The Help Discussion Questions

Book Club Thursday is fast approaching! Here are a few discussion questions, straight from the author herself, to get you thinking before our meet up this week!
But before we get to these questions here are a few reminders:
  • This month is Bring A Friend Month. Did you invite someone? Also, remember to RSVP, I’m going early to block off our seats at Paradise.
  • On Thursday one lucky person will win next month’s book, Happy To Be Here by Garrison Keillor.
  • For a chance to win a $10 giftcard to Amazon to buy more books leave a comment and share your reading goal for 2012.
And now, without further ado, the questions:

1. Who was your favorite character? Why?

2. What do you think motivated Hilly? On the one hand she is terribly cruel to Aibileen and her own help, as well as to Skeeter once she realizes that she can’t control her. Yet she’s a wonderful mother. Do you think that one can be a good mother but, at the same time, a deeply flawed person?

3. Like Hilly, Skeeter’s mother is a prime example of someone deeply flawed yet somewhat sympathetic. She seems to care for Skeeter–and she also seems to have very real feelings for Constantine. Yet the ultimatum she gives to Constantine is untenable; and most of her interaction with Skeeter is critical. Do you think Skeeter’s mother is a sympathetic or unsympathetic character? Why?

4. How much of a person’s character would you say is shaped by the times in which they live?

5. Did it bother you that Skeeter is willing to overlook so many of Stuart’s faults so that she can get married, and that it’s not until he literally gets up and walks away that the engagement falls apart?

6. Do you believe that Minny was justified in her distrust of white people?

7. Do you think that had Aibileen stayed working for Miss Elizabeth, that Mae Mobley would have grown up to be racist like her mother? Do you think racism is inherent, or taught?

8. From the perspective of a twenty-first century reader, the hairshellac system that Skeeter undergoes seems ludicrous. Yet women still alter their looks in rather peculiar ways as the definition of “beauty” changes with the times. Looking back on your past, what’s the most ridiculous beauty regimen you ever underwent?

9. The author manages to paint Aibileen with a quiet grace and an aura of wisdom about her. How do you think she does this?

10. Do you think there are still vestiges of racism in relationships where people of color work for people who are white? Have you heard stories of parents who put away their valuable jewelry before their nanny comes? Paradoxically, they trust the person to look after their child but not their diamond rings?

11. What did you think about Minny’s pie for Miss Hilly? Would you have gone as far as Minny did for revenge?


The Help

by Kathryn Stockett

January 12, 2012 @ 7:00pm

Paradise Bakery and Cafe


GwtW discussion questions

Our Gone with the Wind discussion is next Thursday, July 28th. Here are a few questions and topics to get you thinking…

1. How do Gerald and Ellen influence Scarlett’s character? What traits does she inherit from each?

2. In what way does Scarlett represent the Old South and in what way does she represent the New South? How does her transformation reflect the changes the South undergoes during and after the Civil War?

3. Compare and contrast Ashley and Rhett. What cultural attitudes or ways of life do they embody?

4. What role does Melanie play in the novel? How and why does her relationship with Scarlett change over time?

5. How are slavery and black people depicted in Gone with the Wind? Can the novel be labeled racist?

6. What values and lifestyles do Tara and Atlanta represent? How does Scarlett change as a result of her interactions with these two settings?

7. Discuss some of Scarlett’s unscrupulous actions—for instance, her employment of convicts in the mill. How does she justify these actions? How do other characters react to her? Does the narrator judge her, defend her, or remain objective?


Provided the heat doesn’t move us indoors we’ll be meeting at 7:00pm at Geist Park, Fortville. (Be sure to RSVP on facebook so I know to contact you if we move locations.)

May’s meeting seems like so long ago! I’m anxious to get back together and talk about this classic book! Hope you all are having a great summer and staying cool!

Don’t forget to bring a salad to share, as well as your own dishes. I’ll provide drinks.

See you in a week!

Three Cups of Tea Discussion "Tea"sers

I know, I know. That title was a terrible pun, but we seem to have a tea theme this month, so I couldn’t resist. We hope you can join us this Saturday at Tea’s Me Café to discuss Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. 

Here are some questions to get you thinking or to help refresh your memory before we meet. These are taken from the publishers’ website for book clubs:

  1. Relin gives a “warts and all” portrait of Mortenson, showing him as a hero but also as a flawed human being with some exasperating traits. Talk about how Relin chose to write about Mortenson’s character—his choice of details, his perspective, the way he constructs scenes. Is Mortenson someone you’d like to get to know, work with, or have as a neighbor or friend?
  2. At the heart of the book is a powerful but simple political message: we each as individuals have the power to change the world, one cup of tea at a time. Yet the book powerfully dramatizes the obstacles in the way of this philosophy: bloody wars waged by huge armies, prejudice, religious extremism, cultural barriers. What do you think of the “one cup of tea at a time” philosophy? Do you think Mortenson’s vision can work for lasting and meaningful change?
  3. Mortenson’s transition from climbing bum to humanitarian hero seems very abrupt. However, looking back, it’s clear that his sense of mission is rooted in his childhood, the values of his parents, and his relationship with his sister Christa. Discuss the various facets of Mortenson’s character—the freewheeling mountain climber, the ER nurse, the devoted son and brother, and the leader of a humanitarian cause. Do you view him as continuing the work his father began?
  4. The authors write that “the Balti held the key to a kind of uncomplicated happiness that was disappearing in the developing world.” This peaceful simplicity of life seems to be part of what attracts Mortenson to the villagers. Discuss the pros and cons of bringing “civilization” to the mountain community.
  5. Did the book change your views toward Islam or Muslims? Consider the cleric Syed Abbas, and also the cleric who called a fatwa on Mortenson. Syed Abbas implores Americans to “look into our hearts and see that the great majority of us are not terrorists, but good and simple people.” Discuss this statement. Has the book inspired you to learn more about the region?
  6. Have you ever known anyone like Mortenson? Have you ever had the experience of making a difference yourself through acts of generosity, aid, or leadership?
And because those felt a little like what you’d have on an essay test at school (good questions, but still…) here are a few of my own:
  1. Greg found himself in some pretty dangerous situations in the book. Did any of them make you nervous when reading his story?
  2. What stood out to you the most about this book?
  3. Did anything about this book change your views on global politics? Did you learn anything you didn’t know before?
  4. Greg believes education is the key solution to some very complicated problems. What other problems do you think are in need of some creative solutions?
I can’t wait for Saturday! I thoroughly enjoyed last year’s outing. I’m already trying to decide what kind of tea I’ll get this time. Hope to see you all on Saturday at Tea’s Me at 11 a.m.! Until then, Happy Reading!

The Year of Living Biblically Discussion Questions

I hope you’re almost done with this month’s book “The Year of Living Biblically” by A.J. Jacobs. Our meeting is tomorrow night (Thursday) at 7pm at Paradise Bakery at Hamilton Town Center.

I’m including just a few questions as the book provides plenty of fodder for discussion without my help 🙂

1. How did the book end in comparison with your expectations?

2. Did any part of Jacobs’ journey give you pause, or reflection about the way you are currently living, reading the Bible, or your beliefs?

3. Do you feel like Jacobs’ approach to the Bible would be similar to other non-believers or religious people?

4. If you were to pick up the holy text for another religion, how would you go about reading and interpreting it?

5. Which was your favorite strange command that Jacobs practiced or tried out?

6. Would you recommend this book?

(If you can’t make it, but you read the book, pick a question and answer it in the comments! We can join in the discussion on the interwebs. :D)

I’m reading Little Women.

Really, though, I should be done by now. Our meeting is in 2 days, and boy is it going to be a PARTY! The Christmas party is always the best meeting of the year, and so I hope you’re all ready to get your fondue on. AND discuss the book. 1st things first, though–discussion questions!!!

~Which character did you relate to the most?

~Was there any aspect of life in the time of the Little Women that seemed particularly appealing to you?

~If I were to put on a play that I had written, would you rather: fall out of a poorly made castle or get shut up in a cot?

~Miss Louisa May wrote a sequel to this book called Little Men. If you were to write a sequel, what would you call it and what would it be about?

~Do you prefer to dip food in chocolate or drink warm wintry beverages?

I know these questions are hard, so put your thinking cap on and I’ll see you Wednesday! (Don’t forget your used, wrapped book for the gift exchange!)

Discussion Questions: The Basket of Flowers

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this month’s book, The Basket of Flowers. This sweet story is full of morals and lessons that ring true for readers of any age.

Since a Google search didn’t pull up many discussion questions for this book, I decided to put together a few of my own for us to consider as we get ready for our next book club gathering:

  1. What did you enjoy most about this book?
  2. Was there anything you didn’t like about this book?
  3. What lessons does Mary’s father teach her using the flowers of the garden?
  4. What gift does Mary give her friend Amelia? How do the other characters respond to Mary’s gift?
  5. How does Mary respond when she is accused of her crime? Is it consistent with the lessons her father taught her?
  6. What happens to Mary and her father after they leave their home? How do they respond to their hardships?
  7. What news does Amelia bring to Mary when she is in her darkest hour?
  8. What happens to Juliette in the end?
  9. What do you think about the resolution of the story? Is it realistic or unrealistic, fair or unfair?
  10. What are your lasting impressions of this book?

Do you have any questions of your own or any personal reflections about the book you’d like to share? Bring them to our discussion this Thursday at 7 p.m. at Paradise Bakery and Café. Hope to see you there!

Discussion Questions for Frankenstein

Some things to ponder as you read this unusual story from a very eclectic author . . . I am glad my life is a bit (OK a lot)  less dramatic than Shelley’s!

By the way, I think these are pretty good questions . . . they even make you think if you haven’t read the book (which is my current situation!)

  1. Is Robert Walton’s ambition similar to Frankenstein’s, as Frankenstein believes?
  2. Why is the fifteen-year-old Frankenstein so impressed with the oak tree destroyed by lightning in a thunderstorm?
  3. Why does Frankenstein become obsessed with creating life? Was it wrong for Frankenstein to inquire into the origins of life?
  4. Why is Frankenstein filled with disgust, calling the monster "my enemy," as soon as he has created him?
  5. What makes the creature a monster rather than a human being?
  6. Why did Victor create the creature? What responsibilities did Victor, as the creator, have toward his creature? Why did Victor abandon the creature?
  7. What does the monster think his creator owes him?
  8. Why does Frankenstein agree to create a bride for the monster, then procrastinate and finally break his promise?
  9. Why can’t Frankenstein tell anyoneeven his father or Elizabethwhy he blames himself for the deaths of William, Justine, and Henry Clerval?
  10. Why doesn’t Frankenstein realize that the monster’s pledge "I shall be with you on your wedding-night" threatens Elizabeth as well as himself?
  11. Why does Frankenstein find new purpose in life when he decides to seek revenge on the monster "until he or I shall perish in mortal conflict"?
  12. Why are Frankenstein and his monster both ultimately miserable, bereft of human companionship, and obsessed with revenge? Are they in the same situation at the end of the novel?
  13. Why doesn’t Walton kill the monster when he has the chance?
  14. One of the novel’s tragedies is the inability of characters to recognize the humanity of the creature. What qualities make us human? Which of these qualities does the creature possess? What qualities does he not have?
  15. Is the monster, who can be persuasive, always telling the truth?
  16. Who is the actual monster in Frankenstein?
  17. Victor warns Robert that acquiring knowledge can lead to "destruction and infallible misery." What serious consequences might the acquisition of knowledge have?
  18. Scholars sometimes use Frankenstein as an argument against scientific technology that creates life forms; others argue that it is not technology itself but the use to which it is put that presents an ethical problem. What is Shelley’s position? What is your position?

Mansfield Park discussion questions

1. Fanny sits and waits often in this book, explain how her time of sitting in the heat at the Rushworth’s estate, while the other characters come and go around her epitomizes the entire plot of the book.

2. Does Fanny Price remind you of Cinderella? Why?

3. Is there any comedy in Mansfield Park? When? Are there any comedic characters?

4. What makes Edmond more interested in Mary Crawford when Fanny is right there all along?

5. How are Lady Bertram, Mrs. Norris, and Mrs. Price and Maria, Julia and Fanny similar?

6. Of all the Jane Austen books you’ve read how did this one compare?

Hope you enjoyed the book! See you Monday night!

Discussion Questions: Cry, The Beloved Country

Hey ladies! Here are some questions to get your mind rolling on our upcoming discussion of Cry, The Beloved Country. It’s not that we expect you to know the answers to all of these questions; it’s that more perspectives enrich the conversation.

Monday, August 16th. Paradise Bakery, Hamilton Town Center. 7pm. See you there!

*This book traces how the loss of faith, the breakdown of the family concept and
communication between people leads to moral breakdowns and a complexity of problems. Note the particulars of these losses and those breakdowns.

*In one or two sentences articulate the theme of this novel, a theme that is universal applying to all people at all times of history.

*What is Alan Paton’s greatest concern in this novel? How does he define racial reconciliation?

*The opening poetic scenes of the novel introduce beauty and ugliness. How does this
foreshadow themes?

*The concept of fear is found on almost every page. In what way does this contribute to the story? What is Paton’s spiritual answer to the problem of fear in Book III?

*What does the main character Stephen Kumalo have to learn? How does he change?” What
does he do that shows you his dark places? What role does Msimangu play in Stephen’s spiritual progress?

(I took these questions from the Moody Radio Book Club Discussion Questions for Cry, The Beloved Country. )

Shane Discussion Questions

Sorry for a bit of a delay getting these to you. Here are a few questions to get your wheels turning for our Monday night meeting…

According to this book what is a real man? Both Joe and Shane are heros to Bob; how are they different?

What is Shane’s role in Bob’s development as a man?

How is Shane dangerous, but not dangers to Bob and his family?

Why does Shane allow Chris to make fun of him when they meet at the bar?

What prompts Chris’s change of heart at the end of the book?

How would you define the relationship between Marian and Shane?

How do you think Joe would have handled the situation with Fletcher if Shane had not come along?

As you read through the book, what are the signs that this is a Christ-type, both general and specific? For example: General would mean his helping quality and integrity. Specific would mean that he helped Joe eradicate the stump (the symbol of evil that Joe could not get rid of by himself).

Why does Shane say Miram’s pie is the best stump he’s ever tasted?

Think about the way the story is told—the viewpoint of both the adult Bob looking back on his childhood interspersed with the child’s point of view? What difference does this make to the telling of the story? Why is this a good choice of viewpoint?

How old do you think Bob was while Shane stayed with them?

How is the woman character treated in this book compared to other westerns you have read or seen on film?

How does Jack Schaefer build tension in the book?

What does the fence post Shane put in that Joe can’t move symbolize?

Where do you think Shane came from? and where is he going?

For such a small, short book Shane is packed full of great things to discuss!