Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
- Each chapter in Pomegranate Soup begins with a traditional Persian recipe,
which is then incorporated into the story like a character. Why do you think the
author has chosen to highlight the food in this manner? How do you think the
recipes guide the narrative? Is there one recipe that resonated more with you
than the others? Why?
- We first meet the three Aminpour sisters, Marjan, Bahar and Layla, in the
kitchen of the new Babylon Café. Discuss how this setting offers a glimpse into
the differences in their personalities. If you have siblings, do you recognize
the dynamics between the three sisters?
- Marjan cooks in accordance to the Zoroastrian system of gastronomic
balancing, known as sard and garm. As one of the world's first monotheistic
religions, Zoroastrianism introduced the dual ideas of good and evil, which are
now practiced in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Have you ever heard of
Zoroastrianism or the concepts of sard and garm, cold and hot foods? How is this
balancing system similar to eating habits in the West? How is it different?
- Why do you think the author has chosen to set Pomegranate Soup in 1980s
Ireland, instead of today? How do you think the village of Ballinacroagh
perpetuates the fairytale image tourists often have of Ireland? In what ways, if
any, does Ballinacroagh differ from this idealized picture?
- The Aminpour sisters escape Tehran on the eve of the Islamic Revolution. What
do you know of Iran's history, particularly the revolution of 1979? Were you
surprised to read that the Shah was as unpopular as he was with many Iranians?
If you were around during the time of the revolution, what images do you
remember receiving about it through media outlets in the West?
- Both Marjan and Bahar were romantically involved with men who supported the
Islamic Revolution. These relationships led the two women to perform
revolutionary activities, which they later regretted. Do you feel either sister
has come to terms with her violent past? Have you ever felt like you've lost
your moral compass in a relationship?
- In the classical Greek myth of Persephone, Demeter, the goddess of Spring,
has a daughter named Persephone who is kidnapped by Hades, god of the
Underworld. Have you ever heard of this myth? What parallels do you see between
this myth and the three sisters' story?
- The Babylon Café provides a venue for dreams to flourish. Discuss how the
food and the sisters' temperaments influence the villagers to pursue dreams that
may have lay hidden, even to themselves. Have you ever experienced a quiet
epiphany such as the one that Father Mahoney has over a bowl of abgusht? Or was
your moment of transformation more pronounced, as Tom Junior's in the Cat's
- What parallels do you find between Ballinacroagh's bully, Thomas McGuire, and
Hossein Jaferi in Iran?
What are the differences? Is Thomas McGuire's malevolence born of evil, or is
his villainy more pathetic,
even humorous, perhaps? Can you think of any other parallels between the
sisters' experiences in the Irish
village and revolution-era Iran?
- Marjan, Bahar, and Layla try to protect one another from the memories of the
past. Discuss the
various forms in which this protection is exhibited. How is this
over-protectiveness similar to events you
might have experienced in your own life? Do you relate to any one sister's
- Croagh Patrick looms protectively over the village of Ballinacroagh. The
holy mountain is where the
patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick, reportedly took his Lenten fast,
banishing the evil spirits that had
haunted him his entire life. What roles do Croagh Patrick and Saint Patrick play
in Bahar's self-revelation?
What do you think initially sparked her desire to climb the mountain?
- Young Layla and Malachy provide a romantic subplot for the story, but they
also embody the future.
Do you agree with this observation? Discuss.
- What would you like to see happen to the three sisters after the story ends?
Do you think they have
found a home in Ballinacroagh? Do you think they are ready to heal from the
painful events of their past?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Random House.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.