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State of Terror Book Club Questions

Book cover for STATE OF TERROR by Hillary Rodam Clinton and Louise Penny

When it comes to writing a thriller about international politics, terrorist attacks, and a Secretary of State racing against the clock to prevent more attacks, who better than a former Secretary of State to pen the story? Former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton has joined forces with bestselling crime novelist Louise Penny to bring readers State of Terror, a harrowing tale of espionage and betrayal. Read on for some State of Terror book club questions to get your meeting rolling!

State of Terror Book Summary

Ellen Adams, head of a multinational media conglomerate and outspoken critic of the U.S. president-elect, couldn’t be more surprised when he names her as his nominee for Secretary of State. It’s all strategy— accepting the nomination means that Adams will no longer be able to publicly criticize him. Adams has barely accepted the nomination when a young foreign service officer receives a bizarre coded warning and a series of terrorist attacks plunge Adams in over her head in the dizzying world of international politics. It becomes clear that someone has been waiting a very long time for the right moment to strike, and it’ll be up to Adams and her unconventional team to put a stop to it.

Setting Up Your Meeting

We’ve got plenty of great advice for running a book club, but if you’re hosting the discussion of this book, consider getting the conversation going with an icebreaker. You might ask attendees if any politician, living or dead, could write a novel, who would you want to see pen a book—and what genre? Because the book is political in nature, you might want to set a few expectations about how much real-life political talk your club wants to get into—is everything free game, or will you want to keep real-life political venting to the end of the meeting? 

State of Terror Book Club Questions

  1. In general, what do you think of celebrities or politicians using their experiences to write fiction? Were you excited or wary going into this novel? Why might Hillary Clinton have decided to write about this topic?
  2. What did you think about the relationship between Ellen Adams and Doug Williams? Why do you think Ellen accepted Williams’ appointment?
  3. What are Ellen’s strengths as a political and diplomat? How does she use what she’s learned running a business to her advantage?
  4. What about Ellen’s personal life also helped her once she became enmeshed in the international plot? Do you think she could have made it through without her specific connections?
  5. What did you think of the side characters who supported Ellen and her pursuit for the truth? Who was your favorite and why?
  6. What role does journalism play in this book? 
  7. One of the themes of the book is the struggle the characters feel when they abide by a code of ethics, but are compelled or tempted to break this code in order to save lives. Is there ever a good reason or extenuating circumstance that would justify  compromising your professional ethics or morals to save a life? Where is the line? What would you do if you were in the same circumstances the characters faced?
  8. Clearly this book is drawn from Clinton’s experiences as Secretary of State, but also as a presidential candidate running against Trump. What parallels did you see between the novel and real-life? What do you think Clinton hopes that readers will take away from her fictional twists and interactions?
  9. Was there anything about being Secretary of State or the Office of the President or international politics that surprised you?
  10. Were your surprised by how complex and tenuous diplomatic relations can be between groups and countries? 
  11. What did you think of the resolution of this story? Do you think it’s ripe for a sequel?
  12. While the book isn’t exactly escapist reading, it is absorbing. Would you read another book co-authored by Clinton? If Louise Penny were to co-write a book with anyone else, who would you want to see?

Bonus reading: If your club enjoyed State of Terror, suggest they pick up When Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams!

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