Separate and Parallel by Beverly Park Williams is historical fiction at its best: a heartfelt and moving page turner that includes lots of plot lines for book clubs to discuss.

Use these questions to dig into the novel with your group. They should keep the conversation going!

Major Spoiler Alert: These questions reveal many details from Separate and Parallel.

Please only answer questions that are applicable to each of the four Parts of the book…


Part One – Mother

Questions 1-3

Question 1 – What was your response to Aunt Louisa’s treatment of Claire?

Question 2 – How did Clarissa’s respite at church and time with her Bible give her strength?

Question 3 – What was your response to Cousin John’s friendship with Claire?

Part Two – The Disser Sisters, Our Story

Questions 4-11

Question 4 – What traditional roles did Sam accept and reject from his parents’ expectations? And Claire?

Question 5 – What was your response to Mr. Disser’s treatment of Claire?

Question 6 – How did Claire show her affection and special bond with Shirley?

Question 7 – What were the lasting affects for Janet of her brief relationship with her grandfather Samuel?

Question 8 – If you were Claire, would you be able to forgive Sam?

Question 9 – Why does Sam accept a separation from Claire instead of a divorce?

Question 10 – Why did Janet and Shirley retreat to private spaces and time alone during their childhoods?

Question 11 – What struggles was Claire willing to accept by walking away from her relationship with Frank?

Part Three – Divorce and Marriage

Questions 12-16

Question 12 – What changes Claire’s stance from a life of independence to a life with Cecil?

Question 13 – Was Claire’s natural beauty a blessing or a ‘curse’?

Question 14 – What was your response to Cecil’s treatment of Shirley?

Question 15 – Why did Janet resist Sam’s marriage to Elizabeth?

Question 16 – How did the birth of David and Donna change Sam’s life? Janet’s life?

Part Four – Discovery

Questions 17-20

Question 17 – February 14th had significance for both Sam and Claire. Are there other dates that are shared?

Question 18 – How is it possible for two families to live in the same city and keep their secrets intact for so long?

Question 19 – Would you be willing to meet a long-lost sibling after a separation of 70 years?

Question 20 – How many instances of parallels did you discover?

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