“Becoming Herself” by Maureen Reid
Questions for discussion
The novel opens with a death and major decision made by Maggie and Nell’s father. Did
you find yourself getting angry at his decision? As an adult, Margaret recognizes that
each of us handles grief in his or her own way. How does grief influence the decisions
that her Da makes about his daughters? Do we ever stop grieving for the loss of those
When Maggie is sent to the orphanage she discovers that others consider her
“different” by the way she spoke and where she came from. She is no longer called
Maggie, but Margaret. Have you ever experienced having who you are, your heritage or
culture being the object of ridicule? Do you think as a society we are more welcoming
to other cultures/heritages?
Margaret does not cry from the day that Nell leaves the orphanage until Michael
departs. Do you think this is a normal reaction? What does it tell you about how her
early losses affected Margaret?
How does Eli’s courtship of Margaret set the stage for their marriage? Do you think
they loved one another? What choices did women at the turn of the 20
Can you relate to Margaret’s feelings about music? For me, music is air. I am not sure I
could survive without it. From my earliest memory, I simply sang whenever and wherever
I could. What are your thoughts on her mother’s decision not to have Margaret continue
her studies with Mrs. Brown? Have you ever had a passion and talent for something but
unable to continue it for one reason or another?
In describing how it is like to live in a small town, Margaret writes that: only the darkest
secrets can be hidden. What secrets does Margaret have? Who does she keep them
from? Does she feel guilty? Troubled? Why?
When Margaret became a mother, she had no manual to guide her but needed to figure
things out on her own. How do you think she was as a mother? Are you able to relate to
the relationship she had with Louise? What advice would you give her about how to
resolve the problems between Eli and Leon?
Something awakens in Margaret during the suffragette movement. How does it prepare
her for the challenges she faces later in life? Women were imprisoned and brutally
treated in their fight for the vote—both in this country and in England. How are women
making their voices heard today?
Margaret’s relationship with her brother James is rekindled and reinforced by
exchanging letters. In this world of instant communication, social media and tweeting,
are we losing the ability to develop and sustain relationships with the written word?
How is Margaret’s world expanded by her brother? How does James support Margaret?
Do you agree with Margaret’s decision that she should return to Ireland?
In referring to the women in the choir, Margaret writes: when I am with them, I can
breathe. In what ways did women support her? Where would we be without the other
women in our lives?
Describe how you see the events that took place after Margaret stopped writing in her
journal unfold? What daughter took the journey? Why do you think so?
Even though Margaret is the protagonist in Becoming Herself, there are a number of
fascinating characters. Can you describe them in a few sentences?