Suzanne Strempek Shea

Book Club Questions

This Is Paradise

  1. What are your perceptions of Africa and how were they affected by this story?
  2. What surprised you about life in Cape Maclear?
  3. Which character could you relate to and why? What were some of his or her personality traits?
  4. Which volunteer’s story touched you the most? Could you put yourself in his or her shoes? How has the past shaped his or her life?
  5. The clinic began due to a tragedy in one mother’s life. Do you have an example of when a horrible experience sparked something positive in your life?How do you grieve? Do you talk about grief with your close friends or family?
  6. What experience do you have with volunteering? Have you ever started a volunteer program? If so, what difficulties did you run into? What blessings did the effort provide?
  7. Mags has to deal daily with a culture very different than the one in which she’s spent so much of her life. What would be the most difficult parts of living in Malawi? Which would you welcome?
  8. How does the author describe the sense of community in Malawi? How does it compare to your sense of community? What are the dynamics illustrated in the story.
  9. What borders have you crossed in your own life, both geographical and psychological?
  10. Why is there such a strong connection between Ireland and Africa?
  11. What would be a greater challenge for you: the actual hospital work or the fundraising? And in this day of so many competing good causes, how would you raise money for an African project?
  12. What charitable efforts do you support, and what story or stories led you to lend that support. In which ways do you choose to give — time, funds, prayer, others?
  13. What is the moral of this story?
  14. What questions do you have about Mags that weren't answered in the book?

Sundays in America

  1. Due to childhood warnings, Suzanne Strempek Shea never worshipped at any church other than Catholic ones. Can you relate to what she was told, whatever your religious background? Is there a place or a group of people or a custom you've never familiarized yourself with due to such warnings - regarding religion or anything else?
  2. Travel is a wonderful opportunity to try something new. Have you ever sampled a different church while on the road for business or pleasure? What were your experiences?
  3. Have you visited any of the churches written about in Sundays in America? If so, what were your experiences there. If not, which would you like to most visit, and why. Which would you stay away from, and why? Is there a church you wish she had visited? Which one and why would you have liked to read a chapter on that particular one?
  4. If you belong to a church, what do you think the author would have found if she visited yours? What aspect would you have wanted to show off? What would you have hoped she didn't notice?
  5. Shea didn't notify churches that she was visiting, or that she would be writing about her visit. Do you think she should have? Do you think the experience would have been different if she had - do you think a church or congregation would display different behavior if it thought many others would be reading about it?