The Faith Club

A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew-- Three Women Search for Understanding

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About The Book

"Welcome to the Faith Club. We're three mothers from three faiths—Islam, Christianity, and Judaism—who got together to write a picture book for our children that would highlight the connections between our religions. But no sooner had we started talking about our beliefs and how to explain them to our children than our differences led to misunderstandings. Our project nearly fell apart."

After September 11th, Ranya Idliby, an American Muslim of Palestinian descent, faced constant questions about Islam, God, and death from her children, the only Muslims in their classrooms. Inspired by a story about Muhammad, Ranya reached out to two other mothers—a Christian and a Jew—to try to understand and answer these questions for her children. After just a few meetings, however, it became clear that the women themselves needed an honest and open environment where they could admit—and discuss—their concerns, stereotypes, and misunderstandings about one another. After hours of soul-searching about the issues that divided them, Ranya, Suzanne, and Priscilla grew close enough to discover and explore what united them.

The Faith Club is a memoir of spiritual reflections in three voices that will make readers feel as if they are eavesdropping on the authors' private conversations, provocative discussions, and often controversial opinions and conclusions. The authors wrestle with the issues of anti-Semitism, prejudice against Muslims, and preconceptions of Christians at a time when fundamentalists dominate the public face of Christianity. They write beautifully and affectingly of their families, their losses and grief, their fears and hopes for themselves and their loved ones. And as the authors reveal their deepest beliefs, readers watch the blossoming of a profound interfaith friendship and the birth of a new way of relating to others.

In a final chapter, they provide detailed advice on how to start a faith club: the questions to ask, the books to read, and most important, the open-minded attitude to maintain in order to come through the experience with an enriched personal faith and understanding of others.

Pioneering, timely, and deeply thoughtful, The Faith Club's caring message will resonate with people of all faiths.

Reading Group Guide

The Faith Club
Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver, and Priscilla Warner
 
Questions and Topics For Discussion

 
  1. How did the book’s format (a three-way memoir written in first person) contribute to the overall feel of the book? At what points did the women write different versions of the same event? (One specific example can be found when Ranya confronts Priscilla about the Israel/Palestinian conflict, pages 129–138.) How does each woman’s individual prejudices and religion color her interpretations of the discussions?

 
  1. How does each woman’s role as a mother influence the direction and tone of the Faith Club? Would the club have been different if it included both mothers and women with no children? How did the children play a role in the challenges to each woman’s faith?

 
  1. To which woman did you most relate, and why? Was it the one you expected to when you began the book? If you identified with one of the women because you share her religious beliefs, did you agree with her presentation of your faith? What did you disagree with, and why?

 
  1. Much of the first half of the book deals with Suzanne’s and Priscilla’s struggles to define anti-Semitism and to confront their prejudices about the other’s faith. Did you feel that Ranya was unfairly relegated to the role of “mediator” (p. 46), or did she welcome it? “For months, I had to bide my time patiently” (p. 126). Why do you think Ranya waited to bring up her own struggles with Suzanne’s and Priscilla’s faiths?

 
  1. On page 106, Ranya says, “The more that science unravels about the wonders of life and the universe, the more I am in awe of it.” Do you think this combination of science and faith is realistic, or must one ultimately take precedence over the other?

 
  1. Suzanne’s first sentence speaks of the “cozy, homogeneous community” at her Episcopal church. What is Priscilla’s “comfort zone”? What is Ranya’s? How does each woman step out of her individual cozy and homogeneous comfort zone, and in what ways does each of them remain there?

 
  1. On page 147, Priscilla wonders if worrying is “a form of gratefulness.” What do you think she means by this? Does Priscilla’s worry ultimately strengthen her faith? How does each woman show gratitude in her life and in her faith?

 
  1. On page 204, Craig Townsend tells Suzanne, “The opposite of faith is not doubt, it’s certainty.” What does he mean by this? Is doubt necessary for true faith?

 
  1. In Chapter 12, “Intimations of Mortality,” the women discuss their differing views about death and the afterlife. Which understanding of death was most comforting to you? Which image of the afterlife was most comforting? Are they from the same religion?

 
  1. When Priscilla confronts Suzanne about her confession that she was uncomfortable being mistaken for a Jew, Ranya says, “She wouldn’t want to be a Muslim either.” Do you agree? Why or why not? Is Suzanne’s discomfort an inevitable result of being a member of the majority, of “not [being] forced to accommodate [herself] to the culture, religion, or even friendship of minorities”?

 
  1. Ranya provides a vivid description of her own method of prayer on page 175: “My prayer is essentially a form of meditation in which I singularly apply my limited human physical capacity to try to connect with that omnipresent universal unknown force: God.” (Suzanne’s description of her prayer is on page 162; Priscilla’s is on page 175.) How is each woman’s method of prayer different? How is it similar? How do Suzanne’s, Ranya’s, and Priscilla’s prayer styles reflect the differences and similarities in their childhoods?

About The Authors

Photo Credit:

Ranya Idliby was raised in Dubai and McLean, Virginia. She holds a bachelor of science from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, and earned her MS in international relations from the London School of Economics. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

Photo Credit:

Suzanne Oliver was raised in Kansas City, Missouri, and has worked as a writer and editor at Forbes and Financial World magazines. She graduated from Texas Christian University and lives in New York City and Jaffrey Center, New Hampshire, with her husband and three children.

Photograph by Jim Warner

Priscilla Warner grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, and spent many years in Boston and New York as an advertising art director, shooting ads for everything from English muffins to diamond earrings. Priscilla co-authored The New York Times bestselling memoir The Faith Club, then toured the country for three years, hyperventilating her way through an extended book tour. Finally, in the skies over Oklahoma, she vowed to find her inner monk, and began meditating her way from panic to peace.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria Books (October 3, 2006)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780743298629

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Raves and Reviews

"Millions of Americans crave a way to have interfaith conversation but have no idea where to begin. This book is a great place to start. The authors have set a path that many more will want to follow." -- Bruce Feiler, author of Walking the Bible and Where God Was Born

"More Fight Club than book club, the coauthors pull no punches; their outstanding honesty makes for a page-turning read, rare for a religion nonfiction book...almost every taboo topic is explored on this engaging spiritual ride." -- Publishers Weekly

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More books from this author: Priscilla Warner