The Night Tourist
by Katherine Marsh
About the book: Jack Perdu, a ninth-grade Classics prodigy, lives with his father on the Yale University campus. Smart and introverted, Jack spends most of his time alone, his nose buried in a book. But one winter evening, a near-fatal accident changes Jack’s life forever.
His father sends him to see a mysterious doctor in New York City—where Jack hasn’t been since his mother died there eight years ago. In Grand Central Terminal, he meets Euri, a girl who offers to show him the train station’s hidden places—the ones only true urban explorers really know about. Eight flights below the station, however, Jack discovers more than just hidden tracks and mysterious staircases. He has stumbled upon New York’s ghostly underworld. This, Jack believes, is his chance to see his mother again. But as secrets about Euri’s past are revealed, so are the true reasons for Jack’s visit to the underworld.
Masterfully told, The Night Tourist weaves Classical mythology together with New York’s secret history and modern-day landscape to create a magical adventure, full of unexpected twists and page-turning action.
About this guide:
This guide includes discussion questions intended to provoke thought and insight into the themes of the book which include friendship, acceptance, myth, grief, despair, risk, forgiveness and hope.
About the author:
Katherine Marsh taught high school before she moved to New York City and started writing for Good Housekeeping and Rolling Stone. Her nonfiction stories about the city have appeared in The New York Times and other publications. She is currently the managing editor of The New Republic magazine, where she edits articles on politics and culture. A native of the Empire State and a Yale graduate, she lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two cats.
Read a version of the Orpheus myth from Greek Mythology before reading the opening chapter of the novel. What do you think is the lesson about life and death that is woven in this story? Does Orpheus learn to appreciate his own life more? Can true love outlast even death?
Questions to consider:
- After you read chapter one create a news release or front page article explaining the events of chapter one. Be sure to answer all five of the journalistic questions and get quotes from witnesses at the scene.
- Describe the incident in Jack’s father’s study. What does it reveal about their relationship that he doesn’t tell his father about it? Would you tell your parents? What is Jack afraid of? Jack’s father also isn’t forthcoming about his real reasons to sending him off to New York City. Would you be suspect if your parents treated you similarly?
- Do you, as a reader, trust Euri as she leads Jack deeper and deeper into her world? Why do you think Jack follows? What does she offer to show him? What could you show a visitor to your own neighborhood or city? At what point, if any, in the story would you have turned back? Why?
- Jack finally realizes that he has entered the underworld of New York City. What are the three major powers and rules which will rule his time there? What will happen if he is discovered? Would you be willing to risk death to explore this world and speak to a lost loved one or not? Explain your position.
- List the characters that Jack and Euri meet while in the underworld. Compare their human life with their existence in the afterlife. Who do they learn the most from? Why? What famous person would you most like to run into in the afterlife? Why?
- What is the most exciting part of their adventure together? How does their relationship change over the course of the novel? How did you feel about Euri’s fate? Is it fair? How does Jack deal with this loss too?
- Jack and Euri try to solve the mystery of what happened to Jack’s mother. What does the asterisk mean? Why are the dates incongruent but eventually make sense? What does Jack learn from his mother?
- Euri explains her death as an “accident.” Was it? Does she regret her decision? What does she miss most about life? What do we learn about her life and her family? How does Jack feel about Euri’s suicide? Does he have more empathy for Euri than his mother? Why or why not?
- Who (or what) are the villains in this story? Which one would you be most afraid of? Why?
- Compare this story with the classic greek myth