1. In chapter one, Ophélie admits that she feels awkward when a homeless person greets her at a traffic light. How do you respond to people begging for money or food?
Later in the novel (chapter 14), Ophélie wonders who she is coming to help at the Red Cross, the homeless or herself. Have you ever done some type of charity work to feel better about yourself, to ease guilt feelings? What was the result?
Then, at the end of chapter thirty, Ophélie makes a decision about what she can do for the homeless who approach her on a daily basis. What do you think about her idea? Would you be willing to try it?
2. Think back on the several scenes that describe the prejudice felt by the French toward the Arabs (Mme Ploussard’s gossip about Risléne in chapters four, six, and eight; and Mme Dufour’s disapproval of inviting Arabs to church in chapter ten). Have you ever felt this way about a different minority, or have you ever been the one who was described in derogatory terms? Share your experiences.
3. How much do you know about the persecuted church throughout the world? Have you ever tried to put yourself in the place of Christians who are persecuted for their faith? Have you had any personal contact with persecuted Christians? Does the thought of being persecuted for your faith frighten you? Why or why not?
4. At the beginning of chapter twelve, Ceb thinks about his adolescence. Can you relate to an experience of having tasted faith and then turned your back on it, or has someone you care about deeply been through this experience? What happened next? Is it wrong to pursue a high-level career, to be on the fast track? Discuss.
5. At the end of chapter twelve, Ceb thinks about Ophélie as his friend. Have you ever been in a place where you needed a friend to help you back from despair, or have you ever helped a friend in this way? What as the outcome?
6. Look at the scene at the beginning of chapter fourteen where Risléne feels that her circumstances are too hard and the she has not been prepared for what she is enduring. Why does she change her mind? How has she been prepared? Have you ever been in a situation that seemed too hard for you only to see as you moved forward that God had prepared you to face this battler through lessons learned in the past? Share your experience.
7. Discuss the theme of lost children in the novel. (Consider Ceb’s mother, who practically closes off her emotions when her son disappeared. Think also of the plight of Risléne’s mother when she had to leave her daughter in Algeria. And Madira Charfi who wonders if she will ever see El Amin again.) Can you relate to these women’s grief? Share your experiences and what or who you found to help you through a difficult time.
8. Think about Ophélie different interactions with Ceb that ended in heated exchanges: in chapter sixteen when he reluctantly accepted her invitation to shower and have lunch at her home, and in chapter twenty-three when they conversed about faith and grief. Have you ever tried to help a needy person, perhaps someone close to you, and gone about it all wrong? What happened? Were you able to make things right eventually? What would you do differently today if faced with the same situation?
9. Look at this conversation between Ophélie and Gabriella in chapter 18:
“Oui. I understand that God must teach us humility and total dependence on Him. But even for me it’s hard. And how in the world can I help Samuel understand that God can use such deep hurt for good?”
“You can’t, Ophélie. Trying to give spiritual answers for another person’s tragedy falls on deaf ears. Or enrages. I have found that all I can do is to trust God as I live out the pain in my life and pray that God will reveal Himself to another in his own trails. It is wonderfully freeing, you know. Giving it back to God. He’s big enough.”
Do you agree or disagree with Gabriella’s thoughts? Discuss.
10. Throughout the novel, Algerian women are portrayed as strong behind their veils. What do you think of Altaf Namani and her actions during the novel? What about Grandmother Namani? Nazira, Risléne younger sister? Jala, El Amin’s wife? Dounia, Hussein’s wife?
11. Consider this passage from chapter 25:
Ceb had thought that Algeria would be nonstop action. War, risk, adventure, violence. Not memories. Not more thoughts to torment his soul. He had thought it would be a new beginning, not a long, painful step back into his past.
Have you ever experienced the need to go back in the past in order to be able to move forward in the present? Did it end up being necessary? Why or why not?
12. In chapter twenty-four, Ophélie compares Dominique’s work with that of Christ’s:
“It’s like you– Dominique the street mediator. Your job is to take the goverment’s high and lofty ideas and translate them into everyday talk, to meet the homeless and represent the government in a way they can understand, so they’ll accept the help that is available. Isn’t that what you do?”
He smiled. “More or less. If you simplify it, that’s my goal.”
“Well, Jesus did the same thing–lived among humanity to show us what God was like so that we could accept His help and love. He was a mediator.”
What do you think about this metaphor?
13. Discuss the pros and cons of marrying someone who does not share your beliefs. Can it work? Is it okay to date a person from a different religion? Think about Ophélie’s struggle in this matter with Dominique and the possibility of Risléne being forced to marry a Muslim man.
14. Read this scene from chapter twenty-six:
It happened often, this battle with herself, this seeking to be free of something and freed to something. It was the dark side of Ophélie’s personality that few people saw, the ever-spiraling tyranny of guilt and fear, and the terrible, terrible solitude. Today again she found herself literally crying, begging the Lord to stop the vicious circle of self-condemning thoughts. After a while, sitting on the couch in her den, she felt the late-afternoon sun that came through the French doors from the balcony touch her face, as if God were reaching out a tender finger through the rays of the sun and personally wiping away each tea.
She picked herself off the couch, relishing the warmth of the sun through the glass. “Let this be a new beginning,” she prayed hesitantly. “Whatever it takes. I give you Ceb and Dominique, as I’ve given You every other man in my life. As I gave You Bachir. You know the pain.”
Have you ever wrestled with these types of thoughts? Have you cried out to God? What was the outcome?
15. Throughout the novel, Ceb is portrayed as a man who needs action and control. When does he ultimately relinquish control of his life and why? How does he come to accept forgiveness and to forgive himself?
16. Look at Gabriella’s conversation with Ophélie in chapter twenty-six:
“I hear you’re taking care of his puppies?”
“Yes. Eric helped me get hem from the squat. It was the least I could do.”
“Listen, Ophélie. You’ve done a lot. Get yourself a cup of tea and take a break for a little while. It’s okay to be sad, you know. Will you do that for me, please?”
Do you have a friend who will give you this type of advice? If not, think about some people in your life who might serve in this role.
17. Discuss the symbolism in the novel. To whom does the title Two Destinies apply and why? What does the perfume bottle L’Essentiel represent in the novel? What other symbols or metaphors stuck out to you?
18. Discuss the themes of surrender, abiding, second chances, and new beginnings that occur throughout the novel. Think of how these themes apply to Risléne, Eric, Ceb, Ophélie, El Amin, and Hussein.
19. If you have read Two Crosses and Two Testaments, discuss how the characters from the first two novels changed and matured over the years.