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.