This reading group guide for Envy 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. Introduction
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Keisha Jones is living out of her car. Her mother, who worked as a prostitute throughout her life in order to support them both, has recently passed away, and with no money to pay the rent at the home they shared, Keisha seems to have hit a dead end. Worse still, her every thought is interrupted by repeated memories of a secret childhood trauma. So when a glamorous woman shows up at the salon in Arkansas where she works and surprises Keisha with an invitation to travel to Los Angeles to meet her sister, Gabrielle, Keisha is more than ready to go, even if she doesn’t care much for the messenger. While Gabrielle has only recently learned that she has a sister born from an affair her father had while on the road, Keisha has known all about her sister—and (thanks to Instagram) her sister’s glamorous life with a successful career in public relations, a mansion, and a beautiful husband and child—for some time. When Keisha finally sees it all with her own eyes, she becomes obsessed with plans to claim everything that she believes should have been hers—but how far will envy take her? In this second novel of the Seven Deadly Sins series, the author exposes the toxicity of envying what others have while revealing the importance of family and community and the healing power of love and forgiveness.For Discussion
1. When Gabrielle’s father asks her to come over at the start of the story, how does Gabrielle respond to what he tells her? Were you surprised by her reaction to the news he shares? Why or why not?
2. When Regan finds Keisha at the salon in Arkansas, what does Keisha say during their conversation that causes Regan to be suspicious of her? Keisha seems aware of how Regan feels in this moment, so why doesn’t Keisha explain herself?
3. How do Regan and Mauricio react to the news that Gabrielle has a sister and that she is coming to Los Angeles? What suggestions do they give Gabrielle? Why do you think their reaction is so different from Gabrielle’s? Whom do you agree with?
4. What did Keisha’s mom, Daisy, tell her as a child when she asked who her father was? Why do you think Daisy acted this way? How did Keisha find out the identity of her father? How did this journey to discover the truth and the knowledge of her father’s identity ultimately shape her life?
5. Why does Keisha feel indebted to Buck? How did the two meet? Would you say that they have a good relationship? Why or why not?
6. Consider how the novel paints a picture of sisterhood—both figurative and familial. How would you say that the novel defines sisterhood? What does it mean to be sisterly?
7. Keisha endures two major traumas throughout the book: years of abuse and an unspeakable loss. Why do you think that Keisha doesn’t share her secrets with anyone in her life? What might have allowed Keisha to feel more empowered to seek help and escape the abuse? How do these traumas affect her years later?
8. What does the Wilson family’s pastor say is the difference between envy and jealousy? Who in the congregation believes that this message is for them and what effect does it have?
9. Gabrielle’s relationship with Justus causes ongoing tension with her husband, Mauricio. Do you believe that Mauricio is simply envious of Justus or do you agree with his point that Gabrielle prioritizes her work above her family? What causes Mauricio to feel the way that he does about Gabrielle’s relationship with Justus? What does he propose will solve the problem and keep their marriage intact? Is it a good solution?
10. Consider how the book creates a dialogue around the theme of forgiveness. What examples of forgiveness are found in the book? What moves the characters to forgive one another—and themselves? Alternatively, what keeps or delays the characters from forgiving?
11. Daisy, Keisha, Gabrielle, and Regan all have very different ideas about motherhood and what it means to be a good mother. How do their motherhood styles differ? How are they similar? How does Keisha’s relationship with her daughter, and the tragedy that follows, shape her view of mothers?
12. What happens at Keisha’s sentencing? Were you surprised by the statements made by Regan and Gabrielle? Why or why not? Does Keisha ultimately show any remorse for her actions?
13. Did your feelings toward Keisha change after reading the final scenes of the novel? Why or why not? Do you feel empathy for her? How do you think her life will change after the sentencing?Enhance Your Book Club
1. Have you ever experienced envy? What is something that you have felt envious of? Discuss how envy affected your life and sense of self. Did it affect anyone else? How did you overcome the feeling?
2. Read Lust
, the first book in the author’s Seven Deadly Sins series, and compare and contrast it with Envy
. What themes do the two novels share? What do the characters have in common? Are the characters ultimately able to avoid or overcome the sin that is central to each story? If so, how?
3. Visit the author’s website at http://victoriachristophermurray.com
to learn more about her and her more than twenty novels, including the NAACP Image Award–winning Stand Your Ground
and the popular Jasmine Cox Larson Bush series.A Conversation with Victoria Christopher Murray What inspired you to write the Seven Deadly Sins series? Have you decided which sin you will write about next? Is there one sin that you feel most excited to write about?
Actually, another author suggested this to me years ago. And after I wrote Stand Your Ground
, I needed to write a book that was very different from that one because it was tough to face the blank page after that. I thought about Lust
, which I’d started years before and, with my agent and editor, decided to pursue the deadly sins series.Why did you decide to tell Envy from two points of view rather than one?
I decided to write Envy
from two points of view because I learned that the definition of envy
usually involves two people. I was fascinated by that discovery and decided to approach the novel that way.Did you find that you related to any particular character in Envy more than the others? If so, why?
Hmmm . . . that’s a good question. I really liked both Gabrielle and Keisha. Keisha had suffered so much loss in her life, yet she was surviving. And I loved the way Gabrielle reacted to having a sister. She opened her heart, following the example of her father—there were no strings, it was completely unconditional. I loved that. However, I really liked the feistiness and protectiveness of Regan. She’s a true friend.Gabrielle and Mauricio are moved by the pastor’s sermon about envy and jealousy, which they feel is a message to them. Have you ever been moved by a message in this same way that felt very personal for you?
Oh my goodness! I don’t know anyone who’s been to church and hasn’t been moved by a service, thinking the message is just for them. I remember vividly sitting in the pews one Sunday in Los Angeles and my mouth being wide open. I had no idea how my pastor had gotten into my life that way but I wanted her out! LOL! No, personal messages are very good things. I think God meets all of us where we are.Have you ever struggled with envy in your own life? If so, how did you overcome it?
When I was a little girl, my father told me to never compete with anyone else. He told me that if I did that, I’d never be my best because competing with someone else could hold me back. He said always make my today better than yesterday and work on making my tomorrow great. And then, if that wasn’t enough to keep me on the right track, when I found out in Sunday school that envy killed Jesus, I don’t think I’d ever been more afraid—I never wanted to have that in my heart. I’ve tried really hard to live without envy and I think I have. I have been accused of being envious once, and I prayed and really searched my heart to see if that was true. It wasn’t. I haven’t always gotten things right, but I’ve been able to keep envy from my heart.A major theme of the book is sisterhood. Do you have any sisters or sister-friends? Who are some of your favorite examples of sisters or sister-friends? What would you say defines sisterhood?
I have three sisters—Michele, Lucia, and Cecile—and while I’ve always been close to my sisters, we’ve become so much closer since my mom passed away. That has been the only blessing of her passing and I know my mom (and dad) is really happy about that. She’d want us to look out for one another and we have done that. My closest sister-friend is ReShonda Tate Billingsley. I have a true sister relationship with her because we’ve been through everything together. She doesn’t judge me; I don’t judge her. We understand that we both have good days and bad. (Though she needs coffee every day!) And she’s been a great sister-friend because we can work for hours together and then go right out after that and play. (And who else but a sister-friend would take you to her family reunion in Smackover, Arkansas?) There is no one in my life that I laugh with more than ReShonda.Who are some of the contemporary storytellers that you find most inspiring or compelling today and why?
I think my three favorite contemporary authors are Eric Jerome Dickey, Bernice McFadden and Tayari Jones. These are authors that I’ve held up to others as examples of who I want to be when I grow up. Not only are they great storytellers, but the beauty of their writing—there is music in their manuscripts and my challenge with getting through their books is that I read sentences over and over again. I read their work and I’m inspired to write.What was the biggest challenge in writing Envy and how did you overcome it?
This was a story I wanted to write, so it wasn’t hard to get the story to unfold—except my mom passed away right in the middle of me writing this story. It is hard to write through tears and heartache. But the good thing about having a deadline like this while I was grieving was that it kept me out of bed . . . Not completely, but enough so that by the time I finished Envy
, I felt like I could breathe a bit more. But it was tough.Can you tell us about some of the projects that you are currently working on? What can your readers look forward to next?
I am more than halfway finished with Greed
which is the next book in the series. The first three books—Lust
, and Greed
—have been optioned to become movies, so we’ll see what happens with that, but it’s exciting. And I plan on writing all seven of the seven deadly sins.