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The Beginning Reading Group Guide

Readers' Discussion Questions

1. How do you think the title of this book plays into the plot? What are some beginnings included in the novel?

2. In giving Susie counsel about Obie, Mamma says, “A solid friendship is the best foundation for a relationship, ya know, and dating takes things a step further—tells ya if there’s a spark.” Have you seen this to be true?

3. What role does Ella Mae play in her community? In the author’s note, Beverly mentions that she based the character on two wise women from her own childhood. Have you ever known someone like Ella Mae?

4. Britta secretly approves of and encourages Susie’s relationship with Obie from the start. Have you felt an inkling that two people should end up together?

5. Susie and her family make most of their income from selling products to tourists to Lancaster County. What are some reasons you think Englishers are eager to visit Amish country?

6. For a while, Susie and Obie’s only communication is through the occasional letter. In what ways do letters make for better communication? Do they have any limitations?

7. What did you think about the choice to have a Part Two to the novel that takes place a full year after Obie leaves Hickory Hollow? How does it move the story along?

8. At times, Britta feels that she doesn’t truly belong among the People, although her friends and family assure her otherwise. What signs do you see that Britta has been raised among the Amish for a reason?

9. Why do you think it is difficult for Susie to have Mamma stay with her brother and sister-in-law for so long? What are some other challenges she faces as a caregiver?

10. Do you think Mamma makes the right choice in waiting to tell Britta more details about her adoption? How might you approach that situation?

11. As seen in the fictional events of the novel, the Amish are well-known for displaying counter-cultural attitudes of forgiveness, sometimes in national news after tragedies in their communities. What are some examples you know of? Why do you think they are able to respond in that way?

12. Since childhood, Susie has struggled with grief and regret from her brother’s death. How do you think her faith is helpful to her as she works through those feelings?

13. While Susie and Britta’s Mamma is gone, a number of women from the community offer to pitch in and help with anything needed with the shop or home. What do you think about that kind of community? Have you experienced kindness like that from friends or neighbors?

14. The Beginning takes place over two years. What changes do you see in Susie from the start of the story until the end? What about in Britta?

The Stone Wall Reading Group Guide

Readers' Discussion Questions

1. In the first line of the book, Anna tells us that Mammi Eliza often says “’Tis a waste of time to look back with regret.” Looking back on the story, talk about how Eliza’s time in Strasburg helped to form that view, and how her advice affected her granddaughter’s life.

2. Anna’s desire to start a new life chapter propels her away from her home in Mifflinburg to see what God might have for her elsewhere. Can you relate to that desire for a fresh start? In what ways is Anna’s new life different? In what ways is it the same?

3. Even though seventy years separate Anna’s and Eliza’s experiences in Strasburg, The Stone Wall allows readers a window in to each of them. Did you enjoy getting a glimpse of Eliza as a young woman? In what ways is she like Anna? In what ways is she unalike?

4. In the course of her time as a tour guide, Anna visits a number of actual places in Lancaster County. What experiences would you be most interested to participate in if you were able to take one of her tours? Why do you think tourists are so interested in the Plain lifestyle?

5. Mammi Eliza and Sadie’s older sister, Eva, struggle with forms of dementia, yet the two elderly women still reside with family. What are some challenges their caregivers face? Some joys? Have you experienced any similar experiences in caring for loved ones?

6. Anna is surprised that she found it so easy to adapt to life without electricity and other conveniences while staying with Sadie. What would be easiest for you to give up if you lived an Old Order Amish lifestyle for a summer? What would be hardest?

7. The idea for Peaceful Meadows came out of Gabe’s daughter’s need for therapy after the death of her mother. Why do you think loss and tragedy might inspire people to try new things? In what ways can loss sometimes lead to growth and wholeness?

8. Discuss Mart and Gabe and the similarities and differences between the two young men. Were you surprised by which one Anna ultimately chose?

9. Anna’s family were concerned about her marrying an Old Order Amishman, primarily because of their different beliefs on God’s grace. Do you think Anna handled their concerns in the right way? What do you think are some important areas for a couple to be in agreement on before marriage?

10. In what ways did you connect with Emmie as a character, even though she never spoke? What do you imagine happening to her after the end of the novel?

11. For you, what was the most emotionally moving moment in the book, and why would you choose that one?

The Timepiece Reading Group Guide

Readers' Discussion Questions

1. The Timepiece opens with a quote from Amos Bronson Alcott, “Time ripens the substance of life as the seasons mellow and perfect its fruits. The best apples fall latest and keep longest.” What do you think the writer meant by this? How do you see that theme play out in the novel?

2. As the Millers explained details of Amish life and customs to Adeline, did you learn anything new about this often-misunderstood people group? Which piece of information was most interesting to you?

3. In inviting Adeline to stay at the very beginning, Rhoda showed great kindness to the daughter no one knew about. What do you think motivated Rhoda? How do you think she has grown since The Tinderbox?

4. The Double Wedding Ring quilt brought back memories for Adeline, just as the pocket watch did for Earnest. Is there a gift you or your family has received that holds special meaning for you?

5. As Sylvia and Adeline compared wedding traditions in their respective cultures, what did you appreciate about each way of celebrating?

6. If you were in Sylvia’s place, do you think you would have shared her hesitation about introducing Adeline to others, especially Titus’s family? Do you think she handled the situation well?

7. Earnest tells Adeline that he doesn’t mind living without all of the comforts of an Englisher because, “When all’s said and done, it’s people, not things, that bring the most joy.” Have you found that to be true in your life?

8. Did you have doubts about whether Sylvia should marry Titus? If so, at what point did you start to wonder?

9. Because of the Millers, Adeline was motivated both to read her mother’s journal and to read the Bible. Why do you think they affected her in that way?

10. Earnest says, “It’s not always a bad thing when one’s foundation is shaken.” Have you seen this to be true in your own life? If so, how?

11. Did you expect the new preacher to allow Sylvia to travel and be in Adeline’s wedding party? What are some good reasons both for preventing it or allowing it?

12. Near the end of the book, Adeline says, “I have no doubt in my mind that God brought me here . . . to you and to your family.” When Adeline first came, did you have any theories about how her visit would affect the Millers? How do you think the Millers helped Adeline? How did she help them?

The Wish Reading Group Guide

Readers' Discussion Questions

1. Maggie tells Leona that “Loneliness is a choice.” Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?

2. Leona considers how Forever friends are sometimes closer than kinfolk. What are some essential qualities to have in a friend who sticks closer than a brother? (Proverbs 18:24)

3. It is unusual for an Amish family to relocate cross-country to an established community like those in Lancaster County. What are some challenges the Gingeriches face when they settle in Colerain?

4. Have you ever wished you could be part of a different family? What makes a family appealing?

5. Gloria departs with her family even though it means leaving her serious beau and best friend behind. Why does she do so, and would you agree to do the same thing in her situation? Discuss.

6. Were you surprised by Leona’s willingness to travel such a long distance to see Gloria after more than three years apart? Why or why not? Would you be willing to do the same thing, or might you be more hesitant?

7. Why do you think Tom is reluctant to say too much even to Leona about his father’s past dealings with Arkansas Joe? Do you admire this about him, or do you think he should be more open with her?

8. Gloria is at a crossroads in her life where she needs to decide which beliefs she wants to embrace as her own. Have you found yourself at a similar crossroads? If so, whom did you turn to for help in making your decision?

9. Gloria admits that she feels “partially to blame” for her father’s bad debts. Why do you think this is? Have you ever felt responsible for something one of your family members has done? If yes, what did you do about it?

10. Millie remarks that “Once the fancy grabs ya, it seldom lets go.” True as that may be for many former Amish, what are some clues that Gloria might be ready to give up fancy life? What are some ways in which she struggles?

11. What do you think of the change in the relationship between Gloria and her father, or between Leona and her mother? What do these story threads tell us about child-parent relationships?

The Atonement Reading Group Guide

Readers' Discussion Questions

1. “Lucy had managed to free herself from the heartache. Either that or she’d shoved the pain away, where it couldn’t gnaw at her heart. Like I’ve tried to do . . .” Talk about how Lucy Flaud and her father, Christian, relate to the past. How does that change throughout the course of the story?

 2. Despite the fact that God doesn’t seem to answer, Lucy continues to pray for others. “Even if heaven’s silent . . . I won’t quit knockin’.” Have you ever experienced a time when God didn’t seem to hear your prayers? How did you handle that?

3. While Lucy’s parents and sister Martie are aware of the extent of her transgressions, Lucy’s twin sisters and Mammi Flaud are not. Why do you think this is the case? Do you agree with Lucy and her parents’ decision not to tell everyone in the family? Why or why not?

4. Like the Amish, Dale shares an appreciation for the simpler, more traditional ways of doing things. In what ways his approach to technology similar to theirs? In what ways is it different?

5. As frequently as Lucy volunteers, she doesn’t feel worthy of forgiveness. Why do you think some people become fixed on trying to earn forgiveness versus accepting the forgiveness God offers through Christ?

6. Discuss how Lucy reacts when Tobe asks if he might court her. Do you think she’s right to respond as she does? What would you do in her situation?

7. What are a few reasons a number of Amish in this story are considering a cross-country relocation? What are some unique challenges such a move presents to them versus Englishers? How might day-to-day Amish life vary based on where people live?

8. Lucy wonders now how she ever could have thought Travis was right for her. Have you ever made a decision that you look back on now with surprise, perhaps even regret? What’s something that you’ve learned from that experience?

9. Despite feeling inadequate to discuss faith with Wendell Keene, what are some ways Lucy is able to minister to people even in her spiritually broken state? What do you think this says about her? About God?

10. Clinton and Dorothea’s love story inspires Lucy. Do you see any parallels between their story and Lucy’s own? Discuss.

11. Sometimes we can be more receptive to what an outsider has to say than to the advice of anyone close to us. What are some things that Lucy learns about herself and about faith from Dale? Were you surprised at his role in the story?


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