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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?

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