"The Night Visitors" Book Discussion and Almond Cupcakes Recipe

Updated on April 16, 2019
Amanda Leitch profile image

I wish to inspire readers, teachers, and book clubs to bake along with their reading and promote discussion about the books we've enjoyed.

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Alice and Oren are on the run from Davis, their abuser. Oren is ten loves Star Wars and has a strange ability to know things he couldn’t, which he explains away with the Force. Alice grew up in foster homes and just wants a better, safer life than that, for herself and the boy.

Mattie is the case worker who picks them up from the bus stop, before taking them to shelter at a convent. But an impending winter storm will unleash secrets everyone has been keeping, and danger will find them in the night.

The Night Visitors is another riveting suspenseful thriller by the brilliant Carol Goodman, “a story about a father and a son and mistaken identities and missed chances and vengeance…” with elements of justice, mythology, and the overarching questions of what is the truth, and what truly defines justice for victims? Perfect for a stormy winter evening read, or for anyone who loves a good murder mystery, even if it’s unveiled decades later.

Perfect for fans of

  • Suspense/thrillers
  • The Widow’s House or The Other Mother by Carol Goodman
  • Books by Jennifer McMahon
  • The Widow or The Child by Fiona Barton
  • Psychological thrillers
  • Supernatural elements

Discussion Questions

  1. Doreen may be the best at talking people down, but Mattie says that “Sister Martine is the best listener I’ve ever met.” Why does Mattie trust her so much? How does Alice come to trust her as well, in the end?

  2. What are some of the things Oren just knows that he couldn’t or shouldn’t? How do you think that is possible? Why does he explain it all away with “using the Force”?

  3. What is some of the advice you picked up on that Mattie shares, whether about dealing with abusers, or domestic abuse victims, or those who are at risk for suicide?

  4. How did Caleb really die? What was the whole story with him and Mattie’s parents that day?

  5. Do you think Mattie could have done anything to help Frank, or save Caleb, by being honest with Frank? What clues would you use as evidence?

  6. What are some of the ways that Alice talks to Oren, or things she says or thinks, that aren’t typical of a mother? Why does she do them?

  7. Who in this novel tried to “run away from justice”? How did it get them in the end?

  8. Why do ““Men like that guard and Davis feed on the powerlessness of women and children..”?

  9. What role did Alice’s past in foster homes play, in her circumstances and her personality?

  10. Who were the “Furies of vengeance” who became the “Kindly ones”? What role did mythology and constellations play in this novel?

  11. Is it okay, as Oren asked, to feel bad for someone who was bad? Why? About whom was he asking?

The Recipe

Oren got Alice a hot coffee and a donut when they began their journey upstate. Later, at the convenience store, Mattie bought a few bear claws from Atefeh, when there was an incident with a hunter.

Bear claws are pastry-style donuts with almond flavoring, an almond paste center, and typically topped with sliced almonds. To represent this in a cupcake form (which bakes much faster), I created a recipe for an almond cupcake with an almond paste center, almond frosting, and topped with an almond.

Almond "Bearclaw" Cupcakes with Almond Frosting

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Ingredients

For the Cupcakes:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whole, 2%, or coconut milk or heavy cream, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 6 teaspoons almond paste

For the frosting:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 tbsp almond paste
  • 3 tbsp whole milk or heavy cream
  • 2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 14-16 whole or sliced almonds, for garnish, optional
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Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325° F. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder. In a stand mixer on medium speed, beat one softened stick of butter with the granulated sugar until smooth, about 2 minutes. Drop the speed to low, add the sour cream and milk, then slowly add one third of the dry ingredients to the bowl, then add the tsp each of almond and pure vanilla extract. Add another third of the dry ingredients, and if you see them sticking to the side of the bowl, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add in the last of the dry ingredients, and increase the speed to medium. Then add the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners.
  2. Drop a heaping tablespoon of batter into the bottom of each cupcake liner. Then drop half a teaspoon (or more, if you love almond paste) of almond paste on top near the center. Then top with another heaping teaspoon of batter and fill each with tin two-thirds full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out with crumbs, not raw batter. Allow the individual cupcakes to cool completely on a wire rack or cutting board before frosting them. Makes 14-16 cupcakes.
  3. For the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, combine one stick of softened butter with the remaining tablespoon of almond paste on medium-high speed for one minute. Then drop the speed to low and add one cup of powdered sugar, followed by half of the milk or cream, and the vanilla and almond extracts. Slowly add the remaining two cups of powdered sugar, still on low. When there is no loose powder left, increase the speed to medium-high for one minute, until frosting looks thick and whipped. Garnish with whole or sliced almonds, if desired.

Almond "Bearclaw" Cupcakes with Almond Frosting

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Rate the Recipe

5 stars from 3 ratings of Almond "Bearclaw" Cupcakes with Almond Frosting

Similar Books

Other books by Carol Goodman most similar to this one include The Widow’s House, The Other Mother, Arcadia Falls, The Ghost Orchid, or The Drowning Tree, though she has published several more.

For a book filled with Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology stories that is easy to read at any age, try Edith Hamilton’s bestseller Mythology.

Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple books are also mentioned within this one. They are a series of British mysteries.

References to Stephen King’s The Shining are also made several times, with Oren and the maze, and the way he just knows things.

The Distant Hours, The Lake House, and The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton all contain ghostly elements, untold stories, suspense, and tragedies, some involving children or families, and all are written in a style that is nearly impossible to stop reading.

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld is about a girl who disappeared in the forests of the Pacific Northwest three years ago, and a private investigator who is the parent’s last chance to find out what happened to her.

Promise Not to Tell, Don’t Breathe a Word, The Invited, or The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon are all fast-paced, clever psychological thrillers involving children and/or mothers, as well as family secrets uncovered, a bit of the supernatural or mysterious, and creepy old houses filled with mysteries.

The Child Next Door by Shalini Boland is about a mother who hears something unsettling on her baby monitor one night and believes one of her neighbors may be trying to kidnap her infant, so she seeks to uncover her neighbor’s secrets.

The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald is “a suspenseful and heart-wrenching tale of hidden relationships, devastating lies, and the power of a mother’s love.” A mother’s teenage daughter falls of a bridge and is declared brain-dead. But she’s pregnant. And there are bruises on her wrists. Her mother seeks to find the answers.

Notable Quotes

“No one should have to sit alone in the night with the things we have to hear.”

“Why aren’t we supposed to confront the attacker? Because it will escalate the conflict and ultimately make things worse for the victim.”

“I’ve seen men like this before, men who have to make someone else feel small so they don’t.”

“This is why we were leaving Davis: so we could take pleasure in ordinary things again without the fear of his tantrums hovering over us.”

“[if you think a person is suicidal] You’re supposed to reflect back on the ‘invitations’ they have provided (I hear that you’re feeling hopeless and you’ve expressed a lot of negative feelings about yourself…) and then ask them directly, ‘Are you thinking about suicide?’ You’re not supposed to say ‘You’re not thinking about saying anything stupid, are you?’”

“...we’re all responsible for our actions. There’s no running away from justice.”

“The image of us all stuck behind the walls—literally stuck in the walls—haunted me...it feels like we’re inside the walls of this old house, where the mice crawl and the ghosts dwell.”

“Men like that guard and Davis feed on the powerlessness of women and children because they need to feel better than someone else. Someone made them feel weak once, and the only way they can make that feeling go away is by hurting a weaker person.”

"We all of us have good and bad inside. And the bad parts...likely they got there through something bad that happened to that person. That's not an excuse not to try to be your best...but it can help you to understand and forgive the people who are mean to you."

"It changed my life. It wasn't just the handout that did it. It was...someone believing in you."

© 2019 Amanda Leitch

Comments

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    • Shawindi Silva profile image

      Shawindi Silva 

      6 months ago from Sri lanka

      Great !!!

    • profile image

      Naude Lorenzo 

      6 months ago

      Tow favorites, suspense stories and almonds on cup cakes, perfect combination for a good week end, thanks Amanda

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