THE BLUE BOTTLE CLUB
Book Club Guide
1. In the Prologue, Letitia, Adora, Eleanor, and Mary Love commit their dreams for the future to the blue bottle. What does each girl’s dream indicate about her life as it is and as she wants it to be?
2. Sixty-five years later, Brendan Delaney comes into possession of the bottle and becomes obsessed with seeking out the four women–if they’re still alive–to find out if their dreams came true. Why do you think Brendan is so captivated by the bottle and its contents?
3. Brendan, by her own admission, “admitted the possibility–even the probability–that God might indeed exist. . . .She didn’t disbelieve; she just didn’t like God very much.” What kind of God does Brendan “not like very much”? How do her perceptions of God change during the course of the novel?
4. Which of the main characters in the novel do you most identify with? Why?
5. What kinds of tragedies or difficult experiences do these characters experience? How do those experiences play a part in the fulfillment or alteration of their dreams?
6. A major theme of this novel is the outworking of grace in our lives. How does grace manifest itself in the story?
7. On p. 160, Adora says, “The dream itself is the gift, not necessarily the fulfillment.” What do you think she means by that? What dreams have you had that spurred you on to a deeper life even if the dream itself was never fulfilled?
8. Mary Love joins the convent for all the wrong reasons, and yet through the course of her life God seems to redeem those motivations. What similar experiences might you identify in your own life?
9. What do you think is the greatest blessing of the unfulfilled dream?
10. What is significant about Brendan’s dedication of her book, especially Dwaine’s reminder, “You never know what you’re gonna find when you keep your eyes open.” What has Brendan found? What have you found?
Some Observations on The Blue Bottle Club
I’m often asked where my ideas for novels come from. The short answer is “everywhere”–from observing human nature, from personal experiences, from dreams, from offhand comments, from images that grab me and won’t let go.
The blue bottle was one such image. Many years ago, at an auction in rural southern Minnesota, I bought a box of miscellaneous “stuff.” I paid a dollar for it, as I recall, and in that box was a glass bottle like the one I describe in the novel–a squarish bottle of dark blue, pressed to look like a cabin with a roof and an arched door and three windows. For several years it sat on my desk where the sunlight from the window streamed through it and served as a focus during meditative times.
Then one day I received a newspaper clipping in the mail, sent by a friend who thought I might find it intriguing–a small one-inch filler about the demolition of an old Victorian house. In the attic, one of the workmen had found a Mason jar filled with diary pages from the 1920’s, the author of the pages forever anonymous. There were no details, no follow-up story about the content of those pages, but the very idea turned my crank. I began to play “what if” in my mind–a practice that can lead to some very interesting developments–and the idea for The Blue Bottle Club was born.
Flannery O’Connor once described her writing process as “finding some interesting characters and following them around to see what they’ll do.” And although my own writing process is not quite as fluid as that, my writing does tend to be organic–I inject myself into the lives of my characters and experience the unfolding of the story right along with them. Once I stumbled upon the basic concept of The Blue Bottle Club, I knew that I, like Brendan, would be obsessed with finding out what happened to those four young girls, with discovering whether or not they ever fulfilled their dreams. And I hoped that my readers would catch that enthusiasm as well.
I hope you’ve caught it. And I hope that as you read, you’ll think about your own dreams for your life, the ones you’ve fulfilled and the ones that have been left unrealized. And no matter how far you’ve traveled on your journey, I hope you’ll take Dwaine’s advice to “keep your eyes open,” for you never know what you might find along the way.
Penelope J. Stokes