Don't read questions until you've read the book!
1. In the beginning of the novel, we learn how Gracene sees herself. How did the following events/people contribute to her body/self-image: her mother, her aunt Shannon, the bullying she was subjected to as a child?
2. As tough as Gracene appears in the beginning of the novel and as judgmental as she is of Hallie’s appearance, she is “nudged” to help the new, confused girl pick up her supplies. What does this behavior tell us about her heart?
3. What does Gracene’s word journal reveal about her? Do the journal and the author’s use of definitions at the beginning of each chapter seem natural/plausible?
4. How is a child’s emotional development affected by the parent(s)? How did the disappearance of Gracene’s mother affect her? At the end of the story, she says she wishes she’d known the truth about her mother sooner. Do you think this would have changed her attitude about her appearance/her self-worth? Would it have alleviated her anger? Would it have kept her out of prison or from making what she felt was the worst decision of her life?
5. Gracene became very good at hiding her true self—“bluffing her way through pain.” She knew she was a fraud and was wary of Regina who could also spot a phony. Do we all hide our true selves from others in some way? Why?
6. What is ironic in Gracene’s early observation that grace didn’t apply to her any more than charm or beauty? The dictionary gives several definitions of grace. Why do you think the only definition that Gracene noted was the one that referred to physical beauty?
7. What in Gracene’s life influenced her view of God? What were some of her questions and observations? Do you ever struggle with questions such as these?
8. In prison Gracene uses colored pencils to make herself more attractive. Does this say more about using the wrong things to make herself feel good about her appearance or about “making do” with what she has?
9. Hallie asks Gracene to pray at a meal. Have you ever been taken by surprise and asked to publicly pray or give testimony? Do you find it uncomfortable?
10. Gracene catches herself and says “blessed” instead of “lucky.” Do we (or others) ever try to “sound religious” based on the group we are with?
11. How does Regina use the story of the Israelites in Egypt to provide a life lesson for Gracene?
12. Right after Gracene moves into Transformation Place, Regina tells her she will soon have a roommate. Did you know it would be Hallie? Were you surprised to discover this had been a condition of Gracene’s acceptance at Transformation Place?
13. Gracene and Hallie begin to bond over the food Hallie brings home from the diner. What does Hallie’s pleasure in providing food for Gracene say about her? What does the sharing of food often signify in literature? Is the sharing of food a bonding experience in our own lives?
14. How was Tony’s telling Gracene he trusted her an important moment in her journey?
15. The wind and wind chimes are recurring symbols in the novel. Hallie loves wind chimes and sees the wind as a comforting companion and a reminder of God’s presence. What does she tell Gracene about how the wind is portrayed in the Bible?
16. Gracene’s reaction to wind chimes is very different from Hallie’s. What is her first reaction? As her transformation begins, how does her reaction change?
17. At the end of the novel, Hallie says she didn’t touch the wind chime on the night Del attacked Gracene. What do you think about this? A coincidence? A result of Gracene’s emotional state? A miracle? What do you think the wind chimes symbolize?
18. Gracene ignores what she intuitively knows, claiming that “wants can out yell instincts any day of the week.” Do we ever ignore our gut feelings in order to pursue what we want even when we know that might not be in our best interest?
19. Gracene, in a moment of desperation, realizes that her longing to find her mother is the result of her passion for revenge. What does she cry out at this epiphany?
20. Hallie’s faith never wavered, but she, too, was transformed. In what ways?
21. Hallie was a big believer in miracles, but she understood that the air conditioning (there’s that wind again) coming on wasn’t the miracle, rather the timing was. Do we often look and pray for a concrete sign to be a miracle rather than seeing God’s answer in other ways?
22. When Gracene admits to Regina that she can’t forgive Del, Regina tells her that the Christian life is a process, and we will all struggle. How does accepting the unearned, undeserved love of God—His grace—help us with our struggles?
23. Gracene knew that Transformation Place didn’t charge rent but that “living there wouldn’t be free.” How do we see this fit in our own spiritual lives?
24. At the beginning of the story, Gracene makes the observation: “No way could this scrawny excuse of girl would ever be useful to me.” What is the irony in this?
25. Were you surprised by the challenges facing people coming out of prison? What were some of these challenges? Are places of post-prison assimilation critical? Do you think they would reduce the recidivism rate?
26. Hallie’s boyfriend Sean makes a reference to Romans 8:28 which says, “... all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.” What examples of this did you see in the story?
27. What do you think about Hallie’s claim that God’s forgiveness isn’t dependent on self-forgiveness? The Bible instructs us to forgive others, but nowhere are we told to forgive ourselves. Is self-forgiveness even possible?28. In the story, what did you see as the main instrument of conveying the message of God’s love and grace?