1. Is Henry Hughes a sympathetic character in your eyes? Why or why not?
2. Have you ever been in a situation that felt so desperate that you chose to do something that you would ordinarily never consider? If so, what happened?
3. Have you or someone you are close to ever felt like Josephine, with a ‘hole in her head’? Have you been able to talk about this with others, to find help for yourself or the person concerned?
4. In Chapter 17, Drake says to Paige, “Faith and mental instability aren’t mutually exclusive, Bourdy.” Christians often disagree about treatment for mental health issues. After reading this story, have your thoughts on depression and suicide changed? How or how not?
5. Paige asks Drake if you can love someone too much. Discuss Patrick’s love for Josephine and his decision to keep her suicide attempt secret. Have you ever kept a secret out of love for someone? Can a person love another person ‘too much’?
6. Which of the characters in the story can you most relate to and why? Whose faith journey can you most relate to and why?
7. Have you ever had an ‘Awful Year’? Discuss family secrets and their effect on individuals.
8. Why does Paige protect her father? What is she afraid of?
9. Discuss Josephine’s Lucidity Lath. What are some different ‘tools’ you use to hear truth instead of lies?
10. Near the end of the novel Drake says, “It’s irony, Bourdy. Not hypocrisy. The whole thing is ironic. But she does believe it. You know good and well she believes it. She just went on a rabbit trail in her mind, and she didn’t receive it for a while. Almost every Christian I know has done that at some point in his or her journey.” Agree, disagree? Discuss.
11. Henry’s faith journey is greatly influenced by reading several of Josephine’s novels. Have you ever had a novel touch you deeply and help you as you consider spiritual questions?
12. After reading the Gospels as well as Josephine’s novels, Henry comes to this conclusion: “Just like I’d been thinking, Jesus was always, always hanging around with sinners…If Jesus came to earth today, I wondered if he’d be in the big fancy churches. Well, maybe he’d go in there and preach a sermon in his jeans but then I just bet he’d ask some of the gang members to have lunch with him and he’d invite those poor trafficked gals and probably a bunch of those gay people that didn’t seem to be welcomed at churches, and maybe even, maybe he’d invite me to lunch, too. Now wouldn’t that be something to see?”
What do you think about Henry’s line of reasoning?
13. Both Paige and Henry are disturbed by hypocrisy they see in Christians. Paige says, “The Bible says we should be able to tell people are Christians by their love. I feel the same way as you, Henry. I want to see love, not hate.” Discuss the effects that hypocrisy have had on you and those you care about.
14. Discuss appropriate ways to agree and disagree over social media.
15. One of the main themes of the novel is how to accept grace. Near the end of the novel, Josephine says, “But Henry, he had a different approach. He said that we humans are all real messed up and needing God’s forgiveness and grace…I understood in a deeper way the gift of forgiveness that I gave to others but had such a hard time bestowing on myself or receiving from God… I marvel that, when I finally came to the end of myself, what I found was a whole lot of grace.”
How would you explain God’s grace? Do you have a hard time receiving and extending grace? Why or why not?