“Becoming Herself” by Maureen Reid

Questions for discussion

  1. 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
    we loved?
  2. 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?
  3. 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?
  4. 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


    Century have?
  5. 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?
  6. 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?
  7. 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?
  8. 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?
  9. 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?
  10. 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?
  11. 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?
  12. Even though Margaret is the protagonist in Becoming Herself, there are a number of
    fascinating characters. Can you describe them in a few sentences?
    a. Belle
    b. Eli
    c. James
    d. Michael
    e. Stella
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