Discussion questions for Ad Hudler's Southern Living
- Food plays a prominent role in the lives of each of the three main characters. Discuss those relationships, their similarities and differences.
- The theme of religion is woven through the book, too. Margaret has an aversion to it, after countless run-ins with anti-abortion activists. Donna’s father hammers it home to her but she, too, remains a religious outsider. How does religion shape the two women’s lives?
- Selby, a sleepy old Southern town, is in the midst of a transformation with the sale of the newspaper to a big Northern chain and the influx of Asians and Northerners who have relocated to work at the Toyota plant. Discuss what those changes are and the positive and negative effects.
- Donna and Margaret seemingly come from different worlds. Donna is a home-town Southern girl, a high school graduate who strives to fill her homemaker mother’s role in her domineering father’s life. Margaret grew up fatherless, has a master’s degree and was raised in the North by a well-educated, feminist mother. What is it that makes them bond despite those differences? Conversely, Suzanne and Donna have quite similar backgrounds yet never develop much of a relationship. Why?
- Margaret, Donna and Suzanne all undergo change. Discuss what their metamorphoses have in common and what’s different? What role do men play in each one’s transformation?
- Does the fact that Margaret doesn’t know who her father is play a part in how she views men?
- What role does makeup play in Donna’s life? If she’d had her scar repaired early on, might she still have been so driven to become a supermarket success?
- Which character do you find the most interesting? Why?
- In her letter to Margaret, Ruth Pinaldi tells her: “If you choose to be a gentle breeze for most of your life, also remember there will be times that call for the roar of a hurricane — and you must blow the bastards away. History does not remember the ‘good girls.’” Do you agree? Why or why not?
- Randy is a well-educated Northerner who loves fine food, which initially appears to give him much in common with Margaret. Why then does she turn away from him in favor of Dewayne?
- What role does race play in the book? Are Boone and his Sugar Day Country Club peers racist or is the club all white because blacks and whites are more comfortable with that arrangement?
- The Chatter items sprinkled throughout the book change in tone and nature as the plot progresses. Discuss those differences and what they appear to show. What purpose do they serve?