Book Club Resources

HOME BY DARK by Marta Perry
December 2012


Home by Dark

1. Can you understand the need that draws Rachel back her childhood home? Do you think it was emotional as well as financial? Have you ever thought you’d like to go back to a time when you felt cared for and secure?

2. Rachel feels driven to learn what is troubling her younger brother, even though she’s walking on thin ice as far as her family is concerned. Do you understand her feeling of responsibility for him? Do you think most siblings in the modern world have that sense of responsibility for each other? Why or why not?

3. Rachel once had a close relationship with her mother, and the distance between them now grieves her. Do you think mothers often find themselves trying to be a buffer between their spouse and their child?

4. Rachel’s father finds it difficult to accept her when she returns. Did you understand his feelings about his child deserting her family, her faith, and her way of life, even if you didn’t agree with them? Have you ever experienced a division with someone you loved because of differing beliefs? How can that be healed?

5. Colin’s life changed drastically after his mother’s death. Is it usual for a son to take over the care of aging parents? Have you experienced the difficulty of adjusting to a parent’s aging or death? If so, what helped you in that situation?

6. Rachel hopes to find comfort and security through re-creating as best she can the kind of childhood she had for her child. How do you feel childhood has changed from the time you were a child? Is it difficult to adjust to what it means to be a child today? Would you change things back if you could?

7. Colin attributes everything he knows about being a man to his father, which makes his father’s mental losses more difficult to bear. How do you think people can best adjust to their changing roles as they age?

8. The Amish proverb that introduces this story reads, “The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor the person perfected without trials.” How do you see that reflected in the story? Have you found that to be true in your own life? How?

9. Most Old Order Amish are very law-abiding while at the same time they avoid contact with the police. Does this help you understand Benj’s reluctance to talk? Do you think a non-Amish teenager would have a similar reaction? Why or why not?

10. Did you come away from the story with a better understanding of Amish attitudes toward modern life? Are there things about their lifestyle that you find admirable? Are there things you deplore?

RACHEL'S GARDEN by Marta Perry
Book 2, Pleasant Valley Amish March 2010


Rachel's Garden

1. Can you understand the difficulty Rachel has in facing life without her husband? Have you ever struggled to deal with a major life change like this? If so, how did God and other people help you?

2. Rachel finds herself hating to see Gideon because he reminds her too much of her husband’s death. Do you feel this reaction is part of her grieving process? How?

3. Rachel realizes that everyone around her has a different opinion as to what she should do. Has this ever happened to you? How did you deal with it?

4. The doubts Rachel feels about her ability to raise her children without her husband troubles her. Have you ever doubted your ability as a parent? Has God, or other people, helped you to gain insight?

5. Gideon is in despair because he survived when people he loved died. How do people deal with this kind of tragedy?

6. The scripture verse for this story has always seemed a difficult one to me, tying God’s forgiveness of us to our forgiveness of others. The Amish exemplify this, particularly in their reaction to the Amish school shootings and their forgiveness of the shooter. Do you ever have difficulty in forgiving? How do you cope with that?

SARAH’S GIFT by Marta Perry
Book 4, Pleasant Valley Amish Berkley Books, March, 2011


Sarah's Gift

1. Midwife Sarah Mast decides to start life over again in a new community. Moving is a common thing in English society, but relatively unusual for the Amish. Did you understand Sarah’s reasons for taking such a step? Did you think they were sound?

2. Have you ever moved to a new community? Who or what made you feel the most welcome and at home?

3. Who or what made Sarah feel at home in Pleasant Valley? Why?

4. Sarah is both shocked and in denial about the changes in her aunt. Have you ever encountered someone you haven’t seen in awhile and been shocked by how he or she has aged? Did you have a similar or different reaction?

5. Aaron’s hostility to the midwife practice takes Sarah by surprise, and she has difficulty understanding it. Have you ever experienced the discovery that someone you know has a radically different opinion on something important to you? How can a friendship survive such a situation?

6. When Sarah learns about the death of Aaron’s mother and his blaming her aunt, she immediately wants to “fix” the problem, as people with nurturing personalities often do. How did her aunt and Aaron respond to Sarah’s efforts? Did they think she was interfering? What might she have done?

7. Aaron’s relationship with his teenage brother, Benjamin, is a difficult one. Which of them did you empathize with the most? Did you understand Sarah’s longing to help them?

8. Did it surprise you to find that Amish teenagers have some of the same rebellious feelings as teenagers in the outside world? Why or why not?

9. Do you think the Amish are wise to allow their teenagers to experience the freedom they do in rumspringa? What are the dangers? What might be the dangers of not allowing it?

10. Sarah experiences varying reactions to midwifery during her career, from physicians who welcome her assistance to those who want to put her out of business. The court case was based in part on an actual case involving a midwife to the Amish in Pennsylvania. Why do you suppose some health care professionals are opposed to Amish midwives? Do you see a value in physicians and midwives working together?

11. Have you or someone you know experienced a midwife-assisted birth? What were your opinions of it?

12. Sarah’s relationship with her aunt goes through several transitions during Sarah’s first months in the practice. Do you see any of your relationships with older people or younger people reflected in Sarah’s experience? How? What qualities should people strive for when seeking the best relationships between generations?

13. It is not an easy thing for Amish people to take a stand on political or legal issues because of their history and beliefs. For the Amish of Pleasant Valley, showing their silent support of their midwife was a serious decision. Did you understand why they did that? Were you surprised that other groups would join them?

14.  The birth of Molly’s baby is a crucial point in the relationship between Sarah and Aaron, when they are forced to face their deepest feelings. What are some times in the life of a family that bring out deep emotions? How can families grow through these experiences?

15. Do you think that Sarah will find comfort for her childless state in her clients and their babies? Or do you think this might make it more difficult for her as she and Aaron begin their married lives?

KATIE’S WAY by Marta Perry
Book 5, Pleasant Valley Amish Berkley Books, November, 2011


Katie's Way

1. After her fiancé weds her best friend, Katie Miller decides to open a quilt shop in Pleasant Valley, near her cousins, where she won’t be constantly reminded of her loss. Did you understand Katie’s reasons for making the change? Did you think she was running away?

2. Have you ever felt betrayed by someone you loved? How did you handle it? What helped you deal with the betrayal?

3. Katie longs for a shop of her own after working with her mother for so long. Did you understand why she would want to set up on her own?

4. Katie is shocked and a little dismayed that her parents expect her to take on the care of her teenage sister, Rhoda. Do you feel the parents did the right thing by sending Rhoda to live with Katie after her problems with her rumspringa?

5. Caleb Brand is less than thrilled to have a quilt shop occupying the space next to his store. Did you understand his reasons?

6. Do you think the bishop might have had several reasons for thinking that Katie’s shop and Caleb’s would be a good match? Might he have been trying to involve Caleb with the community again?

7. Katie’s relationship with her teenage sister is a difficult one. Which of them did you empathize with the most? Did you understand why Katie felt overwhelmed at times?

8. Did it surprise you to find that Amish teenagers have some of the same rebellious feelings as teenagers in the outside world? Why or why not?

9. Do you think the Amish are wise to allow their teenagers to experience the freedom they do in rumspringa? What are the dangers? What might be the dangers of not allowing it?

10. Katie’s natural energy and enthusiasm found an outlet in working with other merchants to promote the town. Did it surprise you to find that many Amish are businesspeople? What were the varying reactions to their promotion efforts?

11. Katie is nearly cheated by the Englisch dealer, when Caleb intercedes to warn her. Sometimes outsiders think that the Amish will be easy marks because they are perceived as being less well-educated. How do you suppose the Amish might protect themselves from these people?

12. Katie’s relationship with her sister goes through several transitions during their time together. Do you see any of your relationships with teenagers reflected in Katie’s experience? What qualities did Katie have that allowed her to establish a good, strong relationship with her sister?

13. It can sometimes be difficult for Amish people to compete with other businesses which have the advantage of internet advertising, use of computers, etc. Do you think that the quality of their work is a sufficient balance to the disadvantages of their way of life? Have you ever purchased Amish-made goods for that reason?

14. When the vandal strikes Katie’s and Caleb’s shops, that terrible event pushes them to face their deepest feelings. What are some times in relationships that bring out deep emotions? How can couples grow through these experiences?

15. Do you think that Katie and Caleb are well-matched? What qualities do they have that make you feel their relationship will last?

HANNAH’S JOY by Marta Perry
Book 6, Pleasant Valley Amish Berkley Books, May, 2012


Hannah's Joy

1. After the death of her soldier husband in combat, Hannah Conroy decides to return to Pleasant Valley, the community she lost as a child when her parents rejected their Old Order Mennonite roots. Did you understand Hannah’s reasons for moving? Did you think she did the right thing?

2. Do you believe that Hannah’s faith and values were set when she was a young child, even though she departed from them for a time? If you have children, how do you or did you impart the faith when they were young?

3. Hannah doesn’t have experience working in a bakery, but she discovers that she has a talent and love for it. Have you ever uncovered a previously unknown talent? What was it, and how did it enrich your life?

4. Hannah is surprised that her aunt expects her to offer help to William Brand with his speech problems. Did you agree with the idea that if a person has a gift or knowledge, he or she is expected to share it?

5. William is initially reluctant to take advantage of Hannah’s offer. Do you think people sometimes find it more comfortable to live with a problem rather than try to solve it? Why or why not?

6. Did you understand the varying reactions of William’s family and friends to his effort to improve his speech? Do you think they were acting out of love for him or for other reasons?

7. Hannah’s friend, Megan, can’t understand her reasons for becoming part of the Mennonite and Amish community, and that threatens their friendship. Have you ever had an experience of disagreeing so strongly with a friend that your relationship was at risk? How did you resolve it?

8. When Megan visits, Hannah is concerned that the balance of her life in Pleasant Valley is disturbed by Megan’s attitude toward Hannah’s aunt and William. Have you experienced having people who are important to you in sharp disagreement? Did you try to be a buffer between them? How should a Christian handle a situation like that?

9. William struggles with the need to relate differently to people as he begins to see himself differently. Is this a natural reaction to change in those we love? What is our responsibility when we see a friend or loved one begin to change? How did you respond to the attitude of some people that William should stay as God made him?

10. Do you think that Hannah handled her relationship with her father-in-law correctly? What is the Christ-like response to the difficult people in our lives?

11. Hannah’s father-in-law thought he was doing the right thing in trying to force Hannah to raise her son elsewhere. Did you understand his attitude? What do you think would be the positives and negatives for Jamie in being raised as Old Order Mennonite?

12. Living with her aunt helps Hannah to understand her late mother better. Have you ever uncovered something you didn’t know about a person after his or her death? How did that make you feel?

13. The bakery is one of the centers of life in Pleasant Valley, where people meet, exchange news, and enjoy the wonderful baked goods. What are the centers of community in your area? Do you have something that compares? If not, do you miss it?

14. When Hannah’s father-in-law threatens to take her child away, William is forced to take actions that might once have seemed impossible for him. Have you ever found the courage to act through your love for another person? Do you think God ever pushes us into difficult situations to foster our growth?

15. Do you think William will be a good father to Jamie? What qualities does he have that will help? What can he offer Jamie emotionally and spiritually?

December, 2010, HQN Books


Murder in Plain Sight


The course of the righteous is like morning light, growing brighter until it is broad day; but the ways of the wicked are like darkness at night, and they do not know what has been their downfall. Proverbs 4:18-19

1. Can you understand why Trey was troubled by the doubts about his relationship with his father after his father’s suicide? What else could he have done to resolve those feelings?

2. Trey was raised to take responsibility in every situation. Is that always a good reaction? Can you think of a time in which that might backfire on a person?

3. Jessica struggles with to live up to the expectations her father has of her. Has this ever happened to you? How do you sort out God’s calling from the demands of others?

4. Jessica thinks that her father was unable to love her because of his grief over her mother’s death. Is there a right or wrong way to grieve?

5. Jessica drifted away from faith during her college years. Have you ever experienced that? If so, how did you come back to God?

6. The scripture verse for this story reminds of God’s care for the righteous. Sometimes we find it difficult to do that when the world seems filled with guilty people who flourish. How do you reconcile those things?

7. Jessica finds her situation difficult, but she perseveres for the sake of her client. Have you ever found you’re able to do things for others that you couldn’t for yourself?

8. Why do you think Trey was so antagonistic to Jessica at first? What was he afraid of? Did you understand his feelings, even if you didn’t agree?

9. Thomas is completely lost and vulnerable when he’s caught up in the law. How was he supported?

10. Many people in the community expressed anger and resentment toward the Amish. Why do you think that was the case? How hard is it to be fair to people who are different from you?

11. Bobby reacted hostilely to Trey’s kindness when they were in high school. Why do you suppose he did that? Should a hostile response prevent us from doing what is right in God’s sight?

12. Jessica begins to realize that in the bad times, all she has to cling to is God. Do you think God can use the difficulties we encounter to help us to turn him? Has that ever happened to you?

13. Which character in the story did you feel was living the most Christ-like life? Why?

14. How did you feel about the glimpses of Amish culture in the story? Did it make you interested in learning more?

15. In the end, Jessica and Trey were able to find the truth about the crime. How did their reliance on God help them?

Book 7, Pleasant Valley Amish October 2012, Berkeley


Naomi's Christmas

1. Can you understand the shock Naomi felt at the sudden change in her life? Have you ever experienced such a change? How did you deal with it?

2. Naomi’s strong sense of devotion has kept her committed to her family life. Do you understand why she rebels at doing what her family wants?

3. Naomi struggles with doubts about her decisions. Why do you suppose she felt so torn?

4. Nathan is so caught up in his grief over what happened in the past that he can’t see his present clearly. How have you dealt with grief in your life?

5. Did you understand why Nathan was over-protective of his children? If you have children, how do you balance the need to protect them with the need to let them try new things? Is it difficult for you?

6. Naomi is surprised by the help and support she receives from different people in her life. Have you ever been surprised by an unexpected offer of help? How did you react?

7. Quiet Naomi was the opposite of her lively friend Ada when they were young. What do you think would draw them together? What makes two people good friends despite the differences in their temperaments?

8. Naomi turns to the bees, her legacy from her grandmother, whenever she struggles with change in her life, because that brings her peace. Do you have a hobby or skill that you turn to when you need to find peace or when you want to think things through?

9. Nathan’s father is a voice for reason in his life, giving him good counsel but letting him decide for himself. Do you think have someone in your life that you can count on to be that?

10. Elements of a Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas are a part of the story of Naomi’s Christmas. Do you have special Christmas traditions that come from your heritage?

11. Were you surprised that mental illness occurs among the Amish? Did Jessie’s story open any doors of understanding for you?

12. Did you understand why Naomi turned down Nathan’s initial proposal? Do you think it took courage for her to turn away at that point, knowing what she was losing?

13. Naomi realizes that God has used this difficult situation in her life to bring her to a new place. Has that ever happened to you?

14. Which character in the story did you feel was living the most Christ-like life? Why?