Book Clubs & Schools


Why KARMA makes a fabulous choice for Book Clubs

From Libraries and Young Adults

“This is one of the most beautifully written novels I’ve read since my undergrad. It’s in verse, with the narration and dialogue formatted in a unique and stylistic manner. If not executed correctly such a bold format would have taken away from the story, but Ostlere used it to enrich the text.

This novel illustrates the difficulties of immigration from the perspective of a first generation Canadian. Maya is Indian to Canadians, and Canadian to Indians. She is always the outsider, and stands out in every culture she belongs to. Born to a Hindu mother and a Sikh father, Maya follows elements of both religions and cultures. Her mixed heritage puts her in grave danger when during her trip to India the Prime Minister is murdered, and the two cultures go to war on one another.

The book is marketed as a love story, and it does contain a compelling one, but that is not what got my attention. The very nature of humanity is explored as Maya deals with survivor’s guilt. It not only places blame on the rioters who burn men alive and rape young girls, but on those who stand by and do nothing to stop it. Maya is justifiably frozen by fear as the horrors take place, but she later thinks about how many lives could have been saved if the bystanders spoke up. The denial of everything that happened by the government and so many people in the city is chilling, and leaves a lasting impression.

The snowball effect of hate, as the men fight an eye for an eye reminds me of the beautiful take on a nursery rhyme that plays at the beginning of the film Free Zone. Click this link and read the subtitles.

This would be a fabulous choice for a book club, because it deals with so many great discussion topics: identity; family; prejudice/acceptance; depression/mental illness/suicide; poverty/ class systems; apathy/denial.”

-Library Steph is the Youth Services Librarian at the Vernon Branch of Okanagan Regional Library

KARMA Discussion Guide

  1. Have you ever felt that words you put on paper came from another source, another being, or another spirit like Mata’s voice through Maya’s writing? How important was it that the reader could hear Mata’s voice throughout the novel?
  2. What do you think Maya means when she says on page 11 that Bapu’s hair equaled “his measured self”? What do you know about the role of hair in the Sikh religion? 3.Were you able to follow the shifts in voice from the techniques of using italics, brackets, margins and page breaks? Which voice was the most challenging for you to follow? Why do you think that was the case?
  3. What did you learn about Indian culture that you didn’t know before reading Karma? What did you learn about Sikhism and Hinduism from the novel?
  4. How do Bapu and Maya differ in their reactions to the crushing hunger and poverty? In your opinion, why are their reactions so different?
  5. What did the violence that followed the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi mean for Bapu and Maya?
  6. Would you have made the same choice as Maya to embark on a train voyage to Jodhpur without her father? What might you have done differently during the chaos and the violence?
  7. From what does Maya collapse upon arriving in Jodhpur? Consider physical and emotional reasons. Explore how those reasons led to Maya’s complete loss of voice.
  8. What role does fear play in Amma and Barindra’s decision-making when considering Maya’s future? What is at the root of their fears?
  9. Why does Akbar accuse Sandeep of stealing his future?
  10. How do the two words, meri jaan (my love), represent a turning point for Maya?
  11. What did the postcard to Helen demonstrate about Maya’s character?
  12. How do you think Bapu can rationally forbid his daughter’s love for a Hindu when he himself fell in love with a Hindu?
  13. Why do you think Maya gives Sandeep her mother’s orange sari? What does giving it to him represent for each of them?
  14. Has your definition of karma changed after reading this book? How?

Wordfest KARMA Discussion GuideKARMA PDF

Lost: A Memoir

Questions for Group Discussion

  1. If your sibling went missing, how far would you go to try and find them?
  2. “Living a life of risk is not the same as living a life of freedom.” Do you agree?
  3. Do you think David and Sarah should have departed from Ireland?
  4. How safe should we live our lives? When is it right to take risks?
  5. Do you think a woman’s desires and longings are different from a man’s?
  6. Tragic events remind us that our lives are often tiny and helpless. Do you agree?
  7. How does the use of myth, dreams and memory affect the narrative of LOST?
  8. What resolution does the sister find at the end?
  9. What does it mean to live an authentic life?
  10. What does the sea symbolize for you?

Meet the Author

Cathy Ostlere

Invite Cathy to speak at your School or Book Club Click here to request an appearance.


Lost - Cathy Ostlere

Purchase LOST


Karma - Cathy Ostlere

Learn more about the real history of the 1984 riots in Delhi

Please order KARMA from your local independent bookstore or these online retailers:

What’s a Verse Novel?



Connected Youth

Sarah Tregay’s List

Adult Novels in Verse

Top 10 verse novels

Michael Symmons Roberts in The Guardian