Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Truly is the "little giant" of this book, yet her size seems to make
her less, rather than more, visible to the town around her. Can you explain
this phenomenon? What do you think the author is trying to say about her
Serena Jane and Truly are as physically different as sisters can be, yet
Truly sees that this difference is crucial, explaining "the reason the two
of us were as opposite as sewage and spring water, I thought, was that
pretty can't exist without ugly." (pp. 97-98) How would you describe Truly
and Serena's connection? How is it different from Truly's relationship with
Amelia Dyerson? Which seems the more genuine sisterhood to you?
As the successor to a long line of old-fashioned, small-town doctors,
Robert Morgan is traditional, strict, and often cruel. I the end, however,
the legacy terminates with him and he becomes Aberdeen's last Dr. Morgan.
How do he and Bobbie stray from the family paradigm? What Morgan
characteristics stayed with each of them? Is the town "more modern" without
a Dr. Morgan, and with Bobbie and Salvatore's restaurant instead? Is the
replacement of nurturing through nourishment rather than doctoring a
Death haunts Truly and all of Aberdeen, sometimes in unexpected ways. As
a gardener, Marcus's aim is to "make things live," but, as Truly realizes,
"wasn't it also true that gardeners were always wrestling with death,
whether in the form of drought, or blight, or hungry insects? In a garden,
Marcus always said, death was the first, last and only fact of life." What
other parallels do you see in the ways Marcus and Truly court life and
Truly's size marks her as an outcast, but throughout the novel, other
characters have trouble "fitting in" in a more figurative way. Examine how
this manifests in Bobbie, Marcus, Amelia, even Serena Jane. What larger
point do you this the author might be trying to make about the importance of
What role does Aberdeen County play in the novel? Could the story or
these characters exist elsewhere? Do the effects of the 60s and the Vietnam
War seem to touch Aberdeen in the same way they touched the rest of the
country? What is unique and what is not about Aberdeen as a setting?
When Amelia discovers how Priscilla Sparrow and Robert Morgan died, she
asks Truly whether it was mercy or murder that killed them. What do you
think? How do you feel about Truly's actions? What in Truly's character
draws her to "collect souls" as she comes to call it?
When Marcus and Truly finally come together, Marcus says "We're not
exactly a match made in heaven, you and I, but I figure we're good enough
for here on earth" (p. 334) What does he mean by this? Do you agree?
Why doesn't Robert Morgan "care" that his son runs away? What does it
say about what he thinks of himself? How does this connect to Serena Jane's
leaving and his reaction to that event?
After Robert Morgan's death, Truly gradually takes on some of his
responsibilities as town doctor by using the knowledge she's gained from
Tabitha's quilt. How is this a fitting purpose for Truly, and a fitting
counterpoint to the legacy of Morgan doctors?
What about this story is larger than life or possesses elements of a
tall tale or folklore? How are these details woven into the story? How is
the book similar to or different from other works in this tradition?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Grand Central Publishing.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.
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