The House of Eve covers some hard to read topics and it will likely lead to a pretty compelling book club discussion. The book follows the lives of two female protagonists from different sides of the tracks, and is told in dual timelines with alternating chapters.
The book carries themes of: maternal bonds (or lack thereof), the weaponization of women’s bodies, the importance of second chances, and the ways in which gender, racism, and poverty affect women’s options.
These The House of Eve book club questions will help help you dive into all of that with a series of questions. In addition to the questions, the discussion guide features a book synopsis and some selected reviews to help aid your group’s conversation. At the very end of the guide we included some suggestions for three books like The House of Eve.
Synopsis for The House of Eve
(We always chose to provide the publisher synopsis because we feel that it’s worthwhile to discuss whether the official book description actually squared with your experience of the book.)
The House of Eve, Sadeqa Johnson
1950s Philadelphia: fifteen-year-old Ruby Pearsall is on track to becoming the first in her family to attend college. But a taboo love affair threatens to pull her back down into the poverty and desperation that has been passed on to her like a birthright.
Eleanor Quarles arrives in Washington, DC, with ambition and secrets. When she meets the handsome William Pride at Howard University, they fall madly in love. But William hails from one of DC’s elite wealthy Black families, and his parents don’t let just anyone into their fold. Eleanor hopes that a baby will make her finally feel at home in William’s family and grant her the life she’s been searching for. But having a baby—and fitting in—is easier said than done.
With their stories colliding in the most unexpected of ways, Ruby and Eleanor will both make decisions that shape the trajectory of their lives.
10 Book Club Questions forThe House of Eve
These questions have been tailored to this book’s specific reading experience, but if you want more ideas, we also have an article with 101 generic book club questions.
- One of the major themes in the novel was second chances. How much does the idea of second chances influence the plot and character building in the story? Which characters are given second chances? How has Ruby’s life turned out due to her second chance?
- The book is set in two timelines, in the 1940’s and 50’s. Do you feel the novel gives a fair reflection of society then and now?
- “And this trip downtown had shown me that we even had to fight for what should have been free: our dignity.”
The weaponization of women’s bodies is a major theme throughout the book. What is the impact of misogyny and sexualization on Ruby’s life, and how did it shape her character development?
- Consider the different responsibilities placed upon men and women in the novel during the 40’s and 50’s. What double standards are portrayed? Are any of those still in play today?
- The novel revolves around the theme of material bonds and the absence of them. There are a lot of female influences in the novel, such as, Ruby’s Aunt Marie, Ruby’s mother Inez, Shimmy’s mom and William’s mom. Whose approach to motherhood struck you the most and why?
- “Marry me Ruby. His green eyes were clear, full of hope, and innocence. I wished I could be as naive as him.”
Like the color lavender, green is a common color symbolized throughout the novel, what do you think it represents?
- Consider both historical figures- Mary Magdalene and Eve. Why do you think Eleanor renamed the House of Magdalene, the House of Eve?
- The character of Aunt Marie is complex and unconventional. Should characters like her be seen as role models for standing up against oppressive systems or should they be criticized for disregarding the laws? What did you think of her character overall?
- The novel portrays a contrast between Ruby’s relationship with her mother, and Shimmy’s relationship with his. How does their different upbringings affect their life decisions?
- With dual timelines in the novel, Ruby’s is in the first person while Eleanor’s is in the third. Did you find it difficult to keep track of who’s who? Were you surprised when the timelines crossed and both main characters met?
Selected Reviews of The House of Eve
(Use these selected Goodreads reviews to compare with your own experience of the book. Do you agree or disagree with the reviews?)
“This is historical fiction at its very best: moving, well-written, a vivid setting, and plenty of empathy while highlighting heart-wrenching historical events with unflinching bravery […] it was refreshing to read a historical fiction novel set in the late 1940’s/early 50’s, an era of which I haven’t seen too much in this genre. I found this an easy-to-follow narrative even though this novel was educational as well as a compelling story…”
“There were elements of the book that I liked, but the bad (mainly historical inaccuracies due to lack of research, and characters who were walking stereotypes) outweighed the good.”
“Sadeqa Johnson is expert at excavating the parts of the past that we would rather not confront. She dusts off these harrowing histories, shines them up, and gives them their proper glory. She mines this terrain with soaring grace, shining intellect, and a love that resonates on every page. Thanks to Johnson’s enviable ability to craft narratives that not only educate and elucidate, but also enamor, the stories of Ruby and Eleanor, and the Ancestors and Elders they represent, will remain with me always. The House of Eve is a powerful witnessing, an indispensable testimony, and a remarkable addition to Johnson’s already stunning bibliography.”
“Throwing in some historical terms and phrases does not make a book a historical fiction novel, and the author does this, I think, in a manner that feels very unnatural to the story. The story does deal with pregnancy in the 1950’s—out-of-wedlock pregnancy, interracial relationships, and disapproving/unsupportive families. However, this book reads like more of a not-so-interesting tale of two love stories that I never felt fully invested in reading about…”
Books Like The House of Eve
If the relationship between Ruby and Shimmy was interesting to you, you may also reading Heaven & Earth Grocery Store, which features a community of black and Jewish characters in the 1930’s. Here’s our Heaven & Earth discussion guide.
And finally, The House of Eve was a Reese’s book club pick. If you like her vibe, we have a ton of discussion guides for Reese’s club.
Take My Hand, Dolen Perkins-Valdez
If you like historical fiction inspired by true events then Take My Hand may be your next read! This novel is about two young black girls who were surgically sterilized without their consent in Alabama in 1973. This novel tackles a variety of issues related to race, class, poverty, a woman’s right to choose, and exposing the government’s crimes.
The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett
If you’re interested in stories about racial passing then The Vanishing Half may be right for you! In this novel, two light-skinned black twins, run away at the age of sixteen and separate. The novel follows the lives of them over generations, one sister marries a black man while the other passes as white. A story that explores the intricacies of identity, family and race in a provocative but compassionate way.
Pick this for book club and use our Vanishing Half discussion guide.
Black Cake, Charmaine Wilkerson
If your group enjoys stories about family inheritance then Black Cake may be the right fit for you! In this novel, two estranged siblings reunite after their mother’s passing. She leaves them a classic Caribbean black cake, and recordings that reveal the truth of her past and where she came from. A story of how an inheritance of betrayals, secrets, and memories can shape relationships and history.
Pick this one for book club and use our Black Cake discussion guide.
Share these The House of Eve book club questions with your friends: