Marty Thompson Arnold

Website for "Raised In Captivity" Novel

Author: Marty Thompson Arnold

Book Club Discussion Questions

  1. Why is the significance of the title, Raised in Captivity? In what ways are the human characters “captives?” Do you think events in the story lead to their liberation?
  2. When we first meet Caroline she seems crippled by her need to please others. Her friend Bella calls her “a prim little kiss-ass.” Is this a fair assessment? Do the events of the story change her?
  3. Caroline’s defense of Ridge Park Zoo and Iris’ defense of her land put them at odds. When did things begin to change? Was there a turning point ?
  4. Caroline and Iris are separated by at least a generation. Does this explain their divergent worldview, or is there something else at play?
  5. What role does the elephant Princess or “Judy” play? Why was the flashback to the circus included?
  6. Why was the short scene of the intern “Matt” talking about his work with piping plovers included in the book?
  7. Several characters–Victor, Chappy, Dr. Peter, Kirby, Julie, Donna and Neil–play supporting roles. Which of them were the most interesting to you?  Did any of them deserve a larger role?
  8. Sarah, “the bimbo” plays a small, but pivotal part. Did you find her believable or merely a stereotype? Was the change in her character believable?
  9. As Caroline becomes more invested in the zoo how does she change? How were those changes made apparent?
  10. What roles do Kirby and Bella play in the story? Were you surprised by the ending?
  11. If the author wrote a prequel or a sequel to Raised in Captivity what should happen?
  12. Five of Iris’ Sunday columns are scattered throughout the narrative. Did they enhance the narrative, or detract from it for you?
  13. What is Rafael’s role? What is the significance of his conversation about stones with the toddler Iris in the final scene?
  14. The author presents a distinct point of view on modern, well-run zoos. What is it? Do you agree? What, if anything, influenced your own thinking about the value of zoos?

Is there a question you’d like the author to answer? Send her a message.

Author’s Bookshelf

I am an avid reader with many books to recommend. But here, I have chosen a few that relate in very different ways to Raised in Captivity. You may consider them “further reading.” Most of my reviews are posted on Good Reads. (

Voyageurs, by Margaret Elphinstone

As a Great Lake history fan, this book set in 1811 Michigan was tailor-made. Elphinstone takes us into a “wilderness” teaming with Indian villages, trails, trading posts and forts.

** spoiler alert ** Her fictional story of lost love and harrowing rescue fell short of the mark for me, however. (The central question: What happened to Rachel? was never fully developed and the male protagonist’s hot romance fizzled.)

Still, I was deeply affected by the sympathetic characters and a time and place more often relegated to an historical footnote.


If you would like to know more about why your garden should be filled with native plants read this amazing book.

Bringing Nature Home: How Native plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens by Doug Tallamy

Just as Americans in the ’40s planted Victory Gardens for the war effort, Doug Tallamy exhorts us to plant native gardens to restore biodiversity and halt the degradation of our planet. Beautifully written and scrupulously researched, Bringing Nature Home is one of those once-in-a-generation books that will change the way you live in the world. If Rachel Carson were alive today, she would have written this book. It is, quite simply, a prayer for our time.


Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver

I love many books. But beyond mere love, there is a tiny handful I wish I had written. Prodigal Summer is one of THOSE. I admit it; I love this book covetously.

There’s so much more I could say about this book. It is really three love stories interwoven with lots of fascinating information about nature and biology that just resonates with me. (And it is sexier than I dare to write.)


Thoughts on “Home”

I’m crazy in love with West Michigan, but I think wherever I made my home I would find something to love about it. As much as anything, Raised in Captivity reflects my fascination with the immediate world around me, what happened before I arrived and how a sense of place shapes the people who live there.

When I returned to Michigan from Chicago shortly after my son Sam was born, I was disappointed not to be moving back to my hometown of Kalamazoo. Since I considered it to be the center of the universe, whenever I was somewhere else I felt a little off-center.

Two sets of my great-great grandparents lived just north of Kalamazoo along a 48-mile long, wooden “plank road” that connected Grand Rapids to the outside world in 1850. One of them, Asa Harding Stoddard, was dubbed “The Farmer Poet.” (Yes, I borrowed his last name for Caroline’s “love interest.”) He wrote many poems, but the one I love best is a satire about the sorry state of the plank road by the 1868. It begins . . .

                            Did you ever, friend or stranger,
                            Let me ask you free and frank,
                            Brave the peril, dare the danger,
                            Of a journey on the Plank?  

I spent my first year in Grand Rapids researching this road and turning what I found into a feature article for the Grand Rapids Press’ “Wonderland Magazine” in May of 1982.  I later edited it for the Kalamazoo Gazette. Eventually, I led at least a dozen bus tours along this historic route, pointing our toll houses and other historic landmarks.

When I look back on that project, I realize it was so clearly my way of coping with my change of venue, of finding a connection—in this case a very physical one—between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids. It worked like a charm and I have grown as fond of my adopted home as I ever was of my hometown.

Wherever I go I need to feel rooted. I’m not sure everyone feels this way. But I know that if I had grown up in Montana or New York or even on a different street in Kalamazoo, I would be a completely different person. I think Raised in Captivity and its strong sense of place reflects that part of my personality.

The literature teacher in me might even go so far as to say that setting is a character in Raised in Captivity. In this sense I am a lot like Iris who is deeply attached to Willow Creek Farm. In Chapter 2, Iris, now a widow, contemplates this connection:

“Bill had been right—the farm was withering away. But Iris was unable to think of it as anything less
than an ailing family member in need of care. This land had raised her as much as her parents had.
Now, with Bill gone and the family scattered, the land had no one but her.”

At the beginning of the book, Caroline appears less anchored than Iris. (That may be part of her problem.) But things change drastically for her when she meets Neil. In the end, both Caroline and Iris take heavy risks to protect their home turf.

What role does your hometown, or your current place of residence play in your life? I’d love to hear your story.

About the Illustrations

I started making a few pencil drawings for Raised in Captivity because I thought some readers might need help picturing an oryx or a black-foot ferret. One thing led to another and soon I had a book full of illustrations. Drawing was a much needed respite from the task of polishing my book.

I started with pencil  or pen and ink, then finished up on in InDesign on the computer. The computer is a very forgiving medium and I was able to push and pull the images until, for the most part, I got them the way I wanted them.

The hardest drawing was the map of Saskawan. It is the result of many false starts. I wanted it to be symbolic of an island of trees in a sea of urban sprawl, but also provide a way to orient readers and illustrate (very literally) the area’s importance to the city.

Was it helpful to you as a reader? Send me a comment.


Writing the Love Scene (Oy!)

My short, PG-13 make-out scene between Caroline and Neil in Chapter 31 (“What Makes the Heart Sing”) was one of the strangest writing assignments I’ve ever taken on. My husband was all for a quick home-run for Neil on this their first real date. But I felt compelled to defended Caroline’s honor, because: A: she would have been way too nervous for open air love-making, and B. I don’t think I could write it – at least not for an audience.

This was confirmed when my 30-something daughter, Leah Arnold-Redman, read a draft of the book a couple of years ago. Here’s what she said,

“Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. It’s appropriate that Mother’s Day is today though because in the wee hours of this morning I finished your book! I laughed, I certainly cried and I loved more than anything getting a very special insight into your wonderful brain. Despite the horror of having to read a sex scene written by my mother, I enjoyed it very much. For the last 1/4 I could not put it down.”

“Horror,” she said. Horror! Honestly, I don’t know how other authors write steamy love scenes? (Do they not have children?)