Gather your friends together to talk about the themes and characters in Safe at Home. Use these questions to spark a lively discussion.
1. From the very first sentence this story asserts that baseball played (and still plays) a significant role in shaping our culture. What was your immediate response to this claim? Did your response change as you read the story? Explain.
2. What surprised you most about this depiction of the South in the 1950s?
3. There is a lot of talk about keeping the “status quo” late in the story. How is this sort of thinking still prevalent today?
4. What were your initial impressions of Jack Hall? How did they change over the course of the novel?
5. How is the relationship between Jack and his son, Chris, like that between Walter and his son, Percy?
6. What did you like most about Rose Marie? Least?
7. What role does Roberta’s relationship with her son, Percy, play in the growth of Rose Marie’s character?
8. Why were so many people in Whitney reluctant to change with the times?
9. Which scenes in the novel prompted your most visceral reactions? Which scenes broke your heart? Which scenes gave you hope?
10. What do you think was Jack Hall’s greatest struggle in this story?
11. How does Jack’s faith play into the decisions he makes?
12. Are there redeeming qualities beneath the overt racist surface in characters like Bud? What are those qualities?
13. What role do you think baseball, and sports in general, played in the civil rights movement that followed the time period depicted in this book?
14. All of the characters in this story (as in life) are flawed people. Describe some of the good/bad traits of the main characters. How are you like and unlike these people?
15. Which character did you relate to the most? The least?
16. How is the church depicted in this story? What are the similarities between Jack’s pastor, Alan Spencer, and the Jacksons’ pastor, Phil Edwards?
17. What was your emotional response to Pastor Spencer’s sermon on the “Good Samaritan”? Why do you think a message like this didn’t have a greater measurable impact on the issue of racism in America?
18. What will you remember most about Safe at Home?
19. The character growth in Percy’s teammates is significant.Why do you think they were more readily able to embrace equality than the rest of the townspeople? What does this say about the factors that most significantly prompt necessary change in society?
20. What was your reaction to the way the story ended? In what ways is it a sad ending? In what ways is it hopeful?