Questions for Reading Group Discussions
1. When Emy asked various readers which scene struck them the most, was most memorable, or evoked the most response, many responded “the part at the cemetery.” Why do you think this is so? How did family cemetery visits impact you as a child? Did this change as you grew?
2. Baptism is a central theme in the book. But the author never describes her own literal baptism. Do you think this is intentional? What other, figurative “baptisms” did she undergo through the course of the memoir? What have been some of your non-literal “baptisms.” (Most of them probably had nothing to do with church, or religion.) Did these events strengthen your faith in something or someone, when you emerged? Or did they make you more cynical?
3. Describe Emy’s relationship with her sister, Meg. What role did they play in each other’s lives?
4. Despite her quest to avoid materialism, Emy discusses the great faith she and her peers placed, as children, in various objects (Meg’s baby blanket, the Acteen tiara, the turkey feather). Did you have a similar “relic” growing up? What about today?
5. Emy describes the time it occurred to her that her father loved the spotlight and the thrill of performance. One reader suggested she take this out; it seemed to degrade her father and his motives. Emy disagreed, insisting that it isn’t degrading, it’s human, and that’s the purpose of leaving it in. What do you think?
6. “Teach Your Children Well,” and the other classic rock ballads her parents loved, took on a hymn-like quality for Emy. Do any songs do this for you?
7. Discuss Emy’s mother, Sharon. She supports her family’s good, church-goin’ life and her husband’s career, though she often disagrees with the political and social aspects of church life. What does her experience say about the role of women in the church? Do you think Sharon Hancock would have made a good preacher?
8. Throughout the book, Emy is mystified by other religions practiced by her peers. What do you think her experience says about how we educate our children about our own faiths, and how much we should tell them about other faiths?
9. How did you feel about what happens to Grandpa D.? What did his experience say to you, versus that of Elizabeth and her family. In the end, is it “worth it” for some people to keep on believing, but not others? Or would the world be better off if we all did?
10. The title of the book was inspired by a phrase that graces many humorous church parking lot signs. But what does it really mean, in the context of the book? Particularly when viewed against the passage in the Lord’s prayer from which it comes: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”?
Emy loves book clubs! She would love to pay yours an in-person or “virtual” visit. Contact Paige Collins (info on the Contact page) for more information.