The China Bayles Herbal Mysteries
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- This book takes place in the small Texas town of Indigo. Where is it located? What's it like? What are its challenges? How do the residents plan to meet them? Does Indigo remind you of small towns you've visted or lived in?
- The strip mine that is described in the book is real, Susan says in her "Note to the Reader." She adds, "My descriptions of the mine's operation, its proposed expansion, and its terrible effects on the environment and the surrounding countryside are factually accurate." Does the fact that the mine is real add to your interest? Do you view this real situation any differently than you would if the situation were fictional?
- China confronts several mysteries in this book. What is the central mystery? Which are the peripheral mysteries? How are they related? Does this kind of multiple plotting add to your enjoyment of the book?
- The book's title is a pun (on dyeing/dying) and points toward a major theme of the book: uses of color. There's also a great deal of information about herbs used for dyeing. Do these "extras" distract you from the story, or do you think that they support the story?
- What "dye facts" did you find most interesting? most informative? most surprising?
- What does it mean to "change your colors"? To "fly under false colors"? To be "dyed in the wool"? How do these phrases relate to the central mystery?
- Near the end of Chapter 17, China muses:
"Later, when I thought about the sad events of that long and tragic afternoon, I would wonder about the synchronicity of experience, as Ruby calls it. Or maybe it's just the sheer randomness of the world, the multiple what-ifs of the way things happen. If . . ."
A novelist's job is to take the "multiple what-ifs" and weave them together into a plot that takes on a feeling of inevitability. Think back on your experience of the book. At what point did the plot develop a sense of inevitability for you—a sense that things (no matter how surprising) were destined to happen? Does this fit into any of the book's themes, do you think?
Your reading group might enjoy refreshments made from some of Susan's recipe collection.