Reading Group Guide
1. In the opening chapter of Stranded in Paradise, Tess Nelson loses her job--the job that she had given the bulk of her time and efforts to, to which she had devoted her very life. Discuss how this seemingly catastrophic incident initiates a bizarre series of events--a twisted ankle, lost luggage, a hotel fire, and a hurricane, to name a few--that remarkably lead to healing and restoration for Tess.
2. Carter McConnell's early encounters with Tess are less-than-perfect. As one of the first Christian characters Tess meets, how does Carter's "bad" behavior affect Tess's concept of Christians? Could his actions be beneficial--lending authenticity to his character?
3. Through flashbacks to Tess's childhood memories, we see that her early life was riddled with painful experiences. Discuss how this past pain shaped Tess's personality. Was her reaction to Carter's compassion and kindness emblematic of someone with her history?
4. At what point did it become obvious that Carter and Tess were drawn to each other by more than friendship? Did Carter, knowing that she was not a believer, handle himself with the appropriate amount of restraint? Did he, at any point, allow his emotions to control his actions? Discuss.
5. Stella DeMuer is an eccentric former movie star whose husband, Edgar, was wrongfully linked to the Communist Party in the McCarthy hearings. What influence did this elder woman's hospitality and personal story have on Tess's faith?
6. In the midst of Hurricane Alana, Tess does a great deal of soul-searching, considering the reality of God's love for her. What role did panic play in her eventual conversion? Do you believe panic is a common element used in evangelism? Is this good or bad?
7. Characteristic of her deliberate, thoughtful nature, Tess decides she must return home to ponder all that has happened on her ill-fated vacation before submitting herself totally to God. Was this a wise decision? Why or why not?
8. Tess Nelson's tropical vacation in Maui was supposed to be paradise. Yet mishap after mishap seemed to indicate that this beautiful island was anything but celestial. Discuss the symbolism of Paradise--what it means in superficial, earthly terms and what it means in eternal, heavenly terms.
9. Upon her return to the states, Tess visits Mona, her mother. Removing her filter of anger, Tess sees Mona's life through new eyes. How does Tess's impression of her mother change? How do you think the relationship between these two women will evolve?
10. The character of Tess Nelson truly comes full-circle--quitting the job she previously devoted herself to, reaching out to a mother she once loathed, and embracing a God she never understood. Discuss the ramifications of Tess's past decisions and how God used even her disobedience to direct the path of her life.