THE SPIRIT OF SWEETGRASS
books - Trouble the Water
Reader's Guide/Book Club Questions
*Certain plot "spoiler" questions have been left off here. Enjoy the complete Reader's Guide in the back of Trouble the Water
1. Duchess says one thing she knows for sure is this: “A woman can’t be an island, not really.” Discuss the concept of woman as an island. Do you agree with what she said?
2. The Gullah/Geechee community of St. Anne’s Isle opens its arms to Duchess, Honor and her sister, Alice. What might have happened if Blondell and the nannies had not embraced these women yet left them to their own devices?
3. Why does Blondell send Honor to go stay with the Duchess?
4. Honor and Duchess did not raise children of their own, yet long for them. How does this affect them as women? What about Blondell?
5. What is Honor’s relationship with authority figures? Who are these figures in her life? How do these relationships affect the way she views herself and relates to others? Who are the authority figures in your own life?
6. Honor, Duchess and Alice each have secrets in this book. What are they? Why do they keep these secrets? What are the effects of secrets in our lives?
7. Duchess says, “[Trouble the Water] is the story of Honor, come and gone, and how one flawed woman worked miracles in this mixed-up world.” Is it possible for good to come from another’s mistakes? Can you think of any real-life examples?
8. When we first meet Alice, she describes her “tidy shoebox of a life”. By the end of the book, does her life transform into something else? If so, why?
9. In Trouble the Water, seashells and water have strong spiritual symbolism. Can you identify any other symbolic themes in the book?
10. Alice does not find out about Honor’s physical issues until very late. How does Alice feel about being left untold? How would you feel? Are Honor’s reasons for not telling Alice valid? Have you ever known someone who kept an illness secret? What were the consequences?
11. Sisterhood is a strong theme in this book. Examine Alice’s and Honor’s relationship as sisters. Now examine other “sister” relationships in the novel.
12. Who do you think Sadie was? What does Alice believe? Why is this important to her future?
13. There is a theme of endings as new beginnings in this book. Please discuss.
14. What does it mean to “trouble the water”?
Discuss Honor’s, Alice’s and Duchess’ “diseases”
and healing in this book. What are their “symptoms”?