Reading Group Guide
1. Sarah Graham has a rather rough personality, yet she’s also been gifted with immense musical talent. Does this seem like a contradiction? Why does God bestow his mercies on those who seem not to “deserve” them, both in general, and particularly in Sarah’s situation?
2. Have there been times you’ve encountered people who, like Sarah, have been wounded in life? How have you responded to them? Does knowing about their past hardships help you be more compassionate towards them? Would you have given Sarah as many chances as the people of Jonah did?
3. Sarah is quick to judge people, and at Thanksgiving, she’s surprised when Memory doesn’t eat dessert. “I’m fat for sure,” Memory tells her, “but that don’t make me a pig.” As sinful people, we all judge others on things that matter so little in God’s eyes --- weight, income, physical disability, cognitive ability. What are some ways you, personally, strive to overcome this tendency?
4. When do you think Sarah begins to truly change? What causes her to do so?
5. Much of the story is narrated in first person by Sarah, but there are also chapters written in third person from the point of view of Jack, Maggie, Beth, and Memory. Is anything gained by the novel being formatted this way? How would the book differ if it were only written from Sarah’s perspective?
6. What character would you most like to have in your life? Which one least? Think about the character you’d least likely want in your own life. Why is that? Is it a valid reason?
7. Memory tells Sarah, “Ain’t nothing to do with good or bad. You just ain’t whole enough yet.” Do Christians judge people’s actions in regard to “good” or “bad?” Should they? What does it mean to be “whole”?
8. How did you react when you learned of Jack’s failing? When Sarah first hears of it, she thinks, He was no better than me. Do you ever react with relief at the sins of those around you? What did you think of the other townsfolk’s reactions? Do Christians hold those in authority to a higher standard? Should they?
9. Many of the people in Jonah have secrets. Jack, initially angry with Sarah for telling his, comes to liken his pain to the “glaring white spotlight upon him, burning the skin off a man who’d been hiding in the dark too long.” What does this mean, and have you ever felt this way? How do secrets impact the lives of others in the novel? How have they impacted your own life?
10. Throughout the novel, many people try to come alongside Sarah. Who are some of these characters, and why do they want to help her? Are their motives right or wrong? Does it matter? Is Sarah also valuable in the lives of others? Has God ever used someone you were trying to “help” to help you?
11. After Doc tells Sarah about her parents, she’s not satisfied with the answers. Doc says, “Sometimes not enough has to be enough.” Has there been a time in your life when you had to settle for “not enough”? How did you handle it?
12. What did you think of the end of the novel? Were you hoping for a different ending? Think about Sarah as the story concluded. Could it have ended differently and still stayed true to her character?