The title of this book, Gem Babies Odyssey, had me wondering what a gem baby was. The back cover write-up suggested human trafficking victims and a book about discovering how to bring hope into situations of despair. It is also a book about finding purpose in life in times of challenges and heartbreak.
I was drawn in by the opening love story. The second sentence, “She studied art and he journalism” gave me some idea of the type of relationship young college students may find intriguing. Art and writing are also my passions. There are secrets to be revealed and a tragedy to endure as the book tosses you into loss early on. This story is about pain transformed. It isn’t transformed easily which gives believability to the chapters devoted to creating new meaning after loss.
My favorite paragraphs in this book are the descriptions of place, dress and shared meals. Gerace has a knack for creating characters around the simple things we do each day and highlighting the present moment. The relationships are believable as well as ideal in some cases. I asked the author to provide some study questions for a book group to pull out some of the sharing points that the book offers. It is an enjoyable book to read even as it creates awareness about human trafficking through Catholic thought. Gerace is working on her second book, hinted at by the protagonist in this first book which concludes with a good dose of hope. It may leave you wondering about vivid dreams, the way God speaks to us, the communion of saints, our vocation to uplift society and how it may be done by encouraging the gifts and talents of those we meet every day.
Hang in there as you first hear about the “gem babies” and the way they make themselves known. This is not fantasy or science-fiction; it is about paying attention to our dreams, our loves, our friends, and our pain to open paths for hope.
Study Questions for Gem Babies by the author, Juliana Gerace
- Did you find Mariel’s experience of loss believable? (First, her grandfather, then Sebastian. Later it is learned that she also lost her father and brother in the military.)
- Is there an experience of loss in your own life which you found resurfacing as you read the story?
- Was there a point in the conversation between Mariel and Fr. Leopold which gave you a deeper understanding or greater hope?
- Consider Mariel’s struggle to reconcile the painful events of her life, without a clear belief in a personal God. What conclusions is such a person left with?
- The gem babies in the first volume are not defined as real or Mariel refers to those experiences with the same tentativeness: “a portal of some kind or my imagination.” Which way do you lean?
- Which particular “encounter” with the gem babies resonated most with you? Why?
- Do you think that love can communicate in ways that are beyond science’s ability to prove? (Do you think that Sebastian might have been communicating in some way with Mariel through the “dreams” she had of him?)
- The colors and feelings associated with the realm of gem babies is similar to that described by persons who report their near death experiences. Do you think that these depictions reflect some of the beauty that actually exists beyond this life?
- The conversations between Rosie and Mariel portray two different but strong women. Who are the strong women you look to as role models in your own life?
- Sebastian advocated through journalism, and Mariel through her art. How could you play a role in advocacy for victims of “invisible crimes?” What anti -trafficking or pro-life groups could you support?
- How do you see the relationship between Steve and Mariel playing out in the sequel?
- How has the story helped you to weather the storms or events you might be facing in your own life?
- The beautiful lady with the rose held a very specific message. Is there anyone you could reach out to with this message?
- It is said that there is no real closure to the grief of loss – that one just lives with it. Has the story helped you to understand the pain of grief and loss, and inspired you to reach to someone experiencing it?
- What signs of hope do you look forward to seeing developed in the sequel?
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Copyright 2015 Sr. Margaret Kerry, fsp.
About the Author
A Daughter of St. Paul for 40 years Sr. Margaret continues to pursue new ways to proclaim the Gospel: sharing the Pauline Charism with the laity, writing books (St. Anthony of Padua: Fire & Light; Strength in Darkness: John of the Cross; Prayers for the New Evangelization), & through direct evangelization. She is available for workshops on the Vocation & Mission of the Laity, Media Literacy, and The New Evangelization. email@example.com