Unquenchable Thirst (Johnson)

Discussion Questions
1. An Unquenchable Thirst is a spiritual memoir, but it is also a coming-of-age story. How does the book mirror the traditional story of a feminist awakening? Do you consider Mary Johnson a feminist?

2. The narrative of An Unquenchable Thirst pulls the reader through extreme situations, intense emotions, and quietly fought battles. When did you empathize most with Sister Donata? What experiences in your life allowed you to understand some of what Sister Donata went through? Were there also times when you found her hard to relate to?

3. Discuss the book’s title. What do you think Mary Johnson was really thirsting for all along? Does she succeed in finding what she was looking for, or is her thirst inherently “unquenchable”?

4. Mary Johnson believed, as a teenager, that she was “too ugly to have a boyfriend,” then goes through a sexual awakening during her years with the MCs. Discuss the trajectory of each of her affairs, the motivating force behind them, and how they represented different aspects of romance, lust, and mature love. Can you relate to her experiences?

5. Mary Johnson chooses to join the Missionaries of Charity—and stays even when she experiences doubts—because she believes it is her calling. Discuss the concept of a having a “calling” in life. Do you believe there is such a thing? Is there a secular equivalent? Is experiencing a “calling” freeing, or can it inhibit growth? Discuss the implications of the concept as it relates to Mary’s story and to your own experiences.

6. For Mary, the lack of stimulating reading material and the lack of value placed on scholarship was one of the most challenging constraints of being an MC, and she seizes any opportunity for intellectual development and creativity. Discuss the different outlets for intellectual stimulation that Mary encounters. What does she learn from each of them, and which had the greatest effect on her personal development?

7. Mary Johnson’s trip to Sweden with Mother Teresa is a turning point in Mary’s development. How does that trip change Mary’s perspective? What does she learn about Mother Teresa, and what does she learn about herself?

8. Among the reasons for Mary’s decision to leave the MCs is her desire for intimacy and connection. Are those feelings universal? Do you think the other sisters were suppressing similar desires?

9. Mary has doubts about the way the MCs minister to the poor, questioning whether the order makes the best use of their resources and funds. What do you think the best way of giving is?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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