After fleeing Los Angeles when her attempt to break up her best friend's marriage fails, Jasmine is now a changed woman...and a Christian. She vows to attend church every Sunday, swears off married men, and begins her search for the soul mate she is sure God has for her. Now living in the Big Apple, she has shed twenty-five pounds, shaved ten years off her age, filled her expensive apartment with designer clothes...all to begin her man-finding mission.
She quickly meets her dream mate -- a preacher -- who falls head over heels in love with her. Surely, God is good! But things start slipping when another man from Jasmine's past refuses to stay there, and an unexpected pregnancy threatens to sabotage all of her dreams. Will Jasmine's lying and scheming continue? Or will she finally learn that honesty is the only path to redemption?
Reading Group Guide: A Sin and a Shame By Victoria Christopher Murray Summary Jasmine Larson moved to New York a changed woman, ready to start a new life as a good Christian. But the only thing that's changed for Jasmine is that she goes to church. She's still scheming, manipulating, and lying in order to get the life she thinks she deserves. When Jasmine finally meets and becomes engaged to the man she wants to marry -- the man she's sure God has chosen for her -- she discovers that she's pregnant, and with someone else's child. So she must fight to keep this secret, along with her many others, from her soon-to-be husband, because she will do whatever she can to keep the man who has set her soul on fire.
Discussion Points 1. Several adult characters in this novel remark that they are in their "second virginity," meaning that, though they have had sex before, they've now chosen to become celibate until married. What other symbolism does a second virgnity carry? 2. Serena tells Jasmine that "there are plenty of unsaved folks parked in the pews all across America." What does she mean by this? 3. Jasmine thinks her father's insurance money is being used well to put her in a fancy Manhattan condo and a mink coat, all so that she can snag a rich husband. If you suddenly inherited a few hundred thousand dollars, what changes would you make in your lifestyle? 4. Malik thinks that Jasmine seems "obsessed...again" with Reverend Bush. What about her behavior is obsessive and what is just aggressive? Where do you think the line is between an ambitious woman going after what she wants and a stalker? Is this line different for men? 5. If you've read Temptation, the first of Murray's novels in which Jasmine appears, do you agree with Jasmine -- that she's changed and come a long way since being "saved"? Why or why not? 6. Jasmine often repeats that she's in charge, it's her game, she's following her own plan...and yet the man who awakens her heart is one who takes the control right out of her hands. What does this say about Jasmine? How does her need for control relate to her views about and use of sex? 7. Why is Jasmine so upset to learn that Hosea won't have sex with her? Why do you suspect Jasmine doesn't agree with celibacy? 8. Jasmine loves Hosea. But she can't resist Brian. Have you ever wanted something you knew wasn't good for you? How did you handle the situation? 9. Reverend Bush preaches about being an example to others, but Jasmine feels she's failed when Mae Frances catches her with both Brian and Hosea. How do you feel about the concept of being responsible as a monument to God's love every day? How do you try to live by example? 10. Jasmine unhappily muses: she was happy with the way Hosea loved her, so why was she lusting after a man she almost despised? What would you tell Jasmine if she asked you this question? 11. There's a theme in this novel related to the pervasive idea that "all men cheat," especially when it comes to African American men. How do you feel about this belief? How do you think women contribute to the propagation of this stereotype? 12. Jasmine realizes that she and Mae Frances are the same -- both women just taking care of themselves. What else makes them similar? Why do you think the author created Mae Frances as she did? 13. Jasmine's experience is the perfect example of how easily "God's word" can be twisted and manipulated to fit people's needs. For example, when she is about to come clean to Hosea about her affair with Brian, and Hosea begins to tell her about the terrible day he's had discussing cheaters, Jasmine takes it as a sign from God not to tell Hosea the truth. How do you distinguish between signs from God and coincidence in your own life? 14. Are you satisfied by the novel's ending? Afterall, Hosea still doesn't know Jasmine's real age or that she was previously married. Do you think she'll ever come completely clean? Should she?
Enhance your Book Club Experience 1. If you aren't already familiar with the story, read the biblical passages on Hosea and the whore he took for a wife, as per God's instructions. Consider how it relates to the themes in A Sin and a Shame, or discuss it at your next Book Club meeting. 2. Jasmine is often blinded by the glitter of the "high life," which leaves her doing almost anything to achieve the lifestyle she thinks she deserves. Get a taste of Jasmine's temptation by taking your Club on the road to the swankiest restaurant or night club in town. Try searching on www.citysearch.com or www.zagats.com for the right place, make a reservation, don your hottest outfit, and go wild. 3. Several characters in the novel refer to "witnessing," which is when Christians tell stories about their experiences with God, often in order to convince others to open their hearts to His love. At your next Book Club meeting, go around the circle and share your own stories about the moments when you've felt God's presence in your life. 4. Take some time to visit and browse the author's website at http://victoriachristophermurray.com.
Victoria Christopher Murray is the author of more than twenty novels including: Greed; Envy;Lust;The Ex Files; Lady Jasmine; The Deal, the Dance, and the Devil; and Stand Your Ground, which was named a Library Journal Best Book of the Year. Winner of nine African American Literary Awards for Fiction and Author of the Year (Female), Murray is also a four-time NAACP Image Award Nominee for Outstanding Fiction. She splits her time between Los Angeles and Washington, DC. Visit her website at VictoriaChristopherMurray.com.