Shortlisted for 2016 Long Island Reads program; A GOODREADS BOOK GROUP WORTHY TITLE;  A BookBrowse Top 2015 Book Club Recommendation

“Natalie is not only knowledgeable but has a lovely way of presenting material so that it is easily understandable and fascinating. . . . .I most enthusiastically recommend her presentation to all book clubs, libraries, and other institutions throughout the country." Marcia Blackman, Head of Reader Services, East Meadow Public Library

"Natalie was an engaging and accomplished speaker and our audience of 82 was fascinated with her presentation and photos about the ongoing underground mine fires.  Her talk about the background of The Hollow Ground gave the book even more depth and meaning." Pat Sanders, Friends of the Wayne County Public Library Author Luncheon Chairperson 

"Natalie's talk about THE HOLLOW GROUND was fascinating!" Carla Harkness, Maine Book Club member


Have a Book Club?   

Have a Book Club?


Reading Group Guide  
[Download as PDF]


1) Ma and Gram have many failings as mothers. In what ways are they the same? In what ways different?

2) Daddy tells Brigid that Gram and Ma fight so much not because they hate each other, but because they love each other. He says that one of them has got to give the love first and they’re each too stubborn to do it. “So they hold onto the love for each other and it turns all ugly inside them.”

How accurate is Daddy’s assessment of Gram and Ma’s relationship? Is there any truth to his words?

3) Ma and Daddy are greatly influenced by their pasts. Memories and repressed memories—what they remember, what they don’t remember, as well as what they misremember—shape who they are. Discuss how all these different types of memories contribute to how they perceive themselves and others.

4) In many ways THE HOLLOW GROUND is a story of survival. How well would you say Brigid survives? Do you think she has a chance at being happy in her adult life?

 Do you think this is also a story of survival for Ma?

5) In some ways Gram is a champion of women’s rights. In other ways she subverts them.

Discuss how she does both.

6) How does the author use the fire to help tell the story of this family?

7) Discuss the ways the novel explores the nature of love between a parent and child. Are there any limitations to that love?

8) THE HOLLOW GROUND could be viewed as a cautionary tale about what happens when we delve underground. Do you think mine fires such as the one that took place in Barrendale could serve as an argument against other environmental issues of concern such as fracking or oil drilling?

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9) Do you think Stepma did the right thing by sending Ma away? Do you think Ma is capable of forgiving her? Why or why not?


10) How is Auntie’s story “The Great Forgetting” meaningful to the novel as a whole?


Natalie is happy to speak to your book club, in person if you are in the NYC/Long Island area, or by phone and Skype anywhere else.