Dolly Parton once said," If you don't like the road you're walking, start paving another one." In the bustling city of Atlanta, four very different ladies take her advice to heart and open a catering business that will cater to them—successful, independent women who put their families first.
But flouting the traditions and expectations of Southern society turns out to be more complicated than they ever anticipated. Even as the pressure of running a business bonds them together, the realities of managing real life threaten to tear the whole thing apart. As financial woes, personal hurts, and family troubles test the strength of their business and their friendship, they discover that sisterly support and lots of heartfelt prayer just might be the only way to survive.
Full of sass, grit, and good old-fashioned faith, How Dolly Parton Saved My Life is a hilarious and poignant look at friendship with a distinctly Southern flair.
1. Did you like the book? Why or why not?
2. Jo is at first reluctant to leave behind her original name idea, Divine Foods–but warms to Jelly Jar partly in an effort to be flexible and collaborative. Do you think this was a good decision? What would you have named the company?
3. Which character do you have the most in common with? Which character interests you most? Would you be friends with any of these women?
4. What do you make of Ellie and Mike’s marriage? Do you trust Jo’s prediction that Mike will come around to the idea of Ellie working?
5. Why do you think it is that the lacrosse girls don’t show up at Tiff’s party? How do you imagine their interaction at practice the following week? Would Tiff confront them? Would they mention it?
6. At the end of the book, Ellie says, “With God’s help, we can do anything.” Daisy reflects that she hadn’t known whether Ellie was religious, “But somehow it makes sense, now that I think about it.” What does she mean? What about Ellie would make Daisy think that she was religious?
7. Do you agree with Daisy’s decision to go back to a church whose members had been unkind to her and her daughter? What are the pros and cons of returning to Peachtree Hills Presbyterian?
8. What do you think happened to Ellie’s ring?
9. Was Jo right to tell Ellie about her engagement to Mike? Why or why not?
10. At Shelby Madden’s birthday party, the stay-at-home moms are outspoken in their criticism of mothers who work. What did you think of this exchange? Why does the discussion become so heated? What is at stake for the stay-at-homes?
11. Compare Peachtree Hills Presbyterian to Resurrection Community Church, as they are portrayed in the novel. Which would you choose to attend? Is either type of congregation familiar to you?
12. Time and time again the main characters are faced with condescending and even misogynist remarks from Atlanta men–from gas station attendants to church speakers to their own husbands. How does each character respond? How meaningful are these scenes to the book? What do Jo’s, Ellie’s, Cate’s, and Daisy’s reactions to these situations say about their characters?
13. What role does religion play in each of the main character’s lives? Does one character stand out to you as the most pious or the most secular? Do you think Jo goes to church? Does this make her prayers more or less significant? Why does church seem to be less important to the married women?
14. What does Jelly Jar mean to each of the main characters?
15. Lillian advises Daisy that a congregation is like a family–with the same flaws and disagreements as a nuclear family. What other communities provide a sense of family, in the book and in the world? Is it true to say that they really function like a family, as Lillian suggests?
16. Is this a feminist novel? Why or why not?
17. What do you think of the Jelly Jar Rules? Are there any unwritten rules in the novel that could be added to the list? Are there any rules that you think should be added to the list?