Set in 1977 West Virginia, A Sinner in Paradise is a heartwarming, uproarious affair with love in all its forms. Jilted by her fiance, Geneva watches her seemingly idyllic life suddenly fall apart. Bereft and desolate, she packs up her nine cats and leaves her home in Washington, DC to return to her native hills of West Virginia where she plans rest and heal from her heartbreak.
When Geneva's ambition, and machinations run up against rugged mountain ways, she finds herself flung from one perilous adventure, romance, crazy circumstance, and heartbreak to another.
After facing illness, disaster in the wilderness and an encounter with an old mountain man who teaches her that her soul needs more than men, courtship, and adventure, Geneva finally finds what she's been missing. Ultimately, Geneva realizes she must face herself before she is free to truly love and be loved.
Clearly Geneva comes to see herself as a sinner at some point. Do you agree that she is a sinner, or is she simply full of the foibles of any human? Why or why not? Is there any of the saint in her as well?
Four men appear to be in love with Geneva. Do you think they all really do love her? What is it that each of them finds attractive about her? How does she love any or each of them?
Do you think Geneva ended up with the right man? Why or why not?
"Honesty" is mentioned frequently, but lies seem to abound. Which characters are the most honest? The most dishonest? In what ways are they dishonest? Do you think the dishonest characters become more honest?
Holy Miracle tells Geneva she has a "thistle in her soul." Howard Knight also tells her she has a "greedy soul." What do you think each of these men see in her that cause them to say this?
Why do you think Holy Miracle and Sally Beth have formed a bond? What do they see in each other?
What do you think actually happened when Holy Miracle blessed Geneva up on Jacob's Mountain? Was her epiphany necessary for Geneva to be happy and able to fully love Chap, or do you they could have been happy together if the scene had not happened? Why or why not?
What do you think happens to the other characters in the book, especially Sally Beth, Howard Graves and John? How do you think the events in the book may have changed their lives?
Lenora tells a tragic story concerning her sister and Geneva's and Rachel's grandfather. How did this story affect you? Did you find it offensive? Why do you suppose it was included in the story? Did it serve any dramatic purpose?
What purpose do Jimmy Lee, Lenora, Ike, and Mrs. Wheater serve? Do you believe people like them exist (or existed at the time) in rural West Virginia?
Much is made of the notion that Geneva needs to be married before her baby is born. Do you think it is reasonable that people in rural West Virginia in 1978 would feel this way? Are there significant differences in the role and treatment of women now than in 1978?
Names are significant throughout the book. There are two Howards. Geneva believes her family members pronounce their surname incorrectly. Several people are called by more than one name. Why do you think the author emphasized names? Do you see any unmentioned significance in any of the names?
What do you believe is the overarching message of the story?
What was your favorite scene? Why?
Who was your favorite character?