Everywhere in Chains

A Novel

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Discussion Guide

This highly thought-provoking, sometimes amusing and always life-affirming novel illustrates one family's experiences with America's criminal justice system. As Penelope searches for the truth about her father, she rattles the skeletons in her family's closet and shakes up the complacency of her community, which has tried to sweep the past under the rug. With both perception and compassion, the author creates a colorful cast of characters while challenging the wisdom of imprisoning the mentally ill.

On the cusp of adulthood, Penelope begins to understand that she has grown-up in a web of silence. The denial in her family and small Minnesota hometown is so thick that she does not know how to cut through it, that is, until she begins a seemingly innocuous pen-pal correspondence with someone in another town. Little by little, Penelope unravels the secrets meant to protect her from the truth. She proves herself to be stronger and wiser than anyone could have predicted and leads the way to healing.

Through the lives and interactions of the major characters, this story explores the sprawling psychological geography of America's criminal justice system and its profound effect on everyone it touches, even its most ardent proponents. While dealing with a serious, challenging subject, this book is also filled with warmth and likeable characters. The odyssey of Penelope concludes on a faith-affirming note with a parade of surprising revelations.

James Casper

James Casper spent his childhood in a rural Minnesota setting much like the one in this novel. With a master's degree from St. Louis University, he taught English at Bemidji State University and philosophy at Central Lakes College. He also taught extension courses throughout northwestern Minnesota, and for a time served as director of adult education on the Red Lake Indian Reservation. He resides with his wife in Middlesex,England. 


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"What happens when your quiet life is disrupted by tragedy? What happens when your day-to-day busy-ness is disrupted by eternity? As one of the characters in this tale says, "The unforeseen has a way of happening." But what then? What happens when your faith really has to matter? This lovely story will pull you in and will not let you go. But it will surprise you. So will life."
- Dale Ahlquist, President, American G. K. Chesterton Society

Everywhere in Chains is a moving story that shows us how the everyday life of an ordinary person can be so very complex and meaningful. It reveals how failing to love only causes pain to ourselves and others, and how being open to charity and love redeems us. Beautifully and poignantly written, the frosty beauty of the Lake Superior landscape still haunts me, long after putting the book down."
- Ann Lewis, Author, Murder in the Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes

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