Discussion Topics for THE PROMISE KITCHEN:
1. When we’re introduced to Shelby, she doesn’t have much going for her. What does she have that gives her an edge over other young women in similar situations?
2. When introduced to Mallory, we learn that one of her deepest disappointments—more so than even losing Cooper—is that she doesn’t have a child. How does the topic of motherhood drive the plot?
3. This novel has a split narrative format alternating between Shelby and Mallory with Miss Ann piping in to give her perspective. Did this narrative format work for you? Were there particular narrators you found more compelling than others?
4. The format also balances opposites: balancing hope with despair; balancing the lives of Mallory and Shelby. But opposites attract. Why is the scene where Mallory identifies with Shelby after the accident so pivotal to the story and in understanding what drew them together despite their differences?
5. Shelby’s familial bonds are not like a traditional nuclear family. Tracy and Clare’s life with the other women in their farming enclave pushes the nuclear family concept even further. How does this expand our understanding of the meaning and structure of family?
6. Discuss the different levels of bias and bigotry in the book. For instance Mama’s biases; Mallory’s biases; society’s biases.
7. Mallory and Clay give Shelby another chance to follow her dreams. How does Shelby help Mallory?
8. The story could have turned out differently for Shelby if not for Clay and Mallory’s intervention. If Shelby had failed on her quest, might you have thought: “You should never have left your daughter in the first place.”
9. Food as a psychological nurturing fabric is a central theme in this book. Do you have any recipes in your arsenal that elicit the same response in you as Mallory’s reaction to her recipe for her mom’s pimento cheese sandwiches? If you were to write a food-centric novel, what are some of the recipes you’d include?
10. Which character would you most enjoy having dinner with and why? Would you recommend the book to a vegetarian?
Discussion Topics for THE WELCOME HOME DINER
1. Who is your favorite character and why?
2. If you were in Angus's shoes, what would have been your reaction to the women and their diner? Do you believe that Angus was justified in his initial anger?
3. Do you think the women were overreacting to the fact that their community was avoiding them? Were they overstepping boundaries? If not, what other things could the women have to done to encourage a welcome reception from their neighbors?
4. How much of a person’s character is shaped by their parents? Are your parents easy to recognize in yourself? Do you have certain inherited traits you wish you could change? If so, do you think therapy is a route that could be productive?
5. How is your community addressing the issues of human trafficking?
6. Are there vestiges of racism in your community? If so, how are they expressed? How can they be dealt with?
7. Is there an area in your town or city that has gone through gentrification in the last five years? Were businesses and/or homeowners forced to leave? If so, do you think tax laws should be modified to address this?
8. What is your favorite comfort food? Is there a person or place that this triggers this emotional reaction to the food? Does this food tell a story?