Reading Groups

Reading Groups - Discussion Questions: The Ambassador's Son
The Ambassador's Son
  1. The Dinosaur Hunter
  2. My Dream of Stars
  3. Red Helmet
  4. The Far Reaches
  5. The Ambassador's Son
  6. The Keeper's Son
  7. Sky of Stone
  8. The Coalwood Way
  9. The Coalwood Triology
  10. Rocket Boys
  11. Torpedo Junction
  12. Teacher's Guide to Rocket Boys/October Sky
  13. Soon - "We Are Not Afraid" Discussion Questions

The Ambassador's Son (hardcover)
St Martin's Press
ISBN: 0-312-30192-8
Other editions include an abridged audio book and large print. The Ambassador's Son


This commentary and the discussion questions were written by Linda Terry Hickam, assistant (and wife!) to Homer Hickam. Linda is also the administrator for Homer's Web site. You are invited to for lots more information on Homer and his writing.

I hope these discussion questions help you enjoy The Ambassador's Son. Let us know what you think!

"For all those who love a good story!" Linda and Homer Hickam (


It's 1943 and the Americans and Japanese are fighting a deadly war in the hot, jungle-covered volcanic islands of the South Pacific. The outcome is in doubt and a terrible blow has fallen on American morale. Lieutenant David Armistead, a Marine Corps hero and cousin of the President of the United States, is missing and some say he's gone over to the enemy. Coast Guard Captain Josh Thurlow and his ragtag crew are given the assignment to find Armistead, though not necessarily to bring him back alive. Recruited in the hunt is a tormented and frail PT-boat skipper nicknamed "Shafty" who is also known by another name: John F. Kennedy. When Josh is stranded in the jungles of New Georgia with a mysterious, sensual woman who has a tendency to chop off men's heads, it's up to Kennedy to come to the rescue and complete the mission. But to procure a gunboat, he first has to play high-stakes poker with a young naval supply officer called Nick who happens to be the best gambler in the South Pacific. Nick has another name, too: Richard M. Nixon. Based solidly on historical fact with echoes of James Michener, The Ambassador's Son is a thrilling tale of the South Pacific and adventure fiction at its finest.


"THE AMBASSADOR'S SON is the reason I love to read. It takes you to a place where propellers and tides and bullets decide men's fates and you feel like you're sweating along with the heroes and villains. Homer Hickam is such a good writer that I'd probably read anything that he put out, but this adventure made me feel like a kid again."
--Rick Bragg, bestselling author of All Over But the Shoutin'

"With this tale of the South Pacific, Homer Hickam establishes himself as an heir to such greats as James Jones and Herman Wouk. THE AMBASSADOR'S SON is WWII storytelling at its best with plenty of action, exotic surprises and compelling romance."
--James Bradley, bestselling author of Flags of Our Fathers and Flyboys

"Great war novels are often great adventure novels, too, and Homer Hickam's THE AMBASSADOR'S SON qualifies on both counts. This fast-moving tale of action, intrigue, and romance in the Solomon Islands during World War II is filled with fascinating characters and vivid backgrounds. Hickam is one of the best yarn-spinners in the business, but more than that, he is an author whose work creates a genuine emotional resonance in the reader."
--James Reasoner, author of The Last Good War

"I began Homer Hickam's THE AMBASSADOR'S SON as a skeptic -- and ended it cheering! The tale is pure fantasy -- yet based on a real place, in a real war, involving real people: the Solomon Islands in 1943. Fear, courage, cynicism, lust and adrenalin propel this imaginary two-week episode in the young JFK's life...the story is so gripping, you will have to know what happens."
--Nigel Hamilton, author of JFK: Reckless Youth

"A beguiling South Seas romance, an epic story of love and loyalty, a richly evoked roman-a-clef about a larger-than-life American legend - THE AMBASSADOR'S SON is all of this and more. Homer Hickam puts bright, living color to our halftone memories of Jack Kennedy at war."
--James D. Hornfischer, author of The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors


Below are some ideas for discussion in your group. Homer and I would also love to hear what questions your group came up with! Click here to email us.

  1. There are real people such as John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and James Michener who are characters in this novel. Do you think this is disrespectful?
  2. Do you think Homer captured the personalities of young JFK and Nixon? Were you surprised to learn the two served so close together in the war?
  3. In his history sequence at the front of the novel, Homer calls this a story of love in a time of war. Do you think this story could be considered a love story?
  4. What kinds of love are shown in the novel?
  5. Why do you think Penelope loved Josh Thurlow? Besides love, what did she want from him? Why did Josh not return her love?
  6. What did you think of Penelope? Would you like to have her as a friend?
  7. Why do you think Phimble disliked Kennedy so much?
  8. Do you think Kennedy and Nixon could have been friends? What did they have in common? What was different about them?
  9. Why you think Kennedy felt such guilt over the fate of his sister Rosemary? Why do you think his father had Rosemary lobotomized?
  10. What did Fisheye and the Japanese pilot Ichikawa-san have in common? Do you think they could eventually have been friends? Why or why not?
  11. Did you think Dave ,the megapode added anything to the story? Did you enjoy reading about him?
  12. What did you think of the Coast-watcher Whitman? Was he in any way a sympathetic character?
  13. Who was your favorite character in the novel? Why?
  14. Josh considers Felicity Markham a "plantation bigot." Do you agree with that assessment? What are Felicity's strengths? Her weaknesses?
  15. Was David Armistead's plan to end the war at all realistic? What did you think of him as a character?
  16. Had you heard of cargo cults prior to reading this novel? Why did Joe Gimmee think the way he did? Homer says in the epilog that we're all members of cargo cults, one way or the other. Can you think of an example?
  17. If you had lived in the Solomon Islands during World War II and spent a lifetime building your business, would you have run away when the Japanese invaded? Or would you, like Felicity and Whitman, stayed to fight?
  18. Did you like the way the story ended? How would you have liked it to end?
  19. Did this story have a moral?
  20. Are you interested in Josh Thurlow and want to read more about him? Did you read the first Josh Thurlow book, The Keeper's Son?
...Homer Hickam's Josh Thurlow series will be continued in a third Josh Thurlow book to be named and published in 2006.


Homer Hickam is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Rocket Boys which was made into the acclaimed movie, October Sky. He is also the author of the bestselling The Keeper's Son and many other books including The Coalwood Way and Sky of Stone. He and his wife and cats share their time between homes in Huntsville, Alabama, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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