Book clubs are a popular way to share favorite books and explore new ones. Might I suggest one of the Gethsemane Brown Mysteries as a choice for your club? They feature a smart, determined, African American female protagonist, a charmingly irascible ghost, and a picturesque Irish village. I’ve come up with some discussion questions for book one in the series, Murder in G Major, to get you started:
- In Murder in G Major, Gethsemane Brown accepts a job she’s not keen on and moves into a house she doesn’t like because she’s desperate for money and shelter. Do you think she did the right thing? Do you think she settled for less than she should have? Do you think she should have gone back home to Virginia?
- The job and the house turned out to be blessings that led to new opportunities and new friendships. Have you ever settled for something that later turned out to be the best thing that happened to you?
- If you could start over—new career, new job, new social circle—where would you go and why? What if you had to start over? What would you do?
- Gethsemane comes from a family where everyone is super-successful and failure is not something anyone is used to. How did this background influence her decision to stay in Ireland instead of go home to Virginia?
- Situations beyond Gethsemane’s control derailed her careful plans for her life. How did she deal with the disappointment? How do you deal with changes and challenges you didn’t plan for and don’t want?
- As an upper-middle class, well-educated, African American classical musician, Gethsemane is used to operating in environments where she’s on-of-a-kind. How might this have influenced her decision to stay in Dunmullach? How does she handle being a fish out of water? How do you handle situations where you’re surrounded by people unlike yourself?
- Gethsemane, the daughter of a mathematician, prides herself on being rational and logical. Then she meets a ghost. How does she reconcile logic with the paranormal? Have you had any paranormal experiences? How did you reconcile your experience with a scientific world that says such things don’t exist?
- Gethsemane’s mother rejected the supernatural stories told by Gethsemane’s grandparents as “country” superstition, something she had to do to survive and earn respect in a “sophisticated” urban world inclined to view her as less-than because of her race and socioeconomic background. What kind of stress and anxiety might arise from navigating from the world you came from to the world you want to live in if those two worlds are vastly different? How might this tension have affected Gethsemane’s mother’s parenting style? How do you deal with family and childhood friends who don’t fit the image you want to present to the world you currently inhabit? How do you deal with people in your current environment who look down on your background?
- How does Gethsemane come to terms with the realization that her grandparents’ “superstitions” have merit?
- The Black middle class is not often portrayed in books. How did you react to an African American main character who is well-educated and economically successful without a background of socioeconomic deprivation or abuse?
- Gethsemane grew up with a father who suffered with mental illness. How might this have colored her reactions to other characters in the novel who battle mental illness?
- Gethsemane recites Negro League baseball stats to calm herself when she’s nervous. What rituals do you use to combat nervousness?
- Gethsemane hears Tchaikovsky’s “Pathétique” in her head to warn of her danger. Do you believe in hunches? Do you have an internal alarm system that alerts you to impending danger? Do you heed it?
- Gethsemane isn’t afraid to stand up for herself, her friends, and her beliefs. Would you describe her as stubborn or as having the courage of her convictions? Should female characters behave in a ladylike fashion? What does ladylike mean?
- How would you react if you found out you lived in a haunted house? What if it was haunted by the ghost of someone you admired?
- Gethsemane drinks whiskey. How did you react to a woman who drinks whiskey? What’s your favorite drink?