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Book Club Discussion Questions | The Two Lives of Sara by Catherine Adel West

From the publisher: A young mother finds refuge and friendship at a boardinghouse in 1960s Memphis, Tennessee, where family encompasses more than just blood and hidden truths can bury you or set you free.

Sara King has nothing, save for her secrets and the baby in her belly, as she boards the bus to Memphis, hoping to outrun her past in Chicago. She is welcomed with open arms by Mama Sugar, a kindly matriarch and owner of the popular boardinghouse The Scarlet Poplar.

Like many cities in early 1960s America, Memphis is still segregated, but change is in the air. News spreads of the Freedom Riders. Across the country, people like Martin Luther King Jr. are leading the fight for equal rights. Black literature and music provide the stories and soundtrack for these turbulent and hopeful times, and Sara finds herself drawn in by conversations of education, politics and a brighter tomorrow with Jonas, a local schoolteacher. Romance blooms between them, but secrets from Mama Sugar’s past threaten their newfound happiness with Sara and Jonas soon caught in the crosshairs, leading Sara to make decisions that will reshape the rest of their lives.

Discussion Questions

  1. Did you finish the book, and if you did are you glad you read it?
  2. Were there sections you especially liked, or passages you felt didn’t work? Any parts you found difficult to read or especially well written?
  3. Did you like the characters? Did you find them believable?
  4. Were you glad the book was written in first person from Sara’s point of view? How would the story have been different if written from multiple points of view?
  5. What did you think of the plot development? Did the plot take turns you did not expect, or did you find it predictable?
  6. How was the dialog?
  7. Has anyone had any experiences that relate to places or experiences in the book? Can anyone speak to the author’s representation of 1960s Memphis?
  8. The Two Lives of Sara is a prequel to the author’s debut novel, Saving Ruby King. Has anyone read it? If you have, do you think it changed how you read and reacted to The Two Lives of Sara?
  9. Sara makes a hard and perhaps hard-to-believe choice at the end. Why did she make it? Was it the right choice?