A note from the author ~ Discussion questions are for readers, usually book clubs, who’ve read the book.
If you haven’t read the book, the discussion questions below may contain plot spoilers.
- The accident that claims the lives of Rosanna and Benny Keim creates a ripple effect in their children’s lives with potentially devastating results. Do you believe Jolene softened the blow of that tragedy for her siblings? As time passes, it’s apparent that she’s failed her brother Ray in several ways. Was her sacrifice of giving up her future with Van worth it, or did her failures cause you to feel she should have let her siblings live with older and wiser relatives?
- Describe Jolene. What is her greatest strength? her greatest weakness? Do you believe her relationship with Van has defined her life?
- When Josiah says, “Maybe we were given life and are in this family for their sakes,” he is referring to his siblings, and this becomes the foundation of Jolene’s decision to keep the family together. What do you think Josiah meant by his statement?
- Andy’s situation as a grass widower, a married man whose wife has abandoned her marriage and family, is more uncommon in Plain communities than in the Englischer world. The Old Order Amish don’t condone divorce in such a situation. How do you view their position? If you were in Andy’s shoes, how do you think you would react?
- Jolene has an unusual friendship with Lester Fisher, a man who is difficult to get along with and is on unsteady terms with his immediate family. Why do you think Lester allows Jolene to use his attic for her painting, especially since it goes against the bishop’s edict about creating art? Do you have any Lesters in your life? What are some of the positive and negative effects of the relationship?
- Using a metaphor from horse training, Andy encourages Jolene to take back her ground. What did you think about Andy’s advice to Jolene? Wise or intrusive? Is there an area in your life where you should apply Andy’s advice?
- When Jolene confronts Van with her long-buried hurt feelings, he then realizes his own offenses. How might you approach a similar situation where you have unresolved issues from the past? Have you found yourself in Van’s position, having caused hurts and offenses you were unaware of? What did you do when you realized it?
- Ray Keim feels powerless and useless to others, and much of his emotional distress stems from a childhood memory he doesn’t really understand. As someone with challenges, is Ray responsible for his actions? What could Jolene have done differently to help him feel comfortable in his own skin?
- Do you think Andy and Jolene were being reasonable to try to work together as friends even after she understood Andy was married and she was interested in him? Were they playing with fire?
- How did you feel about Preacher Glen and his friendship with Jolene? Since he is a widower with young children, do you think his pursuit of someone as guarded as Jolene was wise? How do you think he felt when he found out about her painting?
- Jolene’s father gave his wife a dogwood tree when they married, and although the original tree hasn’t survived, Jolene has grown new trees from the original cuttings, one for each of her siblings and a couple for gifts. What do you think the dogwood trees represent for Jolene? What does it mean to Andy when he receives one from her?
- Andy and Jolene make the hard decision to cut ties, believing God’s plan for their lives is separate paths and trusting in His comfort. Have you had to make a similar choice at some point, where trusting God was hard but necessary to follow the path ahead? What was the result?