Father

Are the sins of the father visited upon their children? This is one of the questions addressed in Victoria Falls, and it is at least partially answered in the subplot.

Charlie Benjamin's father is James Monroe, the central protagonist of the novel. Charlie has grown up believing his real father to be Richard Benjamin, but Charlie was fathered by James Monroe in a late night tryst with his mother, Teresa Benjamin. On her deathbed, Teresa reveals Charlie's true paternity to him, and he sets out to western Canada to find his real father.

During his journey we find that the same restlessness that plagued James Monroe also plagues his son. Despite being married and having a son of his own, Charlie becomes infatuated with his half sister, Annie, and like his father makes one wrong decision that lands him in prison. James Monroe, as a much older man, is also in this subplot, and in a poignant scene he visits his son to tell him that he too had been behind bars and that there is life beyond incarceration. 

Do you think that the fault line of our personalities runs from one generation to the next?

Prison

The prison sequence in the novel takes place at the infamous Arthur Road prison in Bombay (Mumbai), India. Conditions at Arthur Road are unimaginably horrific earning it the reputation as one of the ten worst prisons in the world.

At Arthur Road, as in most prisons, everything is a transaction. There is little or no regard for the sanctity of life; everyday is an exercise in survival. If you have somehow smuggled cash into the prison, you can buy a reprieve from the worst conditions (including physical punishment), but without that buffer, life is a constant maneuvering for access to food, to a larvae infested blanket or to a place in line for the latrine. It is a suffocating existence designed to break a person's spirit, to reduce them to an animal in a cage. It is a place without hope and without mercy where weakness is seized upon as an excuse for additional abuse.

The thought of life in prison is something that helps keep the balance and support our justice system. What does the thought of prison bring up for you?

Lines

Women are portrayed in the novel as either predatory or nurturing. One of them is an enigmatic admixture of the two. The male protagonist's attempt to navigate the nuances of feminine behavior proves to be woefully inadequate. He is sophisticated and savvy as a World Bank official but naive - even childlike - in his liaisons with women.

The advantage of this naivete is that he is open to experimentation in the area of physical intimacy. While lovemaking, he allows himself to assume a gentleness - even a submissiveness usually associated with the feminine. This allows him to be open to depths of intimacy that a man and woman can enjoy when conventional gender roles are allowed to merge.

The feminine and masculine lines are being blurred more than ever in the world we live in. Share your thoughts.

Contrast

The Sub-Saharan African landscape mirrors some of the central themes of the novel. Beauty and violence coexist in a place where the drama is immediate and immutable. 

Mirroring the predatory behavior of wildlife on the veld, the decisions made by key central characters often result in either life or death. The landscape has a primal quality that challenges our Western assumptions about the norms of civilized society. We are both drawn to and repulsed by the constant threat of danger. Some of the characters thrive in this environment; others barely make it through.

We all deal with contrast in macro and micro ways throughout our life. Share your thoughts on life's mirrors and contrasts in the comments.

Awakening

The novel explores how the impulse for romance often resurfaces in the same individual as the impulse for spirituality. The union of these two in literature is often associated with women, but the novel explores these common impulses in men.

James Monroe is outwardly very successful, but his personal life is in disarray. Middle aged, divorced and searching for meaning beyond his career path at The World Bank, Monroe is aware of his obsession with women, but he is seemingly incapable of breaking the cycle of romantic liaisons that consume his existence. His spirituality emerges within the confines of prison where women are absent and opportunities for selfless acts of mercy trigger his spiritual transformation.

What are some of the everyday triggers for spiritual transformation?