Reading Group Guide
Our biggest fear in providing questions is that they'll come across as an "assignment." We really just want to provide you with springboards for thought and, possibly, discussion over coffee. If you'd rather just savor the story (and the coffee), please do so without hesitation.
Nancy Rue and Steve Arterburn
- Nobody can deny that Ryan is our angriest ever character. Even if you've never wanted to throw pieces of sculpture across a studio, could you relate at all to her frustration and rage? Ever come close to that in your own life?
- Sully muses that "innumerable expensive studies had shown that angry people who already knew they were ticked off didn't feel better after they punched something out. That only worked for people who weren't in touch with their anger--and that didn't describe Ryan Coe." What did describe Ryan's anger? What describes yours, if you have any? (i.e. if you are human . . .)
- Ryan had to learn when to express anger for the sake of her sanity and when -- and how -- to get a handle on it. In reading Healing Sands, did you find a rule-of-thumb for that?
- How do you know when to take action based on valid anger, and when to let a situation go? How does the answer to that play out in Ryan's situation? In Sully's?
- Several other characters in the novel had their issues with anger. It might be interesting to discuss where theirs came from and how it influenced their behavior.
- In each of the Sullivan Crisp novels we've shed light on a concept of Christian faith that misinterprets the Gospel. We tackled legalism in Healing Stones and the toxic name-it-and-claim-it approach in Healing Waters. What twisted version of Christianity shows its face in Healing Sands?
- Can you follow the thread of Ryan's faith as it grows in the course of the novel?
- What about Sully's? Over the course of the three, if you've read them all?
- What about yours?
- Before Healing Sands was even released, readers were emailing us, saying, "Isn't it time Sully had a relationship?" We thought the same thing. Sully was the only one who wasn't sure. What do you think about Sully and Tess? Is he more ready at the end of the book than when he first meets her? Do you think they can have a life together?
- What do you think the future holds for Ryan and Dan? How might Sully approach his work with them?
- An editor asked us why Dan ever got involved with Ginger in the first place. What's your take on that?
- Moving to a different kind of love -- how did Ryan's association with the soccer moms influence the changes in her in the course of the story? Do you agree with what she says near the end, that together they are the body of Christ?
- And then, of course, there's mother love. How does Ryan transform as a mom? What do you think lies ahead for her and Jake?
- Finally -- Sully and Porphyria. Can you define their relationship? Do you have that kind of spiritual companion in your life?
- Ryan is by far Sully's most difficult client. Could he have avoided her walking out on their session when she did, or do you think that was a necessary part of their journey?
- If you've read the other two novels, did you miss the Game Show Theology in this one? Would it have worked with Ryan?
- What (if anything) in the therapy sessions resonated with you? Is there anything you could apply to the challenges you personally face?
- One of our consultants told us after attending a conference for Christian psychologists that "Belinda Cox is alive and well." Do you agree that there are counselors who use Scripture incorrectly, if not dangerously, in their work with troubled people? Do you think Sully is "Biblical" enough?
Sully points out that we are all born with certain neutral qualities. Sometimes they serve us well and sometimes they don't. That is certainly true for many of our characters. It might be interesting to discuss what those traits are in these people, and how they both enhance them and cause them to stumble (if not fall flat on their faces)
- . . . and you
Did Healing Sands reveal anything else to you? Get you to consider anything differently than you did before? Confirm what you know? Make you want to call us up and tell us we need some therapy from Sullivan Crisp ourselves? If any of the above applies, we would love to hear from you.