GROUP DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: HOPE ON THE INSIDE
- Bostwick’s novels, including Hope on the Inside, emphasize the importance of creative pursuits in everyday life. Hope has her crafting and quilting; Rick has his baking. In what ways do the individual characters’ creative activities inform their relationships and sense of self-worth? In what ways do you think your own creative pursuits enrich your life?
- Career and vocational changes during different stages of life play an important role in the story. When the book opens, Rick views himself as the family breadwinner, viewing his identity in terms of his work. Hope, though she has recently returned to teaching, views herself primarily as a homemaker. How was their view of themselves and each other influenced or altered by their career changes? Do you think these were changes for the better or the worse? Have you experienced similar types of career changes in your life? How have those changes impacted your sense of self and your relationships?
- David’s relationship with Hope changes radically from the start of the novel to the end. In the beginning, he seems antagonistic toward Hope and her plans for the inmates, but later he appears more supportive and even reveals a shared desire to teach. What do you think accounts for the change in the way David treats Hope? Was he always on her side or did his attitude toward the program change over time?
- Based on the depiction of the prison system in the novel, in what ways do you think the system could be improved? What negative and positive effects does such an environment have on the inmates as well as the people who work there (the guards, teachers, and administrators)?
- The relationship between Hope and her daughter, McKenzie, evolves considerably throughout the story. Why do you think their relationship is so tense in the beginning of the story? What part did both mother and daughter play in contributing to that tension? What factors or events helped ease the tension and helped Hope and McKenzie develop the “close, cozy” mother-daughter relationship that Hope had always longed for? What about your relationship with your parents? Did it change over time? How and why?
- Hope and Rick fall into the “empty nesters” category. Hope struggles to find new purpose after many years of being a full-time wife and mother. Do you think our current culture is better preparing parents of adult children to anticipate and handle similar situations? Are there certain expectations for personal reinvention and career choices that come with this stage of life? How does Hope and Rick’s financial situation inform their later lifestyle choices?
- Nancy and others emphasize the role that men played in the female inmates’ incarceration. Do you think this is a fair assessment? Do you believe the inmates’ relationships with men are at least partly responsible for the women’s situations?
- Do you think McKenzie’s reaction toward her father’s suspected infidelity is normal given the situation or was she overly influenced by her own marital problems? Was she justified in confronting Rick at Kate’s home or was she only looking to channel her anger at her own husband?
- Hope downplays the symptoms of her hyperthyroidism until it becomes a medical crisis. How does this connect or conflict with Hope’s other personality traits, such as her tendency to put others before herself?
- The title of the book, Hope on the Inside, is a play on words, a hint about the content of the book and the fact that Hope teaches inside a correctional facility. In what other ways does the title shed light on the story line and the lives of the characters?
Book Title: Hope on the Inside
Author: Marie Bostwick
Group Discussion Questions
Recipe: The Best Oatmeal Cookies with Toasted Almonds