After the death of her grandmother, Jo is mysteriously summoned back to the town of Black Bear, Pennsylvania, a place where she had sworn never to return. And the first person she meets upon returning is Joe, her once-upon-a-time best friend and boyfriend and now her enemy.
As the plot unfolds in this novel set in the beautifully detailed fictional town of Black Bear nestled in the Pocono Mountains Jo, now an urbane Parisian and renowned philanthropist, is forced to confront the demons that sent her away seventeen years ago. Not only was Jo an orphan sent to live with her elderly grandparents, she was a black child living in a white world. And she was a Jew in a town that neither knew anyone like her nor wanted to know anyone like her.
Through a series of plot twists and turns we discover that the woman who had been Jo’s savior, her beloved Gramma, was not the woman Jo believed her to be.
Sally Wiener Grotta weaves a tale of history and romance, love and grief, Jewish recognition and ultimate acceptance in a very gentile world, in this enchanting novel. While many of the themes are universal, the Jewish touch is what sets this novel apart from so many others.
1. Is there a difference between prejudice and bigotry?
2. Do you know anyone of mixed race and/or religion? How do you think their lives are different from yours?
3. Do you think Joe made the right choice when they were children? Why?
4. If Joe and Judith had married, would it have lasted? Why? What do you think their life together would have been like?
5. Why didn’t Joe become like his father and brother? Is bigotry and hatred inherited?
6. Would the story have been different if they had gone to high school today rather than 20 years ago? In what way?
7. Does being Black affect Judith’s Judaism? Does being Jewish affect her identity as a Black woman? How?
8. How would Judith’s life have been different if she had been raised a Christian?
9. What do you think of the grandmother? In what ways was she right and/or wrong?