The Secrets of Mary Bowser - Book Groups

The Secrets of Mary Bowser is a selection of these national book clubs:

Target club pick . . . you can pick up a copy at any Target store or order online.

Books-A-Million club pick . . . you can pick up a copy at any BAM store or order online.

Sutter Home Wine June club pick . . . includes Lois' special "secret" ingredient chocolate cake recipe, a great wine pairing, and tips for entertaining your book group.

AM Northwest on-air book club . . . watch the interview and some audience discussion of The Secrets of Mary Bowser this October.

Hear what book clubs are talking about:
As an avid reader and teacher of literature, I love how discussions about books bring people together. Your copy of The Secrets of Mary Bowser includes twelve discussion questions. You can also download them here (pdf). SPOILER ALERT! Some of the questions focus on plot details, so you may not want to read them until you finish the novel.

But these questions are just a place to start. Here are what some readers say they are discussing:

How is this story relevant to your life?

What does the title refer to? What "secrets" does Mary keep in each section of the novel?

How "close" did the Civil War feel when you were growing up? Why does this war continue to fascinate so many Americans?

Have you ever had the kind of experience Mary had, of people assuming you're not as smart as you really are. Was it because you were female? A person of color? Both? Something else?

If you come up with your own questions, email them to, and they'll be posted on the website. We'll also post photos of any book groups who send a picture of their group with the book.

Meet some of the book clubs who are reading the novel:
Nashvill Book Group
Michelle Hatcher and Jennifer Miller shared this photo and synopsis of the meeting of their Nashville book group:
"We always meet at a different restaurant for book club (often book related) and this month we selected Monell's at the Manor. It is an old manor, the location of which originally began as an estate for a L&N Railroad tycoon in the 1890s, that serves southern food family style. Southern food family style simply means an excessive amount of butter was used and that you should always pass the GIANT plates of food to the left. We all enjoyed the book (and the ridiculous amount of food) immensely. We had great conversation…especially about Francis Burney!"

Mt. Tabor Book Club
This wonderful book club has been meeting for over 20 years.

Target Book Club
Are you in a book club with friends from work? Imagine if you had the power to make your club's monthly pick available to readers everywhere in the country. Welcome to the Target book club, in which employees from across Target get together to choose the store's book club selections.

Virginia area
The Ralph E. Lewis Book Group is sponsored by Shenandoah University's Center for Lifelong Learning in Winchester, VA. Kay Keely, whose daughter Karen was a superb member of the writing group I belonged to in graduate school, reports: "Everyone really enjoyed the book - we had a lively discussion. Two of our members had lived in Richmond, and two others had visited the various museums in Richmond which portray a lot about life around the Civil War. One person said she was skeptical about the Abraham Lincoln scene at the end of the book - but our resident Civil War buff confirmed that in fact Lincoln did come to Richmond and reportedly sat in Jefferson Davis' chair! Everyone says to say thank you for bringing the book to our attention."

These wonderful folks at Books A Million chose to feature The Secrets of Mary Bowser as their August book club pick. BAM is the second-largest bookstore chain in the country, with stores across the states that were the heart of the Confederacy. What a great reminder of how books can bring Americans together to discuss our most contentious history.

Delve book club
The host for this book club cooked Pepper Pot, the traditional Philadelphia dish mentioned in the novel. He even made a (delicious) vegetarian version. This group read Frederick Douglass' slave narrative and Uncle Tom's Cabin together last year, so they were ready to hear what Mary had to say about those books.

April Baer bookclub
This book club doesn't always meet at a bar. What was it about The Secrets of Mary Bowser that brought them to this venue?

Joyce Earland book club
This club was formed to read local authors. In Portland, that means a wealth of great fiction and non-fiction.

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