The Enemy at Homewas researched and written during the COVID pandemic. The author couldn’t help com- paring how we reacted to this recent crisis and how “the Greatest Generation” reacted to the war with the adjustments and sacrifices everyone had to make. How do you think we’d handle these wartime adjustments, restrictions and sacrifices today? How else would you compare the pandemic to World War II?
When developing the characters for Nora and her husband, Pete, the author wanted to create a marriage that has had its fair share of problems and struggles. At the same time, he wanted to instill a sense of 1940s values and gender roles. How do you think Nora and Pete’s marriage would hold up after the war? Do you think they make a good couple?
The passage of time in the book—from start to finish—is only a month. Do you see a transformation starting in Nora during that time? Do you think she’s on her way to becoming more confident and independent? At the end of the war, most “Rosie the Riveters” lost their jobs and were told to go back to their housework. How do you think Nora would have handled that?
In several scenes, Nora encounters racism, misogyny or homophobia—all often tolerated (and sometimes even endorsed) at the time. In your opinion, does Nora take any kind of stand against such injustices, or does she do nothing to “rock the boat”?
Nora’s seventeen-year-old son, Chris, obviously had some problematic friendships and growing pains. His lies concerning his whereabouts when certain murders were committed eventually make Nora suspect the worst. Do you think there was enough evidence against him to cause Nora distress? Did she take too long to wonder about his role in the “Rosie” murders? Or did Nora overreact? This is something most mothers couldn’t even imagine. How would you react in Nora’s situation?
In her loneliness, Nora clearly becomes infatuated with her handsome tenant, Joe. Did you want her to act on her desires—or stay true to her absent husband? Was Joe too suspicious to be a traditional “love interest”?
The Enemy at Homemight be called a serial killer thriller—set thirty years before the term serial killer was even coined. Pre-WW2 murderers Jack the Ripper and Earle Leonard Nelson are both mentioned in the book. But the author based the “Rosie” killer’s main motive on theories that Ted Bundy’s murder rampage was partly driven by his adverse reaction to the women’s liberation movement in the 1970s. In The Enemy at Home, the “Rosie” killer feels threatened by women taking on important wartime work. Did you feel there were other factors that contributed to his crimes? Was there a true- life serial killing or murder spree that particularly scared you?
Do you think Nora made the right decision after she dis- covered what Chris was doing in the cabin in the woods at night? Though protecting her son, she also drastically altered the lives of two people (Sono and Ruth). What would you have done in Nora’s shoes?
Similarly, Nora’s actions at the end of the book are “unconventional” at best. Do you think she made the right choice? Was it an ethical choice? What would you have done in her situation?
There are tributes to several old movies in the book. A few references are made to Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, and Nora’s brother, Ray, plays with a base- ball “pocket puzzle” similar to one Dana Andrews had in Laura. Did you notice any other old movie references? Speaking of movies, who would you cast in a current movie version of The Enemy at Home? If this was the 1940s, who would you cast?