Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Samson by Jacquelin Thomas includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
In this modern-day adaptation of the Bible story of Samson and Delilah, Samson Taylor, the charismatic associate pastor of Hillside Baptist Church, marries Savannah Ramsey, a beautiful young Buddhist, despite their different religious faiths. Over time, their union unravels: Samson discovers that Savannah has betrayed him with his best friend, Trey, and he insists on a divorce. Hungry for revenge, Samson seduces Savannah’s younger sister, Kenya. When Kenya reveals that she is carrying his child, Samson reluctantly agrees to marry her to protect his professional reputation as pastor, but this second marriage also dissolves. Samson loves God and wants to do right, but his lust for beautiful women cannot be stopped. When he becomes romantically entangled with Delinda Lewis-Hatcher, the wife of an NBA superstar, her cuckolded husband responds with violence, injuring Samson in a vicious fight that results in Samson’s blindness. Eventually, Samson’s faith, his love for family, and his path to recovery bring him to a new place in his walk with God, one that transforms his life.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. “‘I am still a man . . . there’s no denying that I love women, and that won’t ever end, but I’m not going to do anything that will taint my ministry or put a dark stain on my uncle’s sterling reputation.’” How would you characterize Samson’s call to the ministry? What role does his family’s history as religious leaders in Hillside Baptist Church play in Samson’s decision to become a pastor? What does his resolve against yielding to sexual temptation suggest about his awareness of his own weaknesses?
2. How does Samson’s initial encounter with Savannah Ramsey foreshadow the nature of their relationship as husband and wife? Why isn’t Samson more forthcoming with Trey about his true feelings for Savannah? How does his dishonesty jeopardize their friendship?
3. “‘Samson, I know that you love this girl, but you are a man of God,’ his uncle said. ‘What do you think the members will say when they find out you’re married to an unbeliever?’” Why doesn’t Samson listen to his family’s concerns about Savannah’s Buddhist faith? To what extent is it problematic for a Christian religious leader to marry someone who doesn’t worship the same God? Why is Samson eager to marry Savannah despite their different religious beliefs?
4. How does Trey’s conversion to Buddhism impact his relationship with Savannah? Given Trey and Samson’s shared attitude about never letting women come between them, why would both men risk their friendship for Savannah’s affection? What aspects of Savannah’s character make her so compelling to both Trey and Samson?
5. To what extent is Samson’s behavior toward Kenya in the aftermath of his divorce from Savannah in keeping with the moral standards of a Baptist pastor? Why does he treat her as he does? What does Kenya’s decision to sever ties with Samson and refuse him access to their child suggest about the impact of his behavior on her?
6. “Samson vowed to be a better man now that he had been given a second chance. He . . . was going to do his uncle proud. He was not going to make the same mistakes as before.” How do Aunt Hazel and Uncle Zachariah together function as Samson’s moral compass? In what ways do Hazel and Zachariah embody traditional Christian values in their lives? How do those values help them accept and love Samson, despite his personal failures?
7. How does the author’s decision to set the story of Samson in the context of a religious institution—a pastor of a Baptist Church who engages in extramarital sexual activity—impact your appreciation of the personal tragedy that befalls Samson? How would a secular setting—a law firm or a bank, for example—alter your sense of Samson’s true character, and the physical, professional, and spiritual risks implicit in his behavior?
8. “‘I can’t go with you. Samson, I’ve already told you that what we had is over. I’m not going to leave Bobby.’” How would you characterize Delinda Lewis-Hatcher’s feelings for Samson, and his for her? Given her suspicions that Bobby has been unfaithful and was having her followed, what accounts for Delinda’s refusal to end her marriage? Are Delinda and Samson’s affections grounded entirely in physical lust, or is there something larger that connects them?
9. Why do you think the author gave Delinda a name so closely associated with that of Delilah in the Bible story of Samson and Delilah? To what extent do Savannah, Kenya, Teà, and Delinda all serve as symbols of Delilah—the feminine temptress who causes an inherently good man to stray? Is Delinda the worst of these temptresses, or just another in a series of women who cause Samson to depart from his spiritual obligations? How responsible is Samson for his own downfall, and to what extent is he the victim of these beautiful women?
10. “‘This is my life and I accept it.’” What role does Meagan play in Samson’s transition from life as a sighted person to life as a blind person? How does Kenya’s willingness to include Samson in Jamie’s life affect him? What does Samson’s adjustment to his new reality reveal about his character and his faith in God?
Tips to Enhance Your Book Club
1. Are you interested in learning more about Jacquelin Thomas’s creative process in writing the novel Samson? To read little-known biographical details about the author and to learn about her many other works of fiction, visit her official website: http://www.jacquelinthomas.com.
2. Jacquelin Thomas may be available to participate in your next book club meeting, either in person or by telephone. Visit http://www.jacquelinthomas.com/bookclubs.htm to set up a meeting!
3. The Biblical story of Samson and Delilah is one that has undergone many contemporary retellings. Your book club may enjoy viewing the 1949 film Samson and Delilah, starring Hedy Lamarr as Delilah and directed by the famed Cecil B. DeMille. After your club views the film, discuss as a group how Jacquelin Thomas’s modern story of the aftermath of a passionate affair compares to the relationship portrayed in the movie.
4. Savannah Ramsey is a committed Buddhist who adheres to her faith in spite of pressure from her husband, Samson, to convert to his Christian faith. How familiar is your book club with either religious tradition? To learn more about what Christians, Buddhists, and other people of faith believe, visit the Big Religion Chart chart at http://www.religionfacts.com, a comparative religion site that analyzes different faiths and examines their underlying beliefs. Your book club may want to examine what Buddhists and Christians have in common, and where they differ in terms of their religious tenets.