Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Destiny's Divas includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Victoria Christopher Murray. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
The hot new gospel group Destiny’s Divas has gained a following for its special blend of multi-generational singing and sharing testimonials. But its three members are each hiding a secret behind the stories they share on stage. Sierra says she’s “saved, single, and celibate,” yet her frequent bed-hopping belies her claims. Former pop star Raine advises fans to put family first, but her meddling mother-in-law is driving a wedge between her and her husband. And grand dame Liza is hiding a dark secret about her seemingly perfect marriage—even from herself. As their popularity grows and their first national tour begins, the faith and fate of Destiny’s Divas is put to the ultimate test.
Topics & Questions For Discussion
1. Sierra, Raine, and Liza each have premonitions about the drama that will later unfold, but they choose to ignore their own intuition. Why are the three main characters so afraid to face the truth? What does the truth ultimately teach them?
2. How could the three members of Destiny’s Divas have better used the sisterhood of their group to handle the challenges they faced, before problems escalated? Who do you turn to for support in your own life?
3. Of Sierra, Raine, and Liza, who do you think has the strongest moral center? Whose faith was most tested?
4. Sierra appears to feel no remorse that she lies to the world about being “saved, single, and celibate.” Discuss how Sierra is seduced by the idea of fame, and what factors in her life contribute to her attitude.
5. How did the flashbacks to Liza’s teen years and her first meeting with Mann add to the narrative and to your understanding of Liza?
6. Mann, the seemingly perfect husband, turned out to be the greatest villain of Destiny’s Divas. What were some of the clues Liza ignored, and what personality traits did Mann possess that allowed him to mislead her so easily? Did you ever suspect Mann’s true nature?
7. Raine had premonitions of the problems Beerlulu would bring to her family. Is there anything she could have done to prevent the tragedy with Nadia? Why or why not?
8. Sierra’s ultimate message centers around the pitfalls ofsexting and emailing provocative photos. What other lessons does she learn? When it comes to relationships, what does she need to do to temper her sometimes outlandish behavior?
9. Do you believe Sierra’s relationship with Jarrod was the real thing? After the pictures were released, is there anything she could do to win him back?
10. Do you think Raine’s marriage to Dayo will survive after the fatal incident with Nadia and Beerlulu? Can love between husband and wife truly be unconditional, as Raine says?
11. Yvonne was skeptical of Sierra’s past, yet she never fully investigates the singer’s background. How could a more thorough vetting of all three divas have saved them from public humiliation?
12. Discuss the main themes of Destiny’s Divas, like sisterhood, honesty, family, and faith. What other universal messages did you take away?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Author Victoria Christopher Murray has written a number of popular books. If you’ve read any of her previous novels, discuss some of the universal themes and how Destiny’s Divas differs from her previous books. Browse the author’s website at www.victoriachristophermurray.com.
2. Set the mood at your book club meeting by creating a playlist of songs by popular gospel artists like CeCe Winans, Donnie McClurkin, Mary Mary, or the Blind Boys of Alabama. Do you and your book club members have a favorite song? Why do you think these singers have such loyal followings?
3. While you may never be a famous artist or performer, you can still pretend! Arrange a karaoke night with your book club members and let your inner diva shine through. For a collection of lists ranking the best karaoke songs to belt your heart out to, visit: http://www.karaokepartymachine.com/top_karaoke_songs.html.
A Conversation with Victoria Christopher Murray
What first inspired you to write Christian fiction? Are there any universal messages you hope to communicate through your writing?
You know, I was never inspired to write Christian fiction. I wanted to write fiction about characters that I knew and that meant that some of them would be Christian. While I am not religious, being a Christian is who I am to my core, so no matter what I would’ve done in my life, my faith was going to go with me. My faith was going to show up.
As far as universal messages, I don’t ever plan to put a message in my books. I write and then when a message shows up, I’m pleased. I think the universal message is what the center of the Christian doctrine is all about—forgiveness. Forgiveness of yourself and others. It is the hardest thing to do, but it is what Christ commands.
Why did you decide to focus on the inner workings of a gospel group for this novel? Were you inspired by the popularity of any real-life group?
I had this idea for this novel for at least ten years. The seed of the story was inside of me all of that time, but it was just ready to come out now. I wasn’t motivated to do the story by any singing group. I was just intrigued by the idea of three women keeping such secrets. I wasn’t even really sure about what the secrets would be until I began writing the book.
Do you think the three divas’ testimonies were in any way self-righteous? What message were you hoping to convey?
No, I didn’t think their testimonies were self-righteous at all. I think these are all messages that are being given at conferences around the world even as we speak. Their messages were all great messages. They just weren’t living that way; their walk wasn’t as strong as their talk.
In what ways do you think readers will relate to Sierra, Raine, and Liza? How would you have handled each of the situations these divas face in the novel?
You know, while readers may not find themselves in these exact situations, I think many of us have found ourselves giving advice to others, advice that we know is good, advice that we know is right. But, we may not be walking our talk for lots of reasons. As far as how I would’ve handled these situations, I just can’t imagine myself in any of these situations. I guess the best way to answer that is that I just try to walk my talk, though even I fall short of that sometimes.
Why did you choose to include the subject of modern-day female genital mutilation in Destiny’s Divas? Did you find that this is currently practiced in the United States?
I found out not long ago that this procedure was performed in this country. I could not believe it! Of course, it’s illegal and therefore underground, but it is a cultural practice. I decided to study this procedure more, and the more I found out about it, the more I wanted to write about it. I found it fascinating—not in a good way—but fascinating, nonetheless.
Was the drama in Destiny’s Divas inspired by any real, ripped from-the-headlines events?
Hmmm, no, not really. I did want to address the dangers of sexting. I think young women don’t realize the problems with that. Young people in general don’t realize that what ends up on the Internet will be there forever; there is no way to erase it. And decisions they’re making today are the foundation for their future. So Sierra’s story was very important to me. Raine’s story has not been in the headlines, though it needs to be. I chose that story because I wanted to let people know female genital mutilation is happening today, it’s happening in this country, but it’s not something we can change until we understand why it’s done. Liza was just my exploration of what happens when we live with long-term lies.
As a Christian author, how does your own faith reflect or differ from that of your characters? Have you ever had a “divine intervention” while writing?
Not sure that I’ve had divine intervention, but I know I’m divinely inspired. My prayer is that my books will not only entertain, but will teach and inspire. I really want God to show up in all of my books, but I don’t sit down and figure out how that’s going to happen. I just let Him flow in the pages. I hope that my faith is reflected in the characters. I hope that I show that I’m not perfect, but I can lean on God, who is. I would like readers to see that—to see what happens when someone depends on their faith and what happens when someone doesn’t.
Music plays an important role in Sierra, Raine, and Liza’s lives. Do you ever listen to music while you write? What songs would readers find on your favorite playlist?
Ha! I’ve tried to listen to music while writing and the only thing that happens is that I’ll get up and start dancing . . . and will get no work done. So, no, I don’t listen to music. I usually have the TV on . . . on mute! I guess I like the feeling of someone there, but I need quiet to “hear the scenes” coming alive in my head.
Where do you see the future of Destiny’s Divas headed? Any chance of a sequel?
There’s always a chance for a sequel, but I don’t see it. As far as I’m concerned, their story is over.
If you weren’t writing, what do you think you’d be doing instead? Do you have another “dream” profession?
If I weren’t writing, I’d be a political journalist/pundit or writing teacher. Those are both my dream professions! I’m still dreaming. . . .