This week we will be discussing the chapters “Ella” and “Alice and Billups.”
1. What did you think of Hattie and August’s decision to give Ella to Pearl and Marion? Did you think they’d go through with it? Did you find it hopeful or tragic?
2. Reread the picnic scene that starts on page 116. Do you think Benny handled it properly?
3. In the “Alice and Billups” chapter, Eudine accuses Alice of putting her in a box. That seems an apt metaphor for this entire chapter. In what ways is Alice in a box herself?
1. I found the “Ella” chapter heartbreaking. What a decision to even be presented with. Mathis does an amazing job of letting us have compassion and empathy for all of the characters. I wanted to dislike Pearl but I couldn’t. I did think that Hattie was going to pull the plug on the whole deal but when it went through in the end, once again, it felt like the truest thing that could happen. And I liked how Hattie and August came together for that moment. While it felt so sad, it ultimately left me feeling more hopeful for all of their futures.
2. The picnic scene was harrowing to read. I swear my fingernails dug into my palms the whole time I was reading. I don’t think Benny had a choice. He made the manly decision. The boyish decision would’ve been to let his rage get the best of him, putting him and Pearl in danger.
3. This was an amazing chapter, the way it was structured and the how the characters were revealed. Alice has put herself in a box by marrying a man she didn’t love. The house itself has become a box or as she sees it, “…a great maw that has swallowed he whole.” The inciting incident from their childhood has boxed Alice in, informing every decision she makes like marrying Royce so she could care for Billy. The story she tells herself about Billy needing her to take of him has boxed her in. She is boxed in by her views on class which makes her unable to accept Eudine as her brother’s fiancée.
If you have any other questions you’d like to add, feel free to leave them in the comments below. I’d love to hear your responses or even your general thoughts on the book. Do you like it? Not so much? Can’t put it down? Let us know.