1. One epigraph states “A pearl is only a pearl once it’s out of its shell.” How does this apply to the story? Where are there “shells”?
2. How is the second epigraph, “Does love always form, like a pearl, around the hardened bits of life,” borne out in the book? In real life?
3. Pearls, either a strand or a pearl of wisdom, surface throughout the book. In opera, a leitmotif is a piece of music used to define/recognize a character. How are the pearls throughout the book leitmotifs for various characters? What are the leitmotifs in your or your friends’ lives?
4. Was Betty wrong or right in not sharing parts of her past with her daughter? Why?
5. Though chronological times were widely different for Betty and Reggie, many of their challenges were the same or similar. How do you think the mother and daughter faced and made their decisions? Did the times affect decisions? Should the times affect decisions?
7. What was your favorite discovery/story about what was going on in Betty’s life?
8. What kind of woman do you think Em will turn out to be? On what did you base your answer?
9. Though important, the men are secondary to the women’s stories. Do you feel they are realistically portrayed, or given short shrift?
10. What was your favorite part of the book? What was your least favorite?
11. What surprised you about this book?
12. Do you have any lingering questions from the book that you are still thinking about?