Check out the Penguin Reading Group Guide for A THREAD OF SKY, with an exclusive author Q&A and discussion questions.
Here’s what members of the Fort Greene Book Club (Brooklyn, NY) had to say about A Thread of Sky:
“A Thread of Sky was ideal for a group discussion because it contains so many well-developed female protagonists. We each felt connected to different characters, and exploring our affinity to them gave us insight to each other." -Maureen
“It was so wonderful to see the lives of the women come alive as they explored China’s diverse people and fascinating history.” -Deb
“There were so many rich characters to choose from and powerful themes running throughout. What made me particularly enjoy discussing it was how personal the conversation became [about] one's own history, steeped in cultural differences... [and about] 'work versus family' and how a mother's choices reflect on her. It's a book you could discuss for days.” -Heather
“A Thread of Sky was a wonderful book to discuss at our book club. As a mother, I especially enjoyed thinking about the dynamics between the different women in the book and their relationships with each other and their struggles with what it means to be a parent, a woman, and a valuable member of society.” -Cynthia
Suggested Discussion Questions:
1.One of Irene's motivations for planning this tour of China is to recapture a more traditional definition of family: "Jia—family, house, home. In Chinese, it was all one word" (p. 12). Does she come close to succeeding? Is it possible to adapt this concept to modern life? How do you define family? What cultural traditions influence your definition?
2.In A Thread of Sky, this family reunion during a tour of China exposes long-simmering tensions and old, painful secrets. How does it compare with memorable family reunions of your own? How have those occasions changed your understanding of your loved ones?
3.Lin Yulan is fixated on the importance of leaving a legacy, an expectation she has passed onto her daughters and granddaughters. Do you agree with her? Was it an appropriate choice for Irene to give up her career? What if you knew that she was on the brink of a major breakthrough, one that would have saved millions of lives, when she got pregnant with Sophie? Would that change your opinion?
4.For Kay, at least in the beginning of the novel, China is all about suffering. She chooses the less comfortable dormitory. She thrives on immersing herself in social problems. Are her efforts misguided? In what ways is her work similar or different to Lin Yulan's work earlier in her life? Is it appropriate for visitors to try and get involved in what they believe to be a cultural wrong even if the "victims" don't want help? Have you ever engaged in similar types of activism? What challenges did you face?
5.The women in this family have felt considerable pressure to define themselves as strong, independent, ambitious women. What toll has this taken on their personal lives? How do you define a strong woman? Do you think it's possible to take that identity too far?
6.All six characters in A Thread of Sky set out on this journey with a multitude of hopes and expectations: to reconnect with one another, to remember family history, to leave heartbreak behind, to be transported by China's famous sights, to find a moment to "simply be." What do you think will stay with them? What do you seek when you travel? What do you try to carry back home?