1. The Beet Queen deals with the themes of parenting and being a parent through various characters: Adelaide; Catherine Miller; Fritzie; Celestine; Mary; Wallace; and Karl. How do individual characters reflect some of the conflicts of being a parent? Why do you think these characters behave the way they do? What do you think being a good father or a good mother means?
2. In Chapter Fifteen, Karl insists, "I give nothing, take nothing, mean nothing, hold nothing." Is this an accurate self-assessment on Karl's part? Why does he want to see himself in this way? Do you think it is possible to be this way? How and why does he change? How do other characters struggle against--or for--connection? What does the novel suggest about the pull of the past, of family, of community on the individual?
3. The novel is unflinching in its portrayal of the aggressive and destructive side of people. What do you think is the novel's view of human motivation and behavior? How do you feel about some of the characters--especially Mary, Karl, Sita, Celestine, and wallace?
4. Erdrich once commented that "a title is like a magnet: It begins to draw these scraps of experience or conversation or memory to it. Eventually, it collects a book." Why do you think the novel is called The Beet Queen?
The Beet Queen