and Diana’s daughter, Camille. What do you think about

the relationship she builds with each of them? Do you think she’ll

continue to develop those relationships after she leaves Iti Taloa?

What people have helped shape your life? Do you believe people are

put into our lives for a reason? What efforts do you make to nourish

your friendships?

8. Millie has a complicated relationship with her mother and father,

yet she loves them both. What do you value most about your parents

or your children? What would you like to improve about your

relationship? What steps can you take to build a healthier relationship

with them? Likewise, Millie’s relationship with her grandparents

is beyond strained. How do you see your role as a grandparent or


9. Millie leaves town without confronting Bill Miller. She chooses

not to let him control one more minute of her life. She tries to leave

that history behind her and start her new life with Bump, claiming,

“It is finished.” Do you think it’s possible to leave such traumatic

events buried deep without ever coming to terms with them? Do

you think the events that took place in the steeple will come back

to haunt Millie, or is such a clean escape possible? Do you think

she should tell Bump about the rape? Do you have secrets that you

have kept from those you love? Have you ever wondered what would

happen if you told the truth?

10. In the end, Millie reaches a comfortable place with her faith.

She comes to believe that a loving God had been there all along,

watching over her, allowing her to make her own choices. Do you

believe everything is in God’s hands, and that all you need to do

is pray (as Millie’s mother does)? Or do you believe God gives you

options, and that it’s up to you to correct the negative things that

happen to you, all while making your faith the central part of your


Additional Questions to bridge Into the Free & the sequel When Mountains Move

1. This story ends when Millie is seventeen, the morning after a

devastating assault. Millie is still numb and in “survivor” mode when

she leaves, and she hasn’t come to terms with the event yet. What do

you predict will happen to her?

2. Who is your favorite character in this story? Why? Who is your

least favorite character? Why?

3. What is your favorite scene? What scene made you react with the

strongest emotions (good or bad)? What scene would you change,

and how?

4. Do you think Millie would have left with the rodeo even if Bump

hadn’t been with her? Do you think Millie will go to Colorado with

Bump or stay with the Cauy Tucker group and compete with Firefly?

5. What do you think will happen to Bill and Diana Miller? Camille?

Are you upset that Bill walks away unpunished at the end of the

book? Do you think he will suffer consequences in the sequel or do

you think some men get away with this kind of behavior, as their

victims choose to remain silent, sometimes shamed?

6. What could Millie’s mother, Marie, have done differently to

create a better life for herself and Millie?

7. What do you think of the symbolism with the mother dog and

her pups? Do you know of any women who are willing to sacrifice

their own children’s safety in order to survive? What do you think

of Marie? Millie? And Millie’s grandmother, Sarah? Do you see a

pattern to the mothering styles of Sarah and Marie? Do you think

Millie, if given the chance, will break that pattern?

8. What do you think of the scene in the baptismal pool?

9. How do you like the traveler woman, Babushka? And what do you

think about her noticing the shift in Millie from yellow to red?

10. What role do you think Mabel ends up playing in Millie’s life?


14 thoughts on “Reader’s Guide

  1. Loved your book. Posted comments on the Meridian MS web sites, Remember When in Meridian Ms and Meridian Ms the way we remember it.

    Loved the various themes, unconditional love, poverty and affluence, the value of the library in our lives, genuine faith vs hypocrosy— etc. Also loved the way Mille and River demonstrated keen minds, quoting from favorite authors. Thanks! Shirley Griffin

    • Thanks, Shirley! Wow…you’re SO very kind to help spread the word about Into the Free…especially in Meridian, where the story was loosely based on actual historical events and places. I’m honored you read it, and I’m greatly appreciative of your support. I hope to do some sort of author event in Meridian, and I’d love to meet you in person if we’re able to make that happen. Cheers, j

  2. What a great idea to include the extras at the end! I always have a wistful feeling at the end of a good book – as you say “want to stay in the story”. And I loved this one so much I laid awake in bed half the night writing a sequel in my head. I’m thrilled to know you have one planned, and I’d like to get on a list so I know when it’s available. Good job!

    • Thanks for your kind note, Martha. Feel free to subscribe to Julie’s Journal from my home page (it’s free) and you’ll receive emails each time I update my blog. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter for more frequent updates. You’ll find all that info. on the home page: I greatly appreciate your support and am honored you read my first novel. Happy day, j

  3. When I retired five years ago, I started, finally, to “read”. I’ve always enjoyed a good book! Then, I received a Kindle from my Cousin and his wife for my last Birthday, and was made aware of the “free” kindle books available. Your “Into the Free” was made available just a few days ago and as I started to read it, I thought, Oh My! this is going to be so depressing. But I couldn’t put it aside and kept thinking about Millie, her Mama, Sloth, Jack, then River and then of course Bump! It’s truly a beautiful story of discovering oneself and not allowing any one make you feel “less” than the beautiful person you might be. While my life hasn’t been quite as tragic as Millie’s, I’ve experienced demeaning, manipulative, controlling persons and I feel this story truly hit home for me. It’s never too late to realize we may have “worth”.
    Thank you for a beautiful story, so well written and a treasure! Can’t wait for the sequel.

    • Carol Ann, Thank you so much for your wonderful feedback. I’m humbled by your kind response and am extremely happy to hear you say, “It’s never too late to realize we may have worth.” Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me about my first novel, and I also appreciate your interest in the sequel.
      Cheers, julie

  4. Just finished reading Into The Free. It was really, really, good. I love books like this where the characters are well developed and there is a little mystery. can’t wait for the next book with Millie and Bump. Are you already writing it?

  5. Hi Julie,

    Great job on this novel that I assume is your first publication. At first, I thought it was going to be boring but was so glad I kept reading because it was far from boring. I could relate with Millie in alot of different ways due to the past unfortunately, just not to quite the severity she experienced. I really liked all the characters except for Jack, Millies grandfather, and the women (Hilda) that was rude to her. I was happy to see she chose to follow Bump and not wait around for the gypsies as I think she would have a better life with Bump. I hope this book will become a series, and I can’t wait to get the next one! And please keep them available for the Kindle Fire. Thank you for including all the extras at the end of the story. What a wonderful idea by an author. I have a few favorite authors ( I think you may just be another with continued great novels) and haven’t ever seen that before.


    • Hi Katy, Thanks for giving Into the Free a shot and I’m so glad you didn’t think it was boring! I’d be honored to be added to your favorite authors’ list someday, and I do hope you’ll read the sequel when it hit shelves (next year?). I enjoy hearing everyone’s feedback, and you’ll be happy to hear there’s definitely a Team Bump / Team River rivalry forming with readers. It’s good to know which side you’d join. Have a wonderful weekend, julie

  6. I absolutely love Millie. Wish I had a best friend like her. Also loved Mable. She would be a great mother. Right now I’m searching to find any info about a sequel. I pray you will allow Mr. Miller to be found out. My father abused me when I was a little girl and he was never “found out. “. I would love to experience this through Millie. She deserves it just as I do. Please keep on writing. You are now a favorite!

    • Hi Gena,
      I’m so happy you wrote to me and so very sorry to hear of your past abuse. Please know, you are one of many, MANY readers who have reached out to me with similar stories. I’ve been incredibly overwhelmed by the powerful emotional reactions many readers have had to Millie’s story and the number of readers who have shared their own similar tales of survival. Many, like you, want Bill Miller to PAY. I’m letting the sequel evolve organically, as I did Into the Free, so I don’t yet know how all of that will come to play…but I sure hope the story does allow you to make the journey you need to heal such deep wounds.
      I think, sadly, there are too many stories from readers like you who confess to me their old secrets, damaging acts that no one ever knew about. Unfortunately, a lot of domestic violence and sexual abuse does stay hidden, as Millie experiences when her own mother tries to tell her about the shame of the situation. And, we as a society still tend to turn our heads when we suspect such things are happening behind closed doors.
      I hope, if nothing else, Millie’s story enables readers like you to face, head on, the damage that has affected their lives and learn to reach a healthy emotional place of forgiveness, faith, and fearlessness as they continue their journey.
      This book ends the day after Millie’s most damaging experience. The book closes with Millie in a very raw place, in survival mode. The final scenes show us how she is trying to process what has happened and take forward steps to keep from drowing in despair, but there is much left for her to deal with in the sequel.
      I greatly appreciate your honesty and bravery, by reaching out publicly here so other readers can feel less alone on this difficult path. Thank you. And I pray that you find a perfect place of peace as you overcome the pain that was inflicted on you as a child. No one had the right to hurt you, and I am glad you have made it this far and that you have chosen to help others who refuse to be victims every again.
      Many, many blessings, Gena.

  7. I LOVED this book so much! You truly have a God-given talent for writing…I cried nearly the whole book through. It has been almost a year since I first read it and finally have gotten to choose it for my book club, so I just read it again over the holdiays. I LOVED it even more this time around and cried even harder!

    • Jeannie, Thank you so much for your kind comment. I’m sorry I made you cry, but I’m honored you read the book, loved it, read it again, and shared it with your friends…there’s nothing an author would rather hear! I hope your bookclub enjoys the story as much as you did, and I hope you’ll all stick around to see what happens next for Millie. THe sequel, When Mountains Move, is set to release this September. I’m in edits now, and I am excited to share the next phase of her story. Happy 2013! julie

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