These questions are intended to be helpful to book groups – or for any reader to reflect upon.
- In what ways is Avis and Idella's relationship an accurate portrayal of sibling rivalry and affection? Of Idella and Avis, which did you identify or empathize with more and why?
- Was Bill Hillock a good father? Pick an incident in the novel that supports your opinion.
- Discuss the male characters in the novel. What similarities, if any, do you see in their personalities or behaviors? Are there any recurring themes within the relationships – romantic and otherwise – that Avis and Idella have with these men?
- What happened to Avis and Idella's mother? On p. 18, Mrs. Jaegel and Mrs. Pettigrew discuss how the doctor threw a packet of pills in the fire after Emma Hillock gave birth. Why is this significant?
- Avis's green dress from Aunt Francie "never got worn, not even once" (p. 118). Why didn't Avis ever wear this dress? Why did she react to Idella's dress in the way that she did?
- What happens to Fred's car? How does he react? Did Avis and Idella treat him fairly?
- Does Eddie love Idella? Do they have a strong marriage? Is a strong marriage the same thing as a happy one?
- Pick your favorite chapter from the book. If you were going to make a movie of it, who would you cast and why?
- On p. 299, Idella refers to “the rumors” about Avis's relationship with her father. What does she mean? What is Avis's response?
- How did Avis and Idella change through the course of the book? Look at their personalities and their relationship with each other both as children and as elderly women. Did their lives turn out at as you – or they – expected?
- How would you compare your family to either the Hillocks or the Jensens?