Greetings Book Groups!
The past few years, I have had the honor of visiting many book groups here in Phoenix and around the country. What a blessing to spend a time laughing and sharing and chewing on life—all of its joys and complexities.
If you would like me to drop in on yours (via Zoom during COVID) you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have been reluctant to post general questions so as not to limit the fruitful discussion that each book allows, however, I have had so many requests that I have decided to post a combination of questions posed by readers as well as a few of my own. Feel free to add some of yours!
Halfway to Each Other: How a Year in Italy Brought Our Family Home
Questions sent in by readers!
- Overall—how did you experience the book while reading it? Were you immediately drawn into the story—or did it take a while?
- In this age of social networking and being constantly connected with friends on an overwhelming basis, do you identify with Susan when she wrote that she and her husband “spent too much time turning to our friends instead of each other?”
- What does Mrs. Pohlman celebrate or criticize in both cultures—Italian and American? Consider family traditions, social norms, economic and political structures, the arts, language, food, and religious beliefs.
- Upon moving to Italy, does Susan wish to preserve her American culture or adapt to the Italian culture? If preserve, what and how? Either way—by instigating change or by maintaining the status quo of her old life—what would be gained or what would be at risk?
- Do you think Susan Pohlman is trying to make a point of saying that Americans judge others too harshly or care too much what others think of them? When she writes of the ordeal of getting ready for the beach—which swimsuit she’ll wear and what that choice will say about her—what is she saying about American culture?
- Halfway through her adventure in Italy, Susan finds herself at the kitchen sink “mourning the slow death of her American Dream.” Is the American Dream relatively the same for everyone and is it as toxic to a marriage as Susan suggests? Do Americans insulate themselves in their “stuff” that creates the American Dream (PlayStations, Wii, mobile phones, instant messaging, television programs, etc.) rather than grow their relationships?
- When Susan speaks with her husband, Tim, she ponders the American Dream and asks if the reason they are so miserable is because they got lost in the repetition of their life. She states, “You just kind of get lost in the repetition of it all. But you don’t really know you’re lost until you’re so lonely that you can’t take it anymore. The layers of your life slowly suffocate you. And then it falls apart. The marriage, the family, the house…” Agree or disagree?
- How does the Italian culture differ from ours? What was most surprising, intriguing, and difficult to understand? After reading the book, have you gained a new perspective—or did the book affirm your prior views?
- What do you think of Susan’s belief that there are two approaches to spending money: “one was to spend it so that the world looked at us; the other was to spend it so that we could look at the world?” Agree or disagree?
- Do the same issues that affected Susan’s life affect your life? How so—directly, on a daily basis, or more generally? Now or sometime in the future?
- If you were to talk to Susan Pohlman, what would you want to know?
Questions I added ~
1. Fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. Do you think that the abundance and consumerism of American culture is a factor?
2. What is the relationship of faith to risk? Risk to faith?
3. What happens to a marriage over time? Why is it that so many of us find ourselves in crises at some point in the road?
4. Children bear the brunt and the best of our adult worlds. Expand on this statement.
5. How does adventure nourish the soul and provide natural bridges to intimacy for couples?
6. How far would you go to save your marriage?
7. What is the role of faith in a marriage? Is it a necessary element?
8. How did the Italian culture support healing in the Pohlman's marriage?
9. Have you ever yearned to just chuck it all and take off? Why or why not?
10. How does fear help/hinder our relationships.
11. How did this experience affect Katie and Matt? How do you think your children would adapt?
A Time to Seek: Meaning, Purpose, and Spirituality at Midlife
1. What does it mean to travel with intention? How does intentional travel turn a trip or vacation into a "journey" of the soul?
2. Have you ever felt a strong "call" to an adventure or to a task?
3. After Susan received the plane ticket as a gift, why did she start to have second thoughts? Have you ever talked yourself out of doing something that you knew would be good for you? And then regretted it?
4. Discuss the relationship of faith and fear.
5. What is your relationship to the passing of time?
6. Midlife transition can be an unsettling time. Why do you think American culture avoids embracing it as an opportunity for fulfillment and joy?
7. What chapter spoke to you most deeply? Why?
8. What are some of the cultural expectations that are placed upon us that, in reality, don't really matter?
9. In Chapter 7, Susan states that "faith plus passion are a potent combination." Discuss.
10. What is the nature of "greatness?" Is it reserved for the few or available to all of us?
11. Who is the person you were before the world told you who to be? What does this answer have to do with times of transition in life?
12. What does it mean to live from the inside out?
13. For those with children, discuss the process of their transition to adulthood. How do we "let our children go and grow?" Has this been an easy or difficult time for you?
14. What will be your next chapter? Share your dreams with the group.