The Twelfth Child is the story of friendship, lost love, dysfunctional family relationships and greed as it evolved around the life of one woman, Abigail Anne Lannigan. She was a free-spirited, independent woman much like many we know today, but perhaps out of place in the rural mountain life of the early 1900’s. As you go through some of the discussion questions, try to imagine yourself back in that era, years before women were allowed to vote, a time when men controlled the destiny of women.
1) In the opening chapter the elderly Abigail Anne Lannigan rapidly develops a friendship with Destiny Fairchild, a young woman in her early twenties – do you think such a friendship is unlikely? Why do you think a young girl would have an interest in such an elderly woman? Did you early on consider that Destiny had an ulterior motive in developing the friendship?
2) Abigail Lannigan took an immediate dislike to Elliott, even though he was supposedly a blood relative – why do you think she felt that way? What was your reaction to Elliott? How did you feel about Abigail tricking him into claiming he was a Baptist?
3) After Livonia died, Abigail’s father was extremely opposed to her continuing school, why do you think he felt that way?
4) Abigail’s father was set on the idea of her marrying Henry Keller, do you think he was simply concerned with her welfare or had ulterior motives?
5) Henry professed his love for Abigail, do you think she should have stayed and married him? Why do you think she couldn’t bring herself to respond to his love?
6) Judith Troy, Abigail’s school teacher, went against William Lannigan when she helped his daughter get a job in the city and leave home – do you think she had the right to interfere in such a manner? What would you have done?
7) During the Great Depression when she was hungry and out of options, Abigail took the job in a speakeasy, even though she knew it was illegal and she could have been arrested, what would you have done? Should she have considered returning home and marrying Henry as her father wanted her to?
8) Abigail seemed to fall in love with John Langley the moment he walked into the library, have you ever experienced a similar reaction to someone? Do you think she was simply awed by him, or is such a reaction is possible?
9) Abigail knew John was a travelling salesman, but should she have been suspicious when he kept finding excuses for being elsewhere during the holidays? Should she have confronted him about this? And, why do you think she didn’t?
10) When Abigail told John she was expecting a baby, he said he couldn’t marry her but offered to continue the relationship – she was desperately in love with him, so why do you think she turned and ran instead of taking him up on his offer?
11) After she lost the baby, Abigail sent John away even though she still loved him, do you think you could do the same? Why do you think she chose that path of action?
12) Why do you think Abigail’s father never responded when she sent him the pipe for Christmas?
13) The reader does not discover that Abigail is already dead until mid-story, did that come as a surprise to you?
14) At the end of the story, Abigail indicates that even though Destiny did not get the bonds she wanted her to have, everyone got what was coming to them – do you agree? Did you feel there was a sense of poetic justice in the final resolution?
15) Would you have changed the ending and if so, how?
16) Who was your favorite character in the book and why?
17) Can you speculate on what might eventually happen to the bonds?