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Touchstone Reading Group Guide Those Pearly Gates By Julie Cannon 1. Imo has raised two adopted girls, one of whom is actually her niece. In Those Pearly Gates she is remarried to her late best friend's husband. Jeanette and her husband are raising Jeanette's child by another man. Lemuel, as a Reverend, is often placed in the role of Father to an entire congregation. Discuss the ways in which ³family² can be defined, and how growing up in various family structures might affect a child both positively and negatively. 2. When Lemuel starts to show signs of slowing down, Imo's immediate reaction is to push him to retire. Do you think Imo is doing the right thing? Do you think she is overreacting? How much influence do you think her own weariness of being a reverend's wife has on her treatment of Lemuel? 3. Despite their ever-widening family circle, the heart of Julie Cannon's Homegrown series is Imo, Lou, and Jeanette. Compare and contrast these three women and the roles they play in Those Pearly Gates. 4. Early in the novel, Imo wonders if her great love for her garden is idolatry. Later, she describes the human need to be close to God's earth, and the way her farm has provided that connection for her and her family. Have you ever loved a hobby or object so much that it clouded your judgment or mixed up your priorities? Why do you think hobbies are such a popular pastime in America? 5. What does Imo love so much about gardening? Are her feelings about the farm different from Lou's? Why or why not? 6. Imo has a very difficult time convincing Lemuel to take time out of his busy ministerial schedule for himself and for their relationship. Do you sympathize more with Imo, who believes that God wants his children to be happy even if that means taking a break, or Lemuel, who seems to think God will tell him when enough's enough and that he shouldn't stop until that time? How does one tell the difference between selfishness and self-care? Is there a difference? 7. Were you surprised when the source of Jeanette's headaches and dizzy spells was revealed to be a brain tumor? Why do you think the author chose this particular twist? 8. Imo is convinced that her departed best friend and Lemuel's first wife, Martha, is haunting her. This prompts her to have a conversation with Lemuel about the Biblical opinion on spirits. Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever experienced the presence of one? 9. People in Euharlee refer to their faith in God in very different ways. Discuss the religious views of Imo, Lemuel, Lou, Jeanette, and Lillian and Dewey Puckett. How do they compare to your own? 10. If you've read the two previous novels in this series (Truelove & Homegrown Tomatoes, 'Mater Biscuit), consider how the people of Euharlee, Georgia have been represented. Do you see characters growing and changing, or do they remain static and constant? How or how hasn't this happened over the course of the three novels?