Discussion questions


  1. Whereas six villages and three hamlets were inundated in Ontario, New York only lost one entire village to the project, Louisville Landing. Why did Hydro not follow the New York Power Authority initiative in diking? What other steps could Hydro have taken to minimize the destruction of property?
  2. When discussing the minimal protest occasioned by the construction of the Seaway, Wheeler states “The 1960s hadn’t happened yet.” (p.78). In 1999, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tabled a proposal to deepen and widen the Seaway. This never came to fruition due to vociferous protest. How did Wheeler’s words articulate societal change from mid-century to end-of-century?
  3. There have been many accounts of the St. Lawrence Seaway, both fictional and non-fictional. In what way does A Violent End differ from some of these authors such as Carleton Mabee, Lionel Chevrier, Rosemary Rutley, D’Arcy Jenish or Daniel Macfarlane?
  4. “Do the ordinary while you wait for the unthinkable.” (p.149). This is how Wheeler characterizes Alice Hoffman and the ladies cleaning house while they wait for Harper Mackenzie to die. How can this sentiment be extended to represent the lives of the villagers awaiting the certain inundation which was to come?



  1. Throughout the many presentations Maggie Wheeler has made, she has often stated that she never intended that Jerry Strauss should be other than a peripheral character. Yet, by the end of the novel, he looms larger than life. How do you think such a change evolved? What do you think could have been the possible, pre-existing relationship between Alice Hoffman and Harper Mackenzie?“For old times’ sake, eh?” Harper said softly. “Yes, […] For old times.” The woman raised her face to meet his eyes, with a tenderness of youth at first love. (p.146)
  2. When Farran visits her mother, Leslie reminds her that she is half Scot presumably referring to the family name, Mackenzie. (p.43) This would only be true if Harper Mackenzie was Leslie’s father. Were Harper and Evian her parents? Did Leslie just believe this or did she know it was true and, if so, how did she know this?
  3. Meredith Murphy is a bit of an enigma. At one point she blushes when speaking with Gordon (p.64) yet later on Lynnie accuses her of being sweet on Hal which Meredith does not refute (p.105) but towards the end, Farran says Meredith loved Gordon her whole life (p.250). So which one did Meredith actually love?



  1. Hal Leonard is dead right from the get-go. Yet his character is very well developed throughout his short eighteen years. In what ways do the descriptions of Hal move the plot forward?
  2. When Leslie Mackenzie is dying she recalls that when Blackamoor the Cat died, the other cats didn’t come back. “They knew he was already dead.” (p.46). Toward the end of the book, Farran ruminates that, like Blackamoor, “My mother never came back.” (p.210). What is the significance of these related passages? Who knew? How did they know? What did they know?
  3. There is an intertwined quadrangle among Bill Strauss, Emme, Jerry, and Hal. If Jerry thought Hal killed his father, why did he continue to love him? What did he know or suspect? Why is Emme presented in such a negative light? Why, as the adult, was she not more circumspect in her relationship with Hal?
  4. Why were Aultsville and Ault Island chosen as the perfect settings for this murder? Why not any of the other inundated villages?
  5. When Harper Mackenzie dies, Alice Hoffman becomes Leslie’s guardian. Yet, Leslie leaves, marries Hal, and never returns. Why did Alice have no knowledge of this? Wouldn’t she have known Leslie was leaving?


  1. The scene at the Casselman dance hall is a major episode that drives the plot forward in a variety of ways for a host of characters: Gordon, Hal, Leslie, Ruth, Meredith, and Ernie Black. (pp.166-174). Discuss this scene in terms of one, a few, or all of the characters.