1. Does Daddy Jim truly sit with Essie Mae and speak with her? What does EJ believe? How about Henrietta? Why do you think Daddy Jim visits Essie Mae at her roadside stand? Why doesn’t he come to the house on Rifle Range Road? If Daddy Jim truly loves Essie Mae, why do you think he won’t go to Sunnydale Farms?
2. Essie Mae feels she’s found her calling in life. What is her calling? Have you found your calling in life? If so, how did you realize it? If not, what may be standing in your way? Do you believe everyone has a calling?
3. Essie Mae is 78-years-old. Is she part of your generation, your mother’s, or your grandmother’s? What characteristics does she share with women of her generation?
4. Both Jeffrey Lowes and Jackson Hemmingway were cared for as children by Essie Mae. What do you think about nanny-child relationships? What does it say to you that a white family chooses a nanny who is African-American?
5. What do you think Essie Mae is most afraid of? How does she handle that fear? What do you think Henrietta is most afraid of? How does she handle her fears? Have you ever considered what you’re most afraid of? How might your fears impact your actions and your loved ones?
6. How do you think Essie Mae feels when she learns Jeffrey is gay? Are her beliefs conservative or liberal? Upon learning his sexual orientation, do Essie Mae’s feelings toward Jeffrey change? Is it possible to love someone unconditionally yet not accept everything about him or her?
7. When Essie Mae is in heaven she says, “It’s a wonder we understand each other a’tall down on Earth what with us only seeing little snippets of folks every now and again.” Does Essie Mae ever understand her daughter, Henrietta? Does Henrietta ever understand her mother? In any relationship, how important is it that we understand each other? What are some ways to foster better understanding?
8. In what ways is The Spirit of Sweetgrass a love story?