Storyteller's Secret (Badani) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
1. In the beginning of the novel, we read of Jaya’s miscarriages and the collapse of her marriage. Jaya and her husband have different ways of coping with their pain. How did their coping mechanisms differ? How did they contribute to the breakdown of their marriage?

2. Jaya feels the pain of her mom’s emotional distance throughout her life. As a child, she always wished for a closer relationship and was desperate for her affection. Their relationship is transformed by Jaya’s trip to India. How would you describe their relationship before and after?

3. Jaya travels to India in the hopes of discovering her family’s long held secrets. She reflects that, after knowing her past, she is ready for the future. How does uncovering your family’s past affect your life?

4. Jaya meets Ravi, her grandmother’s servant, and learns of the beautiful relationship they had despite their different ranks in the caste system. How does Ravi and Jaya’s relationship progress? How would you describe it?

5. Ravi still carries guilt from decisions he made decades ago. Did he do the right thing both times? How might the characters lives look if he had chosen differently? Are there any other moments in the novel where events could have been drastically different if a character made a different decision?

6. Jaya learns the story of her pioneering grandmother and how in many ways she was born before her time. How did her dreams and interests differ from those of her family members and fellow villagers? What was expected of her? How were her dreams in conflict?

7. Amisha had an arranged marriage and her role in life was predetermined by society. How have things changed for women? How are they still the same?

8. Jaya ponders: "maybe life is a series of decisions with destiny thrown in.” Do you agree? Do you believe we control our stories with decisions, or are our fates pre-determined by destiny?

9. Amisha’s husband Deepak’s attitude towards her and her work at the school changes several times in the novel. What does this say about how Deepak views his wife? Does he love her? Does he understand her?

10. Amisha deeply regrets not helping a student whose stories seemed to be a call for help. Do teachers have a duty to save their students, even if it means risking their job? Does Amisha ever ask for help?

11. At the heart of this epic story is love—the fierce and immeasurable love Amisha had for her children and the romantic love she had for Stephen. Discuss how these two loves in her life made her feel. Were they in conflict with each other? Did she feel like she had to choose?

12. What was your reaction to Amisha not telling Stephen the truth? Did she make the best choice? Did she have a choice?

13. Badani explores exotic India, it’s traditions and long history. How has India changed? How have things changed for Ravi and his family? How are things the same?

14. Amisha longed for an education and dreamed of writing. Jaya is moved by the struggle and her strength despite her lack of choices. The sacrifices she made for her children and the courage she showed in wanting more for her daughter. How can we be inspired by our ancestor’s stories?
(Questions from the author's website.)

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