Among the Lesser Gods
As I’ve attended book groups, I’ve asked what questions members would suggest for a discussion guide. Here are the questions I’ve gotten so far. Do you have more? Let me know!
- Forgiveness involves making peace with reality, no longer playing things over and over in an effort to make them turn out differently. Most people have things they wish they could do over, even if they aren’t as consumed as Elena. What do you do with them? How do you stop the replay? What have you seen in the lives of people who haven’t handled them well? What are positive and negative ways of dealing with them? Is there anything you can do to help someone whose past is interfering with the present?
- What does the title mean to you? Who are the “lesser gods?” How has the relationship between the mortal and the divine changed through human history, and how does it compare to Elena’s development?
- Elena, who didn’t have a mother, finds sources of wisdom in the women around her. What gives them their authority? Who are your “wise women”? What have they taught you? Have you seen any truth in Poppy’s wall and the idea that we’re all connected somehow?
- Sarah, whose mother had died, wasn’t afraid of ghosts because “ghosts come from bad thoughts.” Can you think of examples? How does the color of our memories of people or events affect our relationships with them? Elena describes her ghosts as being made of “smoke and regret.” What else can our ghosts be made of? What kinds of things have the potential to haunt us?
- After pointing out that Elena’s life and baby are gifts, Tuah tells Elena that “no gift comes for free.” What do you think that means? What might the costs be? Can you think of times when you’ve sacrificed for something and found that the sacrifice itself has value? Perhaps more than the thing itself? Have you come to think of anything as a gift that didn’t seem like one in the moment?
- Elena is determined that Tuah never find out what happened to Benencia, while Leo insists that telling is the right thing to do. Whose argument do you find more compelling? Are there times to keep a secret? How far do you go to protect people from things that hurt? If someone knew a truth that contradicted your beliefs, would you rather know, or not know?
- Tuah describes Benencia as “perfect in every way.” What do you think she means? What would it take for you to describe somebody that way? If Benencia is the only character who isn’t flawed, where does she fit “among the lesser gods”?
- Do you agree with Elena’s assessment that people in a small town know one another’s damaged parts and choose to overlook them? Or does life in a small town make it harder to overcome one’s history? What role do others’ opinions or expectations play in a person’s ability to move on from the past?
- Which character do you relate to? Why? How would you like to see your character’s story play out after the close of the book?
For more about the author and discussion of the book, you can find the New Books in Literature podcast interview about Among the Lesser Gods here. (Also available in your podcast app.)
How have your book groups gone? Let me know in the comments section, and suggest more discussion questions. And email if you’d like me to attend or videoconference with your group.