Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. What is the significance of the Jean Shinoda Bolen quote that begins the book:
“Here we are, women who have been the beneficiaries of education, resources, reproductive choice, travel opportunities, the Internet, and a longer life expectancy than women have ever had in history. What can and will we do?”
2. The author gives each woman a two-word description in the chapter titles. Why do you think the author created these? What do you think of the different descriptors?
3. Were you surprised at how open the women were to discussing intimate details of their lives? Do you think they would have been so candid in their twenties? Thirties? Forties? Would you be comfortable revealing your life this way?
4. Of the thirteen women, which one did you most identify with? Who did you most admire?
5. Do you think the structure of the book, with each chapter being a profile of one woman, was effective? Or do you think the book would have been better if just a few women had been featured in more depth? If so, who would you have chosen?
6. What do you think of the disagreements between Jonell and the group in chapters 8 and 12? Were you aligned with Jonell on either one?
7. The women decided to purchase a luxury diamond necklace five years ago, long before the current financial crisis. Does the country’s economic plight make the story less relevant? Why or why not?
8. Would the story have been just as compelling if the women had shared a rhinestone necklace or a piece of pottery or a pair of jeans? Is there any significance to a luxury piece of jewelry?
9. Though some of the women came from impoverished backgrounds, today all thirteen could be called upper middle class. Do you think this story is just as relevant for women from other socioeconomic or ethnic groups?
10. The subtitle of this book, Thirteen Women and the Experiment That Transformed Their Lives, indicates that each woman was changed by the experience of being in the group. Do you feel the author effectively showed the transformation in each woman, or not?
11. At the time the book was written the experiment had already been featured in People magazine and attracted a movie deal. Do you think this media attention affected the women’s staying together? Do you think the group will still be together two/five/ten years from now?
12. Have you ever shared a valuable possession with friends? If so, how did that work out? If not, would you be willing to? What would you choose to share with a group? Has the book changed your views on personal luxuries?
13. Is this a decidedly female story, or can you imagine a group of men doing something similar?