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The Rock Orchard

The Rock Orchard

A Novel

  • reading group guide
Some women can touch a man and heal like Jesus. The man who sees sunrise from a Belle woman's bed will swear he's been born again.

When it came to men, Charlotte Belle strictly ascribed to the law of catch and release. As soon as she could get a man out of her bed, she threw him back in the stream. No, Charlotte did not need a man. She had money. She had her driver, Mr. Nalls, for heavy lifting. Sex? Her pond was well stocked. What else does a woman need a man for? And so it comes as quite a surprise to Charlotte that she can not stop thinking about the Reverend Thomas Jones.

In The Rock Orchard, debut novelist Paula Wall uses sexy, lyrical prose -- and throws in a dash of magic -- to create a truly unique and hysterical love story.
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  • Washington Square Press | 
  • 272 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743496230 | 
  • January 2006
List Price $17.99
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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Questions:
1. In the preface we are introduced to Musette Belle and her ability to "read the future." Most Belle women have retained this gift of "sight." In what other ways do the Belle women see differently? How do they use this gift to enrich their community?

2. What similarities do Angela and Charlotte share? What makes them distinctly different? What do you think these characters learn from each other?
3. "The Rock Orchard" of the title is a reference to a cemetery. "A cemetery is like an orchard. Some lives were sweet. Some bitter as lemons. And some were rotten to the core." The cemetery in Leaper's Fork is practically a character in itself - a place that figures especially in the lives of the Belle women, often in unexpected ways. In this way the cemetery sheds its stigma as a place of sadness and death. Discuss the cemetery as a place of happiness and rebirth. How does the cemetery serve as a turning point for Charlotte? For Lydia? For Reverend Thomas?
4. Reba Earhart and Mila are just two of the many people Charlotte inspires. "You are what you are, till you decide to be different," she says. Compare and contrast these two women - how did they both succumb to the initial lots they had drawn in life? What patterns of behavior did they share? How did they go about changing those patterns? How did they perpetuate the chain of inspiration in others around them?
5. Empowerment is an important factor throughout the novel. see more

About the Author

Paula Wall
Photo Credit:

Paula Wall

Paula Wall is the author of two collections of short pieces, My Love Is Free...But the Rest of Me Don't Come Cheap and If I Were a Man, I'd Marry Me. The latter was a semifinalist for the Thurber Prize. She currently lives outside of Nashville in a converted barn on 150 acres at the foot of the Highland Rim. Her nearest neighbor is one mile down the road, which, frankly, is a little too close for comfort. The Rock Orchard is her first novel. Visit her website at www.PaulaWall.com.

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