Elissa Schwartz

Perceived Threat

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Book Group Discussion Questions for Perceived Threat

  1. Annalisa advocates for the elimination of political parties. Do you think federal and state legislators would be more effective and efficient without political parties? Alternatively, is Representative Rossman correct when she states on page 8, “Political parties provide the yin and yang needed to balance the efforts made by the congressional legislators. There are some basic political differences in play in each legislative discussion, and these political differences follow Republican or Democratic party lines. It is efficient to define each of us by our political party in that these basic political differences are identified merely by reference to our party affiliation.”

  2. Do you ever feel there are too many laws, rules, regulations and other restrictions on the lives of U.S. citizens, such that our constitutional rights are being infringed upon? If yes, can you think of any examples?

  3. On pages 22 and 23, Annalisa, Spencer Van Otter and Nicole Van Otter discuss the concept of change in life and how uncomfortable and daunting it can be. Do you find most people in your life embrace change or avoid it? Does it make a difference as to what aspect of life is changing, such as should I get a new cell phone or a new boyfriend?

  4. On page 28, Annalisa and Representative Rossman debate legislators relying on lobbyists. Representative Rossman believes lobbyists represent the interests of constituents and Annalisa disagrees. Do you think lobbyists represent constituents generally or are they really only the representatives of special interests?

  5. On page 45, Detective Thomas states that “… even seemingly innocuous comments may be recognized as veiled threats.” Have you noted any innocuous comments made by any characters that could be construed as threats – veiled or not so veiled – or innocuous comments that could be construed as indications that the speaker considers Annalisa a threat?

  6. On pages 62 and 63, there is a discussion of the difficulties encountered by foster children when they age out of the foster care system. Do you think foster children can benefit by the support – emotional, financial or intellectual – of strangers, such that a real difference is made in their lives?

  7. There is a theme of desperation running throughout the book. Desperation causes people to act in ways they would not normally act. Can you point out some examples in the book of people acting out of desperation?

  8. On page 121, Representative Rossman states, “… all it often takes to bring someone down is the mere appearance or even suggestion of impropriety. We are surface people …; nobody digs down deep to find the truth when the surface is covered with potential wrongdoing. Reputations fall every day … based on nothing more than speculation, as long as it’s supported by the media.” Do you agree? For example, would you say Joe Paterno’s reputation fell based on no more than his professional association with Jerry Sandusky?

  9. A question exists as to whether Representative Rossman wants to discredit Annalisa because she despises Annalisa’s advocacy and wants to protect herself or because Representative Rossman believes Annalisa is betraying her husband and wants to protect Brad. On page 129, Annalisa tells Brad that had Representative Rossman “not initially felt personally threatened by my speeches and my book, she wouldn’t have latched onto deciding you were also threatened by me. Possibly at a subconscious level, she really is acting to protect herself, but on a conscious level she’s convinced herself she’s protecting you.” Do you think Representative Rossman really believes Brad needs protecting or is she merely using that as an excuse to try to destroy Annalisa so Annalisa can no longer threaten Representative Rossman’s status quo?

  10. On page 131, Annalisa states, “A person’s perceptions are his or her reality.” On page 198, Jonah Culver states, “Perceptions are real to those who possess them, despite reality perhaps being quite to the contrary.” Annalisa is who she is, but people each perceive her differently. Discuss the difference in perceptions between 1) David Hawkins and Representative Rossman regarding Annalisa, her advocacy and her marriage; 2) Senator Dobbins and Edward Hawthorne/Jonah Culver regarding Annalisa’s threat to the power and lifestyles of legislators; and 3) Senator Wagner and Daphne Wagner regarding Annalisa as a threat to the power and lifestyles of legislators and their families.

  11. On page 139, Senator Dobbins states, “… decisions driven by emotion usually turn out badly.” Do you agree or do you think using emotion when considering an issue makes for a better decision?

  12. On page 267, Senator Wagner states, “Ms. Vermeer is free to speak because she never will be free to do more than speak. Should she ever be deemed a threat, those of us in power can squash her and her ideas in an instant within the legal parameters afforded us.” Daphne Wagner does not see it that way, as she was threatened enough to want to kill Annalisa. Do you think there was validity in either of their positions?


Some Responses To Discussion Questions 5 and 7


Question 5. Some innocuous comments made in the book that possibly were not so innocuous:

  • Page 9, Senator Dobbins states, “… your continued efforts will lead to no good. Mark my words – you would be smart to stop advocating such nonsense!”

  • Page 18, Narrator states, “When Brad walked through the door after work, he appeared happy to be greeted by both his loving wife ….”

  • Page 30, Daphne Wagner states, “The … grassroots organizations will make great strides … as long as the leader, Ms. Vermeer, continues to preach her sermons …. At the rate you’re going, change within the short term is imminent.”

  • Page 31, Senator Dobbins states, “It’s time to take action.”

  • Page 36, Jeremiah states, “… I wanted you to know the fact checker for your last article ran into some issues and took care of the problems last night. So, it’s now clear sailing for you.”

  • Page 77, Senator Dobbins states, “Ms. Vermeer must be dealt with effectively and immediately if her mouth is to be shut permanently on these subjects of which she is so fond.”

  • Page 77, Representative Rossman states, “I’m working to destroy her on a personal level where caution isn’t foremost in her mind.”

  • Page 78, Senator Dobbins, states, “The only way to resolve this situation is to abruptly silence Ms. Vermeer. Once she’s silenced, her minions will fall by the wayside.”

  • Page 157, Daphne Wagner states, “… scholarships can continue as long as she does.”


Question 7. Acts of desperation found in the book.

  • Page 107, Glenn Sanders states, “… when a person is desperate that person doesn’t ask too many questions and doesn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. I needed the money and so I took the job ….”

  • Representative Rossman arranged for Glenn Sanders to meet with Annalisa where photos were taken and then she sent the photos to the Press in an act of desperation to destroy Annalisa’s credibility.

  • Page 149, Hannah Garian states, “I’m not an immoral person, but people sometimes have to take actions they would prefer not to take.” Hannah worked as a prostitute because she was desperate to fund her college education and then she agreed to put the aphrodisiac in Annalisa’s drink because she was desperate to keep her work as a prostitute a secret.

  • Daphne Wagner is desperate to maintain her lifestyle and her husband’s power and influence. This desperation pushes her to attempt murdering Annalisa.

  • Senator Dobbins is desperate to stop Annalisa’s advocacy to protect his lifestyle and power. He is driven to frame Annalisa as a terrorist.