Topics for Discussion
1. When Bonnie describes to Rue the Zoroastrian system for recognizing personality types, she defines a “helper” as a person so focused on being Good that she doesn’t see the big picture. Is this true of Rue? If so, how?
2. One of the most prominent conflicts in this novel involves the clash of values represented by Rue Shaw and Chandler Kip. What are those values and do you believe that they are irreconcilable? Do you think that Rue was politically savvy in dealing with Chandler?
3. In Saying Grace, the purpose of education is a subject of continuous debate. For Chandler, the mission of education is to equip a person to compete and win. How would you define Rue’s beliefs? Whose arguments do you feel are more compelling? How does the world of this school resemble current political thinking in the world at large?
4. Catherine Trainer is a perpetually vulnerable character and important catalyst to the major events in this story. Is she a comic figure or a tragic one? If she had behaved differently, would the story have had a different ending?
5. Hints about Henry’s relationship with Emily percolate in the course of this story. Do you think Rue’s reaction to it shows strength or weakness? Do you feel Henry deserves blame or sympathy?
6. At Chandler Kip’s Christmas party Rue talks about the “spiritual gestation” each person undergoes. Why did Chandler’s mother find Rue’s statement so offensive?
7. Henry and Rue have different views about the meaning and purpose of work in their individual lives. While Henry had chosen a traditional high-stress high-income career path, Rue chose to be an educator, an altruistic occupation compared to one of the more highly paid professions that the Chandler Kips of the world find impressive. Do you feel that Henry is disillusioned, at mid-life, about the beliefs and expectations he had when he was younger? What about Rue? How does it make you feel about the career choices you’ve made and where they have brought you?