Reading Group Guide questions contributed by Patricia Hooks Gray. Patricia Hooks Gray is a graduate of Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee and Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio. Ms. Gray is an adjunct professor at Xavier, where she teaches graduate and undergraduate level reading courses. She also writes units for The Core Knowledge Foundation on subjects involving reading and social studies.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Critique the quote “the river treats me as if I belong” made by the main character, Opal. What were the highs and lows in her life? What was collected along the way? What were the undertows?
2. Ted took away Opal’s affirmation of herself. How was she able to gain it back? What hidden treasures “within” did she discover?
3. Was Opal a strong woman even though she had retreated into her private cocoon?
4. Opal painted a bouillabaisse of her life down to the “core of her soul”. What would your soul painting reflect?
5. The cycle of abuse often ricochets from the parents to the children. Which of the two, Imani or Troy, is likely to be the victim or the abuser? Can they escape the cycle of psychological scars that often reside “within”?
6. There are two theories about abusers — either having high or low self-esteem. Which do you think Ted had? How would control be a major factor in either theory?
7. The mirror was symbolic for both Opal and Gloria. What was its importance for their transformations?
8. Jack was the opposite of Ted. What behaviors did Opal see in him that would lead to a healthy relationship?
9. Bette and Dana provide the comic relief in the novel. How do the other characters benefits from this? What else did they offer?
10. Opal could finally direct her own life and sit under her own shade tree. What new found traits will enable her to handle new challenges and setbacks?