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Book Club Kits: Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

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Book Summary

Violet Baumgartner has opened her annual holiday letter the same way for the past three decades. And this year she's going to throw her husband, Ed, a truly perfect retirement party, one worthy of memorializing in her upcoming letter. But the event becomes a disaster when, in front of two hundred guests, Violet learns her daughter Cerise has been keeping a shocking secret from her, shattering Violet's carefully constructed world.

Read an excerpt.

Discussion Questions

  1. Violet is a matriarch with high expectations and very specific tastes, who greatly values her social standing and family history. Why do you think these things are so important to Violet? Why do you think she constantly needs to feel in control? How did your feelings about Violet and her actions change as the novel progressed?

  1. Discuss the evolution of Cerise’s relationship with her mother. How does it change over the course of the book?  Are there aspects that remain the same? How do their perspectives on family evolve?

  1. The unexpected news of Cerise’s pregnancy brings Violet’s world crashing down – literally. Do you think Violet’s reaction to the news would have been different if Cerise was straight? In what ways does her being gay affect her relationship with her parents? Do you believe them when they say they already knew she was gay?

  1. Violet is forced into an uncomfortable isolation after her accident. How does this affect her? Does it affect her social standing, or does she only believe that it does? Would she have behaved differently during Cerise’s pregnancy if the accident had not occurred?

  1. At various points in the book, Barb encourages Cerise to be more honest and direct with her parents. Yet the behavior of her own family comes as a surprise to everyone. Do you think she would be able to follow her own advice? How does her family and history affect her vision of herself as a mother?

  1. Discuss the ways in which parenthood alters Cerise and Barb’s relationship. What issues does it force them to address? What strengths and weaknesses does it reveal?

  1. It seems like everyone was keeping a secret at some point in the book, such as Cerise and her pregnancy, Richard and his band, Rhonda and her Watchers scheme. Are there any secrets that you felt were justified? Do you think keeping secrets always has consequences? Do most families keep secrets from each other?

  1. At first, Edward and Richard seem like opposites. What characteristics do they share? What do they respect about each other? How does their friendship serve them?

  1. Discuss the reveal that Kyle is the one who helped Barb and Cerise become parents. Were you surprised? Do you think Rhonda was justified in ending the relationship? In your opinion, would their relationship have worked even if Rhonda hadn’t found out?

  1. Do any of the characters resemble real people in your life? Which character did you relate to the most? Who would you be most likely to have as a friend?

  1. Why are Violet’s Christmas letters critical to the book? What do you think the discovery about them at the end says about Violet? What does it say about Edward? About their marriage? Do you write or receive holiday letters?

  1. What will you most remember about Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners?

About the Author

After a career in management consulting and corporate communications, Gretchen left the cubical world for the writing life. As a ghostwriter, she has been the voice for some of the best brands in the United States, from CEOs to doctors and start-up superstars to BBQ pros.