Discussion Questions for The Tiffany Box
- Chocolate is used as a bribe between Kathleen and her mother. What do we learn about their relationship from their exchanges of chocolate and favors?
- Kathleen writes that e-mailing one of her best girlfriends was “as necessary as breathing.” How do you think her connection to friends helps her survive day-to-day challenges? How do her friends help when major life challenges arise? What does it mean to you to have close connections with women friends in your life?
- What insights do you have into Kathleen from reading her published columns and her private e-mails?
- In one column, Kathleen writes, “By the time I was pregnant with my third child, I didn’t worry about what was coming, I worried about who was coming.” How are her three children different?
- Kathleen and her sick newborn are in the hospital. When her mother visits, she pulls back the sliding curtain, meets the other roommate, learns the woman has not eaten and then feeds her. What do you learn about Francie? What does it reveal about the suffering of strangers?
- Uncle Phil sends Francie jokes on postcards. Why do you think he sent these? What role does humor play in the book?
- When Kathleen is bathing her mother for the first time, she says to her mother, “You’re like one of my kids.” Francie responds, “Moms become kids.” What other examples of changing roles do you see between Kathleen and Francie? Earlier in the story? At the end of the story?
- Late in Francie’s illness, she insists on taking her grandson to hear the symphony rehearse. In an e-mail written that day, Kathleen wonders “why I don’t live this way all the time, with a sense of purpose and urgency, of getting every ride in before the fair grounds close?” What are other examples of how Francie lives that show she’s riding every ride she can before the fair grounds close?
- In one e-mail, Kathleen writes, “I watch as my mom navigates barefoot across a floor of broken glass. I can’t walk with her, can’t throw her shoes, or bandages or wings. All I can do is witness her walk, the pain, the triumphs, the fears. And pray that she holds faith that it’s worth trying.” How does Kathleen bear witness to her mother’s suffering? When does it become too much? What does Kathleen do to recover?
- For years, Kathleen avoided the contents of the Tiffany box. Why?
- Several letters written by friends of Francie are included in the book. What insights did you gain into Francie from reading these letters?
- What significance do flowers play in The Tiffany Box? Flowers end up meaning more, especially lavender roses, delphiniums and white cyclamen. What does each of these flowers symbolize and how does each flower touch on a major theme in the book?