Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Reading Guide for The Unlikely Lavender Queen

Happy Reading to the Pulpwood Queens

Jeannie Ralston will be calling in for our next meeting on July 30.  She also will be signing Bookplates for our books.  We may not get them in time for our July meeting though since she is doing a book tour this month.
You will be receiving the Event Site notice shortly.  Please let us know if you will be attending.  Also these discussion questions will be listed on the Event Site for those who can't attend to be able to discuss on the Event Site.  I'm working on how to do a chat room...anyone know how to do it? Let me know and we'll work together.



In The Unlikely Lavender Queen, journalist Jeannie Ralston shares the story of how she went from being a single, driven New York City career woman to a married lavender farmer living in rural Texas. Describing her transition from city mouse to country mouse, and recalling the hilarity and poignancy it brought, Ralston touches upon many themes including self-worth, identity, reconciling big-city dreams with small-town ideals, and the competing interests that sometimes complicate a marriage. The below questions are intended to help direct your book group's discussion of this lively–and unlikely–memoir.

Reader's Guide

1. The book opens with two quotations, one from Henri Matisse and the other from Alice Walker. Discuss what each means in the context of Jeannie Ralston's story. Why do you think she chose these particular quotes?

2. In the Prologue, Ralston describes her maiden morning as a farmer, and juxtaposes it with a memory of her life in New York: "I recalled one of the last times I was out at this hour, years earlier. It was on the other side of sleep, right after a New Year's Eve party, as I was stumbling through SoHo with my then-fiancé." Have you ever had moments when your current life seems at odds with your past? How does it make you feel? Do you long for the past, or have you "moved on?"

3. Before reading The Unlikely Lavender Queen, did you know anything about botanical farming? What did you learn? Do you think you could be a farmer like Ralston?

4. Have you made a surprising lifestyle or career choice, or otherwise found yourself doing something you didn't expect? Do you know people who've done so?

5. Answer the question the author poses at the end of the prologue: "When do you know whether the choices you've made were the right ones?"

6. At one point, Ralston says "I couldn't fathom giving up New York, and with it, I assumed, my identity, which had taken so long to forge." From what aspects of your life do you draw your identity? Is "home" a factor in how you view yourself?

7. The author's therapist tells her, "Marriage is a series of compromises and negotiations." Do you agree with this statement? What were the compromises Ralston and her husband made in their relationship? If you were in either of their shoes, would you have made the same concessions?

8. Ralston describes a visit to her parents' house as "invariably a time warp that you step into at your own risk." Why do you think she had such a hard time returning home? How do you react when you visit your family–do you relive the emotions of your youth, or are you separated from those feelings?

9. Were you surprised to discover that an undiagnosed case of post-partum depression was the cause of Ralston's severe insomnia? Do you know anyone who has experienced PPD?

10. After the farm is opened to the public, a customer says, "You are living my dream!" Ralston writes, "Reflexively, I wanted to answer, 'If you only knew.' But I simply smiled. Though it was true I'd never had such a dream, I was only beginning to see why others might." What did you find appealing about the author's description of her life in Blanco? Can you understand why she was not able to appreciate aspects of her life that others found enviable?

11. "To be part of a small town, I had to be more broad-minded than I had been while living in New York." Consider this statement. Do you agree that small town could test a person's open-mindedness more than a big city? Have you any experience with this yourself? Did this passage change in any sense the way you think about small towns?

12. When her husband convinces her that they should sell their home and the farm, the author says that she felt like if she was a true feminist, she would fight him on this. Do you agree? What does feminism mean to you?

13. As much as The Unlikely Lavender Queen is a story of new beginnings, it's also an intimate picture of a marriage. What did you think of the author's husband? How are she and Robb alike and different? Are you surprised that their marriage survived all the upheaval associated with their move to Texas and the launch of their farm?

14. If money or time were of no consequence, do you have a secret dream you'd like to pursue? What is it?

15. Ralston talks at different points about `letting go.' What does that phrase mean to you? Do you think Ralston truly learns to let go? Is this a goal for you in your life? If so, why?

 Queen Kay 
Justice --- When you get what you deserve
  Mercy ----- When you don't get what you deserve
 Grace ----- When you get what you don't deserve

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