Moving from Mississippi to Paris to New York and back again, a saga of family, ambition, passion, and tragedy that brings to life one Southern dynasty—the Forsters, founders of the world’s first major soft-drink company—against the backdrop of more than a century of American cultural history.
Let’s get into the book club questions.
- What did you think about the first chapter and the introduction to the Forsters? How did it set the tone for the rest of the book?
- Why do you think Annabelle was interested in Houghton? What did you think about their first meeting?
- We learn more about the making of the Panola Cola Company and it many ways this fictional cola brand sounds similar to Coca-Cola. Let’s analyze why soda became such a popular drink. Do you call it ‘soda, ‘pop,’ or ‘coke’?
- We learn that Houghton worked so hard because he wanted to make a name for his family so his children could more easily make a name for their own. How did they fail to live up to these expectations?
- When Fiona has Houghton she at first believes that he died in childbirth and she curses God for taking his life. But then he is awake and she immediately believes the child will be doomed because she “blasphemed the Lord.” It says:
“Over the following decades, Fiona would be proven half correct as the supposed curse skipped her son but came for his descendants, plucking them from the world like petals from a flower, with her unable to do anything but age and watch. Henceforth she called it the Malediction.”
Do you think the Forsters really were cursed or were their downfall entirely of their own making?
- Let’s talk about Monty and Nicholas and how impactful that relationship was for Monty that he never recovered from Nicholas’ death. Do you think if Monty was able to live openly as a gay man he might have been able to move on? What did you think about Monty overall?
- The twins, Ramsey and Lance, are oftentimes selfish and careless. How did the accident to Harold impact them differently? The section about Lance forcing Lurlene to sleep with Harold was so cruel. Why did he do that?
- Why do you think Ramsey adopted Lance’s daughter Susannah?
- On page 165, we learn that it was difficult for Lance to watch his daughter grow up and her not to know the truth of her parents:
“For Lance, to stop caring about one thing was to stop caring about all things, just as to stop loving one person was to stop loving all people: he could only shut down the assembly line by blowing up the factory.”
Let’s talk about what he means by this and how it defined his tragic arc.
- Why do you think Panola Cola Company ending up so failing so bad?
- What do you think about the sections dedicated to Robert? Were you surprised that Lurlene and Harold’s son lived? What happens next for him now that he knows the truth of his heritage?
- Why did Ramsey go to Paris? What did you think about her relationship with Josephine? Let’s talk about her tragic arc as well.
- What do you think was the overall message of the story?
Family sagas and historical fiction always make for good discussion reads! Here’s some other recommendations for your book club. (Click the titles or photos to purchase from Amazon.)
The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin is a story about love, betrayal and forgiveness among four siblings. The story follows renowned poet Fiona Skinner at age 102 when she’s speaking at an event celebrating her poetry, which is her first public event in 25 years. When a girl named Luna asks her the inspiration behind her most famous work, that familiar name from her past inspires her to to tell her audience a story about her family and a betrayal. You can order the book on Amazon here. Check out my discussion questions here.
The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman is about two sisters working in a WWII armory, each with a deep secret. The story is about two estranged sisters that were raised in Brooklyn and are reunited at the Springfield Armory in the early days of WWII. While one sister lives in relative ease on the bucolic Armory campus as an officer’s wife, the other arrives as a war widow and takes a position in the Armory factories as a “soldier of production.” Resentment festers between the two, and secrets are shattered when a mysterious figure from the past reemerges in their lives. Order to book on Amazon here. Check out my discussion questions here.