On Kingdom Mountain
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin, 2007; paperback by Mariner Books, 2008
Set in northern Vermont in 1930, On Kingdom Mountain is the story of Miss Jane Hubbell Kinneson. A renowned local bookwoman and eccentric bird carver, she is the last remaining resident of a wild mountain on the U.S.–Canadian border, now threatened by a proposed new highway. Miss Jane encounters a mysterious stunt pilot and weathermaker when his biplane crashes on the frozen lake at the foot of her mountain. He brings with him a riddle containing clues to the whereabouts of stolen Civil War gold that may have been hidden on Miss Jane's property. As she and the footloose aviator begin to search for the treasure, Miss Jane finds herself confronted by the most important decisions of her life.
Featuring daring action scenes and outrageous comedy, along with a passionate and surprising love affair, On Kingdom Mountain represents traditional storytelling at its best, rooted deeply in Howard Mosher's own family history and in a way of life on the brink of extinction.
1. On Kingdom Mountain has been described as “traditional storytelling at its best.” In what ways is Howard Frank Mosher’s latest novel old-fashioned? Are some of its themes contemporary? If so, what themes and ideas lend On Kingdom Mountain its contemporary relevance?
2. Miss Jane has been engaged in “revising” the King James Bible for decades. Is she, nevertheless, a woman of faith? In what ways? What distresses her about the bible?
3. One of Miss Jane’s own precepts for living is “Always declare yourself to the person you love.” Why can’t she declare herself to Judge Allen?
4. Though she probably wouldn’t care for such a new-fangled term, Miss Jane is a “preservationist” before her time. What does Kingdom Mountain truly represent to her? What does it represent to her cousin Eben?
5. For all of her public bravado, Miss Jane experiences many vulnerable moments. When, in particular, do we see her vulnerability?
6. What do you think happened, at the end of the story, to Henry Satterfield and the gold?
7. On the way back to Vermont from Montreal, Miss Jane tells Henry that coincidence has played only a small role in their recent adventures. What, in Miss Jane’s life, seems coincidental? What seems shaped by her personal and family history and the history of her beloved mountain?
8. Who is the evil, talking grandaddy in Henry’s head? Who, for that matter, is Henry? Howard Mosher has said that, when writing On Kingdom Mountain, he began to identify with Henry. In what ways are novelists treasure-seeking conmen?
9. As the author of novels dealing with subjects ranging from baseball to whiskey smuggling, and the Lewis and Clark Expedition to the last New England log drives, Mosher has often been called a “man’s writer.” Yet he has also written two books about remarkable women, Marie Blythe and On Kingdom Mountain. How does a male novelist’s depiction of women differ from a female novelist? Does it matter? What’s gained or lost from the perspective?
10. In On Kingdom Mountain and his other novels, Mosher makes extensive use of American history, often rewriting and transforming historical events. In his forthcoming novel, Walking to Gatlinburg, he chronicles the incredible story of Miss Jane’s father, Morgan Kinneson, who at 17 walks from Kingdom Mountain, Vermont, to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, in search of his older brother, Pilgrim, who has gone missing in the Civil War. What other American novelists, now and in the past, have mined specific historical eras for material? To what other novelists would you compare Howard Frank Mosher?
Howard Frank Mosher is available through his publicist for telephone and email interviews. He often visits book clubs, library and bookstore reading groups, and “One Community, One Book” organizations.