Let’s get to some questions! Feel free to use these as jump off points for our discussion. You're also welcome to bring up some other points that stood out to you while you were reading.
1. What did you think of the story and Danticat's style of writing? Did you like the book overall? Please elaborate.
2. Are you familiar with Haitian culture? How does the book shape your views of Haiti?
3. Sophie's mother seems to want the best for her daughter, and works to create the life she thinks she needs. Sophie was instructed to pursue a career in the medicine even when she told her mom she was interested in the administrative field. "If you make something of yourself in life," she says to her daughter, "we will all succeed. You can raise our heads." (p. 44). “You are going to be a doctor” (pg 56). Do you think parents should dictate what career paths their children should pursue? What influences do your mother’s opinions have on your life decisions?
4. The novel describes how family values and virtue of women are very important to the Haitian women in Haitian culture. The main character, Sophie, is shattered throughout the novel, due to the traumatic experience of her mother’s continuous tests. Her mother would often test her vagina to make sure she was still a virgin. Let's discuss how these tests affected Sophie's romantic life, self esteem, and relationship with her mother.
5. When Sophie met her mother for the first time at the airport in New York, she described her as scrawny with a long and hollow face, dark circles under her eyes, and scared and sunburned fingers as if she never stopped working in the cane fields. What do you think the author is trying to express here when she describe that first encounter?
6. How would you describe Sophie's mother's relationship with her boyfriend Marc?
7. Sophie's mother's "tests" ended early for the same reasons she has her nightmares every night. Let's talk about the way she handled the terrible things that happened to her, and how that affected her relationships with everyone around her.
8. Let's talk about the role of the male gender in this story. Feel free to focus on particular characters, or what men represented throughout different parts of the book.
9. Sophie found a way to end her "tests" early too. Then she took her daughter and went back to Haiti to stay with her grandmother and Tante Atie. How do you feel about the way she did it? And what do you think that visit meant to her?
10. Sophie made it to therapy, and met a group of women who struggled with some psychological and family issues just like her. She met with them to try to release the bad memories who were keeping them back. Do you think it helped the women to share their troubles with each other? How did that scene make you feel?
11. Sophie's mother committed suicide. Did you see that coming? Do you think it could have been prevented. Let's discuss mental health issues in the black community.