The Fortunes of Ruby White - Book Club Questions 


  • At first, Ruby is sceptical of the Empire and its products, but gradually she seems to believe in them. What events point to a change in Ruby’s behaviour towards the Empire? 
  • On their disastrous rooftop date, Ruby defends the Empire’s motives to Damien, telling him that if what the Empire offers is hope, then “what’s the harm?”  Do you agree?
  • Soon after joining the Empire, Ruby begins to have visions, an ability she does not enjoy.  How different could her path have been within the Empire if she had welcomed them instead? Do you think she would have used them to further the Empire’s cause, or for her own benefit? 
  • At the Expo, Ruby oversteps her position by giving a customer a reading. Do you believe she had a choice?
  • Why do you think Ruby began to have visions? Was the timing a combination of factors, or mere coincidence?
  • Do the good behaviours the Empire brings out in Ruby (e.g. yoga, healthy eating, serenity) outweigh the bad (e.g. losing her personality)?
  • Ruby is so desperate not to lose her job that she represses herself in order to fit in. Is this normal behaviour? 
  • When does Ruby begin to believe her own hype within the Empire, and why?
  • It takes a colossal mistake for Ruby to realise what she’s turned into; do you think Anise can forgive her, and is it justified?
  • If Ruby had actually gotten a hobby instead, what would you have recommended?

The Empire

  • There are several ominous notes which hint at the Empire’s darker side; which ones did you pick up on? 
  • The Empire prefers its employees to “keep their thinking inside the box” – why do you think this is, and how does the Empire keep staff members in line?  (Bonus points if you picked the fact that all of the upper-Level food is low-carbohydrate to keep energy levels low and complicity high.)
  • What are some of the techniques the Empire uses to induce Ruby’s loyalty?
  • Why do you think Mr Petrie and Jaasmyn focus on Ruby, as opposed to DeDe?
  • At the Expo, Fleur points out some of the features the Empire uses to boost sales. Are these features inherently manipulative, or typical of most retail businesses?
  • Do you think there is merit in any of the Empire’s merchandise or services, or is it all snake oil?
  • A cult can be defined as “...a group or movement exhibiting an excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea or thing and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control (e.g. isolation from former friends and family, debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, powerful group pressures, information management, suspension of individuality or critical judgment, promotion of total dependency on the group and fear of [consequences of] leaving it, etc.) designed to advance the goals of the group's leaders to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community.[1]”  By this definition, is the Empire a cult?
  • Death is not an option: tea-packing or wristband-plaiting?


  • Many people close to Jaasmyn witness her private tantrums yet never appear to blame or resent her for them; why do you think that is?
  • How much does Jaasmyn rely on her looks to get her way?
  • What is the nature of the relationship between Jaasmyn and Mr Petrie, and does it foreshadow his behaviour when the Empire collapses?
  • During her private reading with Mr Huiy, does Jaasmyn actually say anything specific or is it all based on cold reading techniques? If it’s the latter, how many tricks did you find?
  • Do you think Jaasmyn actually believes the Empire’s philosophies? 


  • Do you think Anise would have confided in Ruby earlier if she hadn’t been working with the Empire?
  • Is Siobhan actually evil, or just humourless?
  • What familial traits do the Johanssens share, if any?

Other characters

  • What’s Mr Petrie’s true attitude towards the Empire?
  • Was there anything Pam and Charles could have done to prevent Ruby falling under the Empire’s spell, or would all attempts have only alienated her further?
  • Are there any hints early on that DeDe is not what she seems?
  • Why do you think Damien does not give up on Ruby?
  • Why do you think Shaun believes Ruby is not fully committed to the Empire?  Is she right to be upset by his comments?


  • Did Zelda’s fortune from Anise’s party turn out to actually be correct?
  • To what degree is it considered normal to repress your personality to fit in at work?
  • How much will people forgive someone who’s attractive, as opposed to their more pedestrian counterparts?
  • So, is it ‘pirate whores’ or ‘pirate wenches’?

[1] West, L. J., & Langone, M. D. (1985). Cultism: A conference for scholars and policy makers. Summary of proceedings of the Wingspread conference on cultism, September 9–11. Weston, MA: American Family Foundation.