Reader’s Guide to In Between Goodbyes
Hope Moran is a single woman who has made her own unique life. Refusing to fit into other people’s molds she has led a life with many different vocations and avocations. But even in a life where the next year may find you in an entirely different world, one looks for common themes.
The overarching theme of several lives in this book is one of abandonment. There are many instances of abandonment in Hope’s life. What are these abandonments? Is someone else always responsible for abandonment or does Hope abandon too? How does she handle abandonment?
Has Ian been affected by the abandonment of others? Has anyone else in his life been there?
While making her own path, Hope is also surrounded by people who lift her up and protect her. Do you think she would have been able to live the life she has without the help of friends like Kate, Amy and EJ? Do you have people in your life like Kate, Amy and EJ? You might want to reflect on the times when you felt abandoned by someone, perhaps someone unexpected, came to your rescue.
Hope makes a conscious choice not to tell Ian that she is pregnant. In the face of his request to accompany him to El Salvador she continues to refuse to tell him. What is the source of her behavior?
Does Ian have an absolute right to know about the child? Is this a women’s choice? If you were one of Hope’s confidants and had been able to give Hope advice when she became pregnant what would you have said?
How do you feel about Hope’s decision not to tell Ian and to have a child out of wedlock? Do some of your feelings stem from the fact that she is an Episcopal priest? Are and should priests be held to a higher standard than their lay counterparts?
What are Hope’s vows as a priest? Explore them in the Book of Common Prayer. In light of those vows, how do you feel about her interaction with her bishop? How do you feel about the fact that she is not in parish ministry? What are other avenues open to ordained people in the church?
Looking at Hope’s initial refusal to fight her second experience with cancer, is she entitled to make her own life decisions or should she morally take more into consideration the needs of Ian and Emily? Does her choice fit with her history? When she reverses her initial decision can she be said to be reversing her history of abandonment?
There is a phrase in the movie “The List of Adrian Messenger” that states “evil is, evil exists.” Can you see Patrick as evil or is he a product of his environment and perhaps just mentally ill? Patrick was one of the catalysts for the flight of EJ from Manchester. Was she right in trying to protect at least one of her sons and herself?
When Ian is finished with his first movie after his time on Broadway he expresses to his agent that he is unhappy in his work as a movie actor and would prefer to do theater. Do you think his unhappiness in his profession contributes to his susceptibility to Patrick’s temptations? Looking back on people you have known who are unhappy in their work, do you think that some of the negative things that have happened in their lives are the result of this unhappiness? If you were one of Ian’s confidants what advice would you have given him when he returned from El Salvador?
Emily is told throughout the time that she is growing up that she can ask any time who her father is, but she doesn’t. Is Hope remiss in not telling her? Emily doesn’t seem to resent not knowing. Should children be told things before they themselves think they are ready? Is this a decision a child should have to make?
Finally, both Hope and Ian seem to be happier when they are able to make their own decisions about how they live their lives and what they do to “make it” in this world. In the past the American dream was to go to work for a company and stick there employed in a stable job that would afford them a comfortable retirement, yet people were not always happy in those jobs for the duration of their lives. Hope’s eclectic record of employment seems to be becoming the norm in American society. What effect do you think this will have on society? Will there be more people happier in their lives or will there be just more people headed toward retirement with less financial stability and perhaps less satisfaction with what they have achieved?
Is there an overarching theme or a lesson to be learned from In Between Goodbyes?
Church Group study guide for The Shepherd's Image
1. What is it in the Christianity that Paul shows Adelaide that attracts her to it? Could she just as easily become a Rabbi if Paul had been Jewish?
2. What makes us Christians? Are we defined by our works, our worship, our traditions?
3. Do you think that Adelaide’s journey to the priesthood is realistic?
4. Would she have found her way into ministry if it weren’t for Paul?
5. In Italy she makes friends with the “old ladies in black.” Can they be understood to be icons of a type of ministry? If so what kind?
6. If you were on her discernment committee what kinds of questions would you have asked her to answer?
7. When she becomes the priest at St. Francis the church is on the verge of having to do something about their financial situation. Do you think that without her leadership the church would have found a way or would it have closed?
8. What are the options when a diocese has churches that cannot make it on their own?
9. What is the role of a spiritual director? What are the things in her heart that her director is leading her to examine and why?
10. Adelaide falls into her first band aid for St. Francis when she is handed the ad from the Free Pentecostal Church. Do you think that other churches could find their monetary salvation in combining with other Episcopal Churches? With churches of a different denomination? What would be some of the obstacles?
11. What are the meanings behind Paul’s two paintings? Is he using them to lead her to something or simply to open up the minds of the people who are viewing them?
12. Paul’s artwork is based on the work of John Granville Gregory. Look up on the internet his painting entitled “Still Doubting.” Does it disturb you in any way?
13. What was the purpose of artwork in the church during the first 1000 years of Christianity? Does Paul’s work align with that purpose?
14. We leave Adelaide on the verge of having to deal with a diocese that is in deep financial and perhaps spiritual trouble. What is your idea of what should be her plan for the future? Is it her responsibility to save the diocese? Is it the responsibility of the people of the diocese or should they leave it to her?
15. How do you view the interaction between all the people of the church. Is there a hierarchy? Should there be a hierarchy?