Book Club Discussion Guide

The Heirloom Garden

By Viola Shipman

Reading Group Questions

  1. Do you garden? What type of gardens do you have? Were any of your family gardeners? What heirloom flowers or plants do you have that have been passed on by family or friends?
  2. Whether or not you garden, do you have a favorite flower? Why? Is there a special memory associated with it, or is it simply the beauty of the flower you love? Do you have a favorite growing season?
  3. Iris uses her garden as a way of honoring and remembering the people she has loved and lost. What do you love most about gardening? Do you make floral arrangements for your home or your friends? And how does it help you, mentally, physically, spiritually, creatively?
  4. Have you or has anyone in your family served in the military? What does your or their service mean to you? How has it impacted you and your family? How have you or they been impacted by their service? Discuss.
  5. Do you think Americans demonstrate enough respect for our veterans and their service and sacrifices? Why or why not? How could we do better?
  6. Have you ever had a boss or colleague disrespect you? If you are a woman in a career that is male-dominated, how do you manage prejudiced and antiquated attitudes? And do you think our society and corporate world has gotten better in its treatment of women in the workplace and such issues as job discrimination, equal pay, promotion, etc.? Discuss.
  7. Overcoming loss is a major theme in The Heirloom Garden. Have you ever lost someone close to you? How has that impacted you? Do you think you handled grief in a healthy way? Is there any “one” right way to grieve?
  8. Cory is initially very resistant to seeking professional help, believing he can handle things on his own. Do you think asking for help is a sign of weakness or strength? Have you ever sought therapy? Did you find it helpful?
  9. Do you think certain family and small town community values and traditions are being lost today – be it gardening, parades, or simply being neighborly and checking in on one another? Why or why not? Discuss.
  10. One of the most important relationships in the story is the friendship between Iris and Lily, which transcends age or experience. Do you think our younger generations still respect and learn from our elders? Do you think our family stories and heirlooms are being shared or forgotten? How will this impact our country and our future generations? Discuss.


I love book clubs! As much as writing books (and coffee and wine and chocolate)! And I love to talk to book clubs. They are truly the lifeblood of an author. And I am always willing – depending on my writing and travel schedule, and with enough notice – to talk with any and all book clubs (via phone call, Skype, Facetime … I love to see your faces!).


Please contact to schedule a time for your book club to discuss any of my books!