The Hitman of Avenue U > Reading Group Guide
Suggested Questions for Discussion
- The Hitman of Avenue U is about George Mancuso, a workingman who is searching for justice in a world that has grown more and more alien to him. After spending thirty years of his life working for the New York Globe, he suddenly finds himself unemployed and unable to find another job. Can you identify with George and understand the frustration and despair he feels? Have you ever been, or do you know anyone who has been, in George's situation?
- The story takes place on a November day in 1981, soon after Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president, promising to bring the country out of its economic malaise. Do you remember those times or know anyone who lived through them? Did you find that the description of them in George's story reminded you of times you have lived through?
- Desperate after his long and futile search, George reluctantly decides to accept the offer of his childhood friend and now Mafia boss, Big Nick Lombardi, and become one of his hitmen. Big Nick says that George's age and unassuming appearance give him the perfect cover. Can you understand why George agrees to work for Big Nick?
- The book follows George through the day that he picks out the gun he will be using in his new trade. Just having it with him gives him a confidence he hasn't felt for years. Have you ever had something that gave you confidence when you were down? What was it? And do you still rely on it?
- As the day passes, we learn more about George, his early years, his years on his job, his hopes and dreams. Have you shared any of his experiences? Were you moved by them?
- We also learn about George's wife, Alice. We discover how they met and what their life together is like. What do you think of their marriage? How do you feel about Alice?
- The first adventure George has after picking up the gun is to be the victim of a confidence scam. Were you surprised by how he got out of it? Have you ever been approached by people like that? How did you react?
- Despite the fact that he has the gun and is scheduled to be sworn into Nick's "family" that evening, George continues to look for a legitimate job. How did you feel about the way employers reacted to his phone calls?
- What did you think of George's reaction when the bar he drops into is suddenly robbed by a gunman? Did it surprise you? Why or why not?
- In the bar, George meets Cathy, an attractive woman who is also down on her luck. When she asks him to see her home, he is reluctant to do so but is too inexperienced to know how to get out of it. How do you feel about what followed?
- Later in the day, George spots his nemesis, Jack Warren, the executive who kept George back all those years and is responsible for the dire situation George is in now. George begins to follow him, determined to kill him. As George follows Warren, we learn a great deal more about their relationship, and also about the corporate workings and underbelly of a New York City tabloid. Did any of the revelations surprise you? What have your experiences been in the corporate world?
- Along the way, as he follows Warren, George meets an Evangelist, a songwriter, and a blind man. What does his interaction with these people tell you about George?
- When George and Warren are at last face-to-face in Warren's home, did you expect Warren to treat George the way hid did? Why or why not?
- What do you think of the way George gets his revenge?
- How do you feel about George's meeting with Big Nick, and the way George's momentous day ends?
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