1. Southern hospitality is world-famous, but a sleepy southern town can be somewhat resistant to newcomers of the Yankee persuasion. How might the descendants of all parties of the Civil War, including the descendants of slaves, be reconciled with each other? As fellow citizens, what are our responsibilities to each other?
2. Tish wants to find her niche in her new community. Given her family’s history of frequent moves, what are her chances of putting down permanent roots in Noble? What might improve or hinder her chances?
3. In some ways, Tish resembles the elder brother of the parable of the Prodigal Son, Luke 15:11-32. She’s a responsible person who expects her good behavior to be rewarded. Meanwhile, Mel hasn’t earned anyone’s respect but she’s quick to justify her bad behavior. Is either attitude better than the other? Why? Are you able to empathize with one character over the other?
4. The parable in the book of Luke mentions the prodigal’s stint as a farmhand feeding pigs, and the ring, robe, and sandals given to him upon his return. What is Mel’s “pigsty,” and what significance do jewelry, clothing, and shoes have in her story?
5. Some of the locals snub Tish because she’s descended from carpetbaggers, and Farris the banker refuses to hire her because she has befriended Mel. Do these rejections harden Tish’s heart? Or do they soften her heart toward Mel, another reject?
6. Mel’s undiagnosed learning disability has kept her from reaching her potential. Why are some of us so reluctant to confess our secret battles and handicaps?
7. George admits that his history in the romance department is “boring,” while a tragedy destroyed Tish’s plans for marriage. How can two people build a future together when they come from such different experiences?
8. George saw his mother kick his Uncle Calv out of the family because of his drinking. How much might this affect both men in the way they relate to Mel?
9. Mel’s Grandpa John showed her unconditional love, but her father requires more of her than she can give. When we have less than ideal father-figures, how do they affect our perspective of God the Father?
10. Tish is so upright that she has never even had a parking ticket, but eventually she breaks the law for Mel’s sake. What might have happened if Tish had reported Mel to the police instead? Do you think either of them is likely to break the law again?
11. During Tish’s unsettled childhood, she clung to her identity by repeating “I am Letitia McComb; you can’t change who I am.” Late in the story, she says instead: “I am Letitia McComb; I can’t change who I am.” What has changed in the way she sees herself?
12. Some of the story’s characters own—or covet—vehicles, jewelry, antiques, homes, and so on. But “you can’t take it with you.” In your opinion, who is richest in the unseen possessions of the heart? Who is poorest in that sense?
13. Imagine what Tish could have discovered about her ancestors and their personal perspectives if, somehow, she could have shared the same time with them for awhile. If you could time-travel a hundred years into the future, what kind of legacy would you hope to find you had left your future family?