Flowers for Elvis Readers' Guide

  1. Titles are always important. Why do you think the author chose Flowers for Elvis for this book? What symbolism do flowers play in the novel? How do the various settings, including Elvis's funeral and the backdrop of the floral industry, support this theme? Likewise, discuss the symbolism of bees in the novel.
  2. Discuss the interconnectedness of the spiritual with the physical in the story. What bonds do you think exist between the dearly departed and those living on this physical plane? Do individual souls have purpose beyond the here and now?
  3. What connections did you discover in Flowers for Elvis that mirror events and situations in Elvis' life?
  4. Recount the evolution of Olivia Abigail through death to life. How is this narrator relevant to the novel as a whole? Could the story have been told from another character's perspective? How would this shift in perspective change the tone and/or outcome of the narrative?
  5. What is your interpretation of the precise nature of the love between Olivia and her sister, and her love for the other members of her extended family? Discuss the relationships of other characters? Family, sisters, twins, mother/daughter. What are your thoughts about the transcendent nature of love?
  6. Examine the concepts of forgiveness and redemption in Flowers for Elvis? Olivia states, "No one needs love more than a person who does not deserve it.” Do you agree with this philosophy? What questions are posed about forgiveness, both human and spiritual? Does Genevieve deserve forgiveness? What about Grandpa Clancy? Willard? The Reverend Mother? What effect does Genevieve's unwillingness or inability to forgive Grandpa Clancy have on her life? What about her unwillingness and/or inability to forgive herself? How does Anna Beth's (posthumous) forgiveness of Genevieve shape her thereafter? How are each of the characters redeemed?
  7. Does Genevieve achieve the stature of a tragic antagonist? Discuss the choices Genevieve makes throughout the novel. What is her tragic flaw? What are her admirable qualities?
  8. A myriad of secrets litter the plot of Flowers for Elvis. What effect do the secrets of generations past and present have on the characters and their understanding of life? What overshadowing fear makes them perpetuate secrets that are so obviously ruining their lives?