Book Club: Discussion of The Violets of March by Sarah Jio

Welcome to our first book club discussion! Please take a look at the discussion questions below and Nancy's responses, then comment with your own responses to some or all of the questions. Also, please include the number of the question(s) with your response(s) so we can all keep track of what is being discussed. Feel free to add any other comments you have that are not prompted by the questions. Thank you for reading The Violets of March and participating in our discussion!

The Violets of March Discussion Questions

1. How would you describe Emily Wilson’s life and her state of mind at the beginning of the book? What draws you to her character?

Emily’s marriage to Joel is ending when the novel begins. She wrote a bestselling novel eight years ago, but hasn’t written anything since. She describes her life as “vanilla,” too boring to inspire her writing. Emily is lost, but her friend Annabelle encourages her to take a trip to clear her head. So, Emily decides to go to Bainbridge Island to visit her great aunt Bee.
2. What are your first impressions of Bee? How would you describe Emily and Bee's relationship?

Bee seems like fun, but mysterious, too. She picks and chooses what she will talk to Emily about, which is frustrating. It’s clear that she’s guarded, obviously hiding something.
3. What role does Bainbridge Island play in this story? What makes it unique? 
Bainbridge Island is much more relaxed than New York where Emily lives. Bainbridge is a place of nostalgia for Emily because she spent time there when she was younger. Revisiting it as an adult is kind of like going back to summer camp with a new perspective. It houses Emily’s family’s secrets.
4. How have secrets affected Emily's family and personal relationships? Would you have tried to uncover the truth as well?

The secrets have created distance among her family members. It’s hard to resist trying to solve a mystery. Emily did the right thing by seeking the truth.
5. Emily finds two love interests on Bainbridge Island: Greg and Jack. What are your impressions of each of these men?

Greg is a great guy who is honest and sincere. I was rooting for Greg and liked him better than Jack. I was holding out hope for Emily to choose Greg until the very end. I wish Greg’s message about Emily in Heart Rock had more significance like it did for Esther and Elliot. I didn’t like Jack’s secrecy, which made him seem distant. Also, maybe Bee’s dislike for him influenced my opinion of him because I was waiting to see why she was warning Emily against him.
6. Emily thinks to herself, “What power Esther had over all of them.” What power did Esther have over Elliot, Evelyn, Bee, Janice, and Henry? What power did her story have over Emily?

Esther manipulated all of them, and her stubbornness deeply affected their lives. If she had told them she was still alive much sooner it would have alleviated some of their guilt. By faking her own death, Esther acted stupidly. None of them were brave, just stubborn. The good part about Esther’s story is that it opened Emily’s eyes so that she could help her family and find love.
7. Both Bee and Elliot harbor guilt about the night of Esther's accident. How do you feel they handled the situation?

They were cowards for running away, and as a result, they were haunted by that night for the rest of their lives.
8. Elliot says that he and Esther were “soul mates,” and Emily's relationship with Jack mirrors that sentiment. What role does timing play in these two couples' relationships? What could Esther and Elliot have done differently to be together?

Esther is to blame for the demise of her relationship with Elliot. If she had just let him explain why he was in Seattle with another woman, their story could have had a different ending. After she saw Elliot with Bee, she set out to punish him. Esther was spiteful, revengeful, and unfair, especially to keep Elliot’s daughter from him. At least Emily’s relationship with Jack is much healthier. Emily’s and Esther’s stories are supposed to be somewhat parallel, but they are ultimately very different characters. For example, Emily initially wanted to give Joel a second chance even after he cheated, but when Esther suspected cheating she took off running without even allowing for an explanation.
9. Would you recommend The Violets of March? Share what you liked the most about this novel.  

Yes. I really enjoyed the connection to the forties and the uncovering of the past through Esther’s diary. The setting was very inviting and the violets tied in nicely with the story. Overall, a superbly written novel. 


One lucky book club participant will receive a paperback copy of Sarah Jio's second novel, The Bungalow. The winner will be chosen at random from the comments on April 12th.