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The Heirloom Reading Group Guide

Readers' Discussion Questions

1. The book’s namesake is an heirloom wedding quilt that was given to Ella Mae’s mother in 1911 (40). More than a sewing project, the quilt brings Clara and Ella Mae closer as they thoughtfully see to its restoration. What are some of your family heirlooms, and how have they helped you to connect to loved ones across generations? Do you think intangible items such as love, stories, faith, etc. could be considered heirlooms as well?

2. Throughout her summer with Ella Mae, Clara notices several differences between the Amish communities of Hickory Hollow, PA, and her hometown of First Light, IN. What differences surprised you? In which community would you feel the most at home and why?

3. Ella Mae is reluctant to move into the Dawdi Haus on her daughter and son-in-law’s property. She describes the memories in her old farmhouse as “a shelter in [her] storm of sadness” (86). How has moving impacted your own life? Are there places in your life where memories made you want to stay put, or called you back to visit?

4. In chapter 17, Clara shares with Ella Mae: “Mamma used to say she felt like you saw her through the eyes of Jesus—the way you wrote to her in your letters all those years” (119). Who is someone in your life who sees you this way? How can we strive to view others “through the eyes of Jesus”?

5. How do the courtship traditions among die Youngie differ from your own experiences? Does courting seem more or less challenging than dating as we know it in the “fancy” world?

6. At first, Clara is taken off guard by Ella Mae’s practice of praying aloud, having come from a community where silent prayer is the norm. In time, Clara comes to appreciate these spoken prayers and incorporates them into her own prayer life. What are some ways that you’ve grown in faith and your relationship with God that might seem unique or even odd to others?

7. Clara points out that most customers at Vera’s quilt shop are tourists looking for “a souvenir of Amish country,” going on to observe, “They must think of us as quite unusual” (126). Why do you think people are so fascinated by the Amish way of life? Have you ever toured Amish country?

8. In chapter 19, Ella Mae tells Clara: “When we stumble into a rough patch, God’s Word is the truest guide. The best help” (131). What are some verses you turn to when you stumble into a rough patch?

9. After the buggy accident, the bishop introduces strict rules for die Youngie, including no boom boxes in courting carriages, additional supervision at youth gatherings, and no playing of instruments. What were your thoughts on these new rules? Did you agree with Ella Mae’s feelings when she heard the news (142)?

10. Ella Mae is called the “Wise Woman” (96) by her neighbors and is known for providing tea and a listening ear to those seeking guidance and friendship. Yet despite always being available for others, Ella Mae comments that she needs to be more open about her own struggles. Later in the story, she finds great solace when she shares parts of her past with Clara. How can we be there to help “fill the cups” of the Ella Maes in our life—those who are always giving to others?

11. Throughout the book, both Tom Glick and Aaron Ebersol are interested in Clara, yet each pursues her in his own way. How did your feelings towards each young man change as the story progressed?

12. Clara faces a crossroads when she feels called to a future that Dat doesn’t support. What can we learn from her experience? Have you ever found yourself in a place where your convictions contrasted with those of a loved one?

13. Clara’s relationship with her stepmother feels strained in early chapters, but in the end, Eva ends up being a strong ally in Clara’s decisions for her future. How did your perception of Eva change throughout the story?

14. At the start of the book, both Clara and Ella Mae are coping with loss. Their summer together helps each of them to heal from the pain and find new hope in the future. Clara says, “God has a way of puttin’ people together, allowin’ their paths to cross for His glory and honor” (311). Who are the people God put in your life when you needed them most?

15. The epigraph, “Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him,” is echoed in one of the last lines of the book: “Ain’t it somethin’ how the Lord arranges our lives when we’re willin’ to let Him?” (311). How do Clara and Ella Mae’s stories show the beauties of trusting in God?

The Orchard Reading Group Guide

Readers' Discussion Questions

1. Dat and Ellie decide early in the novel that they should record their family’s history and stories: “family stories—and tall tales—to enjoy and pass down” (21). What are some stories from your own family or families you’re close to that you enjoy listening to and retelling? How might you record or share those stories for future generations?

2. Ellie’s baptism is described as “the most precious and holy vow there is” (124). Her mother reminds her that her baptism is “a result of [her] own heart’s desire to follow the Lord . . . not anyone else’s” (109). Yet Ellie also wants her baptism to “be a witness to [her] brother” (129). In what ways is baptism an individual decision and milestone? In what ways does it affect our church and community? Reflect on your own baptism, if relevant, and the impact that decision has had on your spiritual life.

3. Ellie describes the orchard as “God’s masterful work of fruit trees and sun and sky . . . there was peace right here in the midst of this heavenly sort of place, despite the unpredictable storm churning around her family” (126). What does the orchard represent throughout the book? What symbolism or meaning does it carry for some of the characters? Is there any particular place in your life that serves as your sanctuary or place of peace?

4. Leah leaves home to care for another family’s children and initially struggles with the distance from her family and closest friend. Once she is established, though, she shares with Ellie that the move was ultimately part of God’s plan—in fostering her independence and introducing her to Reuben. Has there been a time in your own life where an initially difficult or painful situation turned out to be one of God’s blessings in your life? How did you trust God in that season?

5. Throughout the book, Ellie is uncertain that she hears the voice of God the same way that other characters like Leah seem to hear God’s clear promptings of direction. What is an example of a time you heard God speak to you or prompt you in a certain direction?

6. Ellie and Evan are twins, yet they are distinctly different people—in their approach to faith, in their approach to the Amish way of life, and in their relationships with family and friends. Were you able to relate more easily to one twin or the other? What did you notice about each twin individually and their relationship together as the story evolved?

7. Lyle describes Rumschpringe as “the running-around years [that] were a coming-of-age tradition for their Amish youth” (25). Some of the Amish individuals in the book disapprove of certain aspects of the practice, calling it “playing with fire” and claiming it encourages youth to linger in a state of recklessness (37). In the book, we see Evan’s Rumschpringe open his eyes to different ways of life outside his Plain community. How can you empathize with Amish parents and families who dislike the tradition? And with the youth who participate? Were there any times in your life when you had similar coming-of-age experiences? How did those experiences affect your faith, your family, and your identity?

8. Ellie often withholds information in Evan’s letters from the rest of her family, per Evan’s own suggestion. Ellie’s father himself notes that “sometimes what a person didn’t know was easier” (136). What effect does this have on the family’s period of uncertainty as they wait for news from Evan? Do you think that was a wise decision on Ellie’s part? Has there been a situation in your own life where you have withheld information to protect someone you care about?

9. Ellie’s friends and family frequently observe that she dislikes change and wishes her life could remain as it is. Between Leah leaving home, Evan going off to war, and courtship pairings continually evolving, her life often feels unsettled and uncertain. Ultimately, she concludes, “Our faithful Savior doesn’t change . . . [we] can depend on Him” (124). Has there been a time in your own life that you’ve felt resistant to change? How were you able to cope with the changes life inevitably brings?

10. After reading this glimpse of the era of the Vietnam War and what life was like for the conscientious objectors among the Amish community, is there anything you want to learn more about? What surprised you or interested you the most about this community at this point in history?

11. Ellie notices as she grows closer with Sol that she and Menno were not as compatible and would not have been as strong of a couple. What attributes of Ellie and Sol contribute to their being a good match? How do we see them develop and grow as a couple over the course of the novel?

12. Ellie contemplates that “it was easy to feel God’s presence during spring’s blossoming and summertime’s harvest. But now? Now, when trees were spindly black sticks against the icy white snow and miserable gray sky, was God still there?” (283). In which seasons or in which areas of life do you find it easiest to feel God’s presence and see Him working? In which seasons or areas is that more difficult for you? Why do you think that is?

13. When Evan returns home, his family is reluctant to press him to discuss his experiences or inquire about his mental health. Do you agree with their decision to let him share on his own timeframe? Why or why not? What are some ways you have supported family and friends when they have experienced loss or trauma?

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?


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