Little Mercies Questions

  • Like many parents, Ellen struggles to balance her personal and professional lives. Discuss how you face maintaining that precarious balance between home and work.
  • Ellen’s former client Jade stepped in to save Avery’s life and Ellen found herself being seen as an unfit mother. Talk about this reversal of roles. How do you think this changed Ellen’s view of the parents she works with, how they think of Ellen? Does this change your opinion of parents who might have experience in the child welfare system?
  • Discuss the ways parenthood and adult-child relationships are portrayed in the novel. Think about Jenny’s relationships with her father, mother, Maudene, her father’s friend-girls and Ellen’s relationship with her own children and the children she works with as a social worker.
  • Ellen’s distractions had catastrophic effects on her daughter’s health, her family, and her professional life as a social worker. Talk about a time when you may have had a close call in your life. How did you feel? How did the experience change you?
  • Ellen was charged with a felony and potentially faced a prison sentence. Do you think she should have had to serve time behind bars? Why or why not?
  • What scenes or developments in the novel affected you most?
  • Adam quickly forgives Ellen for leaving Avery in the hot car. How would you react in a similar situation? Does Ellen deserve forgiveness? Do you think she will be able to forgive herself?
  • Maudene places herself in a precarious situation by taking a wayward Jenny into her home. Discuss the possible implications of this decision. What would you have done if faced with a similar situation?
  • How do Ellen and Jenny change over the course of the novel? Which character changes the most, which the least?
  • How did your opinion of Jenny’s mother change over the course of the novel? Why or why not?
  • In Jenny’s young life she has already faced so many obstacles: poverty, abuse, struggles with school, a runaway mother and an unpredictable father. What do you think will become of Jenny?
  • What does the title Little Mercies mean to you?