Reading Group Guide—bound in
The Sinner’s Guide to Confession
1. Why do you think this book is titled The Sinner’s Guide to Confession? Who are the sinners in this story? Do they find redemption through confession?
2. Why does Ellen keep her past from her friends? Do you think she is right to hide her past?
3. How does writing as Delilah help Barbara to live a more fulfilling life? What does she gain from her secret writing? Do you think she is ashamed to write so unabashedly about sex? Why or why not?
4. Discuss Kaye’s affair with Frank. What attracts her to Frank to begin with? Do you empathize with her situation or do you think she should have divorced her husband?
5. Why does Ellen take such joy in tutoring Marisol? What does Marisol represent to Ellen? When Marisol leaves, what does Ellen lose?
6. Ellen has always kept her past and her family hidden from Barbara and Kaye. So why does she ask them to come to her father’s funeral with her? What does she gain by telling them the truth?
7. What is the role of marriage in this novel? Did any of the women in the novel have happy marriages? Do you think they love their husbands?
8. Why do you think Bill turns up at Ellen’s father’s funeral? Do you think they have any chance of reconciliation? In Ellen’s place, do you think you would be able to forgive Bill?
9. How is Gertie a pivotal figure throughout the novel? How does she care for her family? What does she represent for Kaye? How do Kaye, Barbara, and Ellen compare as mothers to their children?
10. Why do you think Justine ends her affair? Why does Kaye? What toll does Kaye’s affair take on her family?
11. When Kaye goes to Frank to end the affair, she lies and tells him that she was going to accept his proposal. Why does she tell this lie? What purpose does it serve? In what other ways do characters in this novel lie to save face?
12. Discuss the adoption of Ellen’s daughter. Do you think Ellen was too passive when her daughter was being taken away? Was there really anything she could have done? Why do you think she waits so long to begin searching for her daughter?
13. Do you think Ellen, Barbara, and Kaye are strong women? Why or why not?