Discuss the Book: Questions for Book Clubs

 Prologue and Chapter One: Where We Are

  1. The Prologue and Chapter One introduce most of the main elements of the book: the Bible; the women in the Bible Study; the Lydia Roper Home itself and a little of its history; and the mystery of Lydia Roper. Which of these do you find most interesting, and why?
  2. This is a short chapter, yet four buildings are mentioned—the old building where the author lives; the Lydia Roper Home; two Methodist churches. Why so many?   Do you think they are important? Why and how?
  3. At the end of Chapter One, do you have a clear sense of where the book is going, of what’s coming next? What keeps you reading?

unnamed (1)Chapter Two: Settling In

  1. Chapter Two’s full title is “Gathering: Settling In.” In what ways do the author and the women at Lydia Roper settle in?
  2.  Which of the women is your favorite so far? Why?
  3. The chapter includes four different discussions of Scripture: Kate’s question about Jesus and the Gentlies; the Prodigal Son; the angel’s repeated, “Do not be afraid”; and the woman with the alabaster jar. Which discussion did you find most interesting? Which gives you the most new ways of thinking about the Bible?
  4. Why does the author include the business with the microphone? What does it add to the main story and ideas?

Chapter Three: How We Got Here

  1. What do you find out about the author in this chapter: do you get to know her better? Do you like her?
  2.  Did you know about the two creation stories in Genesis? If so, did you learn anything new about them?  If not, what was your reaction?
  3. There is a long section in this chapter on names and naming. How does that relate to the main idea of beginnings?
  4.  Discuss the unconventional ideas about Eve and the “Fall.”  The author says that story isn’t about sin and punishment; what does she think it is about and how might that be the same as what is happening to her and to the women in the Bible Study?
  5. In this chapter we get our first substantial look at the Roper family. What are your first impressions and feelings? What does the author feel about this family? How do her feelings color the narrative?

Chapter Four: The Stories We Tell

  1. Why is it so important to the author to find “stories” about Lydia Roper? Why don’t the facts tell her all she needs to know?
  2. Remember some of the stories told about you, or someone in your family. Are they important? Why?
  3. At one point,  the author suddenly steps in to say she’s forgotten to talk about Mary Magdalene. She then tells the reader her plans for changing the schedule. Is this bit of “schoolteacher” talk a distraction? Does it serve a purpose?
  4. Kate pops up with one of her questions—a hard one: what does it mean to be saved? Whose answer do you prefer: the Baptist preacher’s or the Episcopal priest’s? Why?
  5. Do you agree with the author, or with the author’s friend, about asking “disturbing” personal questions of women in their nineties?
  6. What do you think about the process of scriptural reading called lectio divina? Have you ever tried it? Would you like to?
  7. Why do you think the author writes so much about Cora Mae?
  8. Describe the 1894 album edited by Margaret Roper. Why is it so exciting to the author?

                                                        unnamed (2)                                          unnamed (3)                                              unnamed (4)

Chapters Five through Eight: The Ladies

  1. The next four chapters are much shorter and focused than Chapters One through Four. Do you find this sudden shift confusing or an interesting break from the previous longer chapters?
  2.  Now that you’re learning a little more about the women in the Bible Study, which of them do you like the best? About which do you have the most questions?
  3. In these chapters, the author places the three photographers she has found of Lydia so far: a picture of a very young girl, no more than fifteen; a photograph of Lydia at around eighty (both hang in Molly’s house in Lynchburg); and a family portrait of Lydia, John, their son, William, and his baby daughter, Elizabeth, taken in 1900. Lydia would have been sixty, John sixty-five.  Why does the author choose to put those photographs into these chapters?
  4. The women are telling their own stories here. Do you always believe they are telling the whole truth? Which of the women do you think might be embellishing or glossing over a bit? What impact might that have on your reading of other stories in the book?
  5. What are some possible ways of understanding the line, “So many of the women need calling back”?

Chapter Nine: The Houses We Build

  1. What would you say all these places have in common: The Lydia Roper Home; houses Captain Roger built for his family; the house the author’s parents built; the Ark of the Covenant; the Tabernacle; the Jerusalem Temple; the Humana Tower; Robert Frost’s “Wall”; an Anchorage; the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters; and the inn where Joseph and Mary found no room?
  2. What do you think the author means when she writes, “I know that our relationship to those places we inhabit and leave and search for is the informing metaphor of the spiritual life in any tradition and is, in fact, the governing reality in our lives”?
  3. What purpose is served by including a paragraph like the following:“I spent eight months of 2013 as a resident of the Lydia Roper Home. I know every room, every hallway, every plumbing problem, every furnace crisis; I stood in the community bathroom on the second floor and covered my ears against the shrieking of the alarm during fire drills. I sat in the hallway outside the dining room, waiting for someone to sound the chime. I waited to be handed my medications by the technician on duty. I put my laundry outside my door”

Chapter Ten: Just Another Wednesday

  1. This chapter opens with an echo of the first paragraph in the book. Did you recognize the wording right away? There are obvious differences between the two paragraphs: what are they and what impact do they have on your understanding of the book as this final chapter begins?
  2. Are the two personal photographs effective?
  3. What are some of the changes the author describes both in the Bible Study and in other areas?
  4. In the Scriptures, this chapter focuses on the Acts of the Apostles and Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, and on the two luminaries, Peter and Paul. What changes have occurred in the biblical story since the end of the three Synoptic Gospels?
  5. Does the author like Paul? How can you tell? Do the ladies in the Bible Study like Paul?

Epilogue: “There’s Some Questions Got Answers and Some Haven’t”

Chapter Ten ends in the middle of things. Although there have been changes, the chapter looks forward to a continuation of the Bible Study. List three or four things that the Epilogue adds to the book’s end.

Thoughts After the Last Curtain: Where We Go from Here

These “Thoughts” propose a sequel to Looking for Lydia; Looking for God. What, specifically, might this sequel have to offer and is it something you might be interested in reading?