- One of the themes of the novel is the relationship between sexual desire and religious ecstasy. Have the sisters sexualized their devotion to Jesus? How? Did you notice that some of the nuns fixated on the physical manifestation of Jesus? Did it affect their dispositions?
2. What do you think inspires someone to choose a life of religious devotion? Is it an escape? Are the reasons for selecting this course in life different for men than they are for women? How? Are they different for individuals of different religions?
3. Many of the sisters were jealous of Mariette. Why? Is it surprising that such a physically painful experience–stigmata–implies holiness? Do you think that the individuals that experience it are blessed or cursed?
4. How did you feel about Mariette? Do you believe that a person can be so consumed by religious ecstasy that they precipitate “miracles”? Do you believe in miracles?
5. Why do you think that Ron Hansen chose to end the novel the way in which he did? Was it realistic? Is it possible to return to a normal life after experiencing what Mariette experienced? Did her post-convent life seem “normal” or was she, in spirit, still devoted only to Jesus? Did it change how you felt about the authenticity of the event that unfolded in the convent?