Reading Questions for fathermothergod by Lucia Greenhouse
July 20, 2011
Warning: May contain spoilers
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. How successful would you say the author is in conveying the doctrine of the Christian Science Church, starting with a child's point of view?
2. As a young girl Lucia thinks of the dichotomy between Christian Science and the real world as being like the Venn diagrams she's seen in her math class and wonders if the two realms overlap at all. Does this dichotomy apply to your own religion or that of others? Does it apply to other conflicting aspects of a child's life?
3. What were Lucia's parents' motivations in embracing Christian Science? Lucia's grandfather and uncle were prominent physicians. What are possible explanations for her mother's rejection of medicine?
4. Has there been a time in your life when you've had to make an extremely difficult choice between adhering to your own beliefs and respecting those of close friends or family members? How have you dealt with that conflict?
5. The Christian Science Church has often been viewed as a more or less mainstream—if small—Protestant religion. What was your understanding of the church, and how has that understanding changed?
6. Freedom of religion is a fundamental principle of American democracy. Are there limits to the free exercise of religion? Should there be?
7. Lucia and her siblings had been raised in the Christian Science Church and indoctrinated as children. Even though they never fully embraced Christian Science, its grip on them remained tight, even paralyzing. But the same cannot be said about some of Lucia's other family members, who remained silent after they learned about Joanne's illness. What kept them from acting? Filial loyalty? Religious tolerance? Fear?
8. What would you have done had you been in Lucia's shoes?
9. Where should the line be drawn between personal choice and legal interest (such as in cases of assisted suicide)?
10. At one point Lucia says that her grandmother may be the only person capable of forgiving her father, and only because her grandmother's faith dictates it. What role has forgiveness played in Lucia's life and that of her family since the events of 1986?
11. Do you think Lucia loves her parents?
12. What is the lowest point in the story?
13. Regardless of one's feelings about Mary Baker Eddy's theology, she was an early feminist who founded a religion and started The Christian Science Monitor. What is her legacy?
14. What do you think attracts people to Christian Science?
15. What is the difference between a religion and a cult?
16. Lucia's sister, Olivia, says to Lucia near the end of the book, "I just want you to know, you, Sherman, and I: we had three very different sets of parents. Your story's not mine." Is Olivia's comment a universal truth?
17. Sibling dynamics around family secrets are always complicated. How is what happens in fathermothergod similar or dissimilar to the way families handle other secrets, such as alcoholism or other addictions?
18. Which character in fathermothergod do you most identify with, and why?