Book Club Guide
1. Delta Belles is the story of four friends whose lives intersect during their first year of college–a crucial time of self-awareness and development. Which of the four reminds you most of yourself during your early twenties? Do any of the characters remind you of people you once knew?
2. What makes the difference between friendships that endure and those that fade away? Do you think some friendships are meant for a particular time in your life, and others meant to last a lifetime?
3. The singing group Delta Belles starts out as a practical joke, a way for Delta to get revenge on Rae Dawn and the Cantrell twins, Lauren and Lacy. How does that group become a bonding experience for the four of them, and a significant turning point for each of them individually?
4. The sixties was a time of great change and upheaval in the United States, both in the South and nationwide. How do national conflicts, such as the war in Vietnam and the Civil Rights movement, call up the best or the worst in us as individuals?
5. The twins, Lauren and Lacy, have a comically combative style of relating to one another. Do you think this is common between close siblings, especially twins? What deeper issues underlie the competition between them?
6. When Lacy meets Trip Jenkins and falls in love, what effect does her happiness have on the others? What awareness does their relationship bring to Delta? To Rae Dawn? Why is Lauren especially jealous, when she has had so many boyfriends?
7. One of the underlying themes of the book has to do with mentors, and the enormous influence they can exert, for better or worse, on their young charges. How is the relationship between Gottlieb and Rae Dawn significant in her life? What influence do Frankie and Suze have on Delta’s life, and on Rae Dawn’s? How does Grandma Mitchell serve as a later mentor for Delta?
8. Delta isn’t a particularly religious person when she comes to college. Why do you think she falls for the minister/activist Rankin Ballou, and what changes take place in her life because of her relationship with him?
9. When Rae Dawn falls in love, her choices can mean the difference between success and failure in her career. Do you think she deliberately chooses success over love? What does she gain/lose in the process? Is her relationship any different than the one Delta has with Rankin?
10. What kinds of betrayal take place during the course of the novel? How do you come to forgiveness–and even, perhaps, to renewal of relationship–after such betrayal?
11. At the beginning of the novel, when Delta is trying to come to grips with Rankin’s death, she thinks:
Time healed nothing. God’s presence was an illusion. . . . Theoretically, ‘Walking the way of Jesus’ sounded good, noble, the right thing to do. But did the outcome have to be so damnably predictable?”
Is Delta right, that time heals nothing and God’s presence is an illusion? How do the events that follow on the heels of Rankin’s death confirm or undermine that assertion? Where in Delta’s life do love and grace appear most clearly?
12. According to legend, the ginkgo tree sheds all its leaves in a single night, and any girl who stood under the tree by moonlight and caught a leaf in flight would find her heart’s true love before the leaves came back again in spring. How is the legend of the ginkgo fulfilled in each character’s life? What different kinds of “true love” do they find?