About the Author
Angela Davis-Gardner is the author of the internationally acclaimed novels Felice, Forms of Shelter, and Plum Wine, which was inspired by the time she spent teaching Tsuda College in Tokyo, Japan. An Alumni Distinguished Professor at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, Angela has won nearly thirty awards for writing and teaching. She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she is at work on her next novel.
Reading Group Guide
Perched amid the leaves of the Osage orange tree in her stepfathers backyard, Beryl Fonteyn observes the life around her—Mamas desperate attempts to gain Jacks approval by writing her novel, which he mercilessly critiques; her brother Stevies unhealthy fascination with acting out events from the Bible; and Jacks obsession with his bees—all the while imagining that her runaway father will one day return. But as Beryls adolescent turmoil collides with the confines of Jacks eccentric home, a shattering secret will divide loyalties—and in one irrevocable moment the home that Beryls family has found, their shelter in the storm, will be torn apart forever....
1. While living at Jacks, Beryl spends most of her time in the tree house in the Osage orange tree. Why do you think she feels so safe there? Is it ironic that she feels secure in a place that was built by Jack?
2. From the beginning it seems that Jack is trying to buy the love of Beatrice, Beryl and Stevie. Discuss some of the purchases he makes for them. What are his ulterior motives behind these purchases?
3. Beryl never abandons the memory of her father. Do you believe Jack when he tells Beryl that her father turned down Beatrices attempt for reconciliation and that he had found another woman? Do you think her father ever tried to contact Beryl or Stevie over the years?
4. At the end of Chapter 12, Beryl says, “Stevie and I had often talked about the day he shot the acorn at the beehive and got stung; it marks the beginning of the time that everything began to go wrong between him and Jack.” (pg. 132) Do you agree with this statement? Do you believe Stevie and Jack ever really got along?
5. Even though Beryl does not like living with Grandmummy and Grandpa, would she and Stevie have been better off if they stayed with their grandparents instead of moving in with Jack? Why do you think Beryl never considers moving back to live with them?
6. Discuss Beryl and Eunices friendship. Why does Eunice befriend Beryl? Does Beryl think of Eunice as a true friend? Why can Beryl not confide to Eunice about her troubles at home?
7. Why does Beryl make up people and situations in her head, such as dreaming up pretend boyfriends and fantasies about her father returning? What is she trying to discover or replace in her own life?
8. There are a number of ups and downs in Jack and Beatrices marriage. Do you think they honestly love each other? Why do they stay married for so long?
9. Why is Beryl attracted to Bernie? What do you think are Bernies actual feelings towards her?
10. Beatrice raises each of her children differently. She is very protective and sympathetic toward Stevie while being hard on Beryl. Discuss the different tactics Beatrice uses. Do you think Beatrice feels threatened of Beryl and Jacks relationship?
11. After being sent off to a Catholic school, Stevie decides he wants to be baptized and confirmed as a Catholic. What makes him turn so suddenly to religion? Why isnt his family more supportive?
12. Discuss the sibling relationship between Beryl and Stevie. Would you consider them close? Is their relationship a typical brother/sister relationship?
13. When Jack decides to go into the honey business, he chooses Beryl as his partner. Why does he exclude the rest of the family? Do you think he uses the bees as an excuse to get closer to Beryl?