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Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night


A page-turning debut novel set in Scranton, Pennsylvania, during the height of coal mining, vaudeville, and evangelism.

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Reading Group Guide for Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night

1. The title of the novel, Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night, is a variation of the old Welsh proverb, “Sing before breakfast, cry before supper.” As Violet explains in chapter three, page 24, it means, “Don’t count your fishes until they’re caught.” How does this adage relate to the novel? Also, Daisy sings prior to her accident. What other times in the novel does singing precede tragedy?

2. Compare and contrast Grace and Grief. What is his purpose in the novel? Does his inclusion make Grace more or less sympathetic? What is significant about these lines from chapter thirty-three, page 287? What subtle change do they suggest?

“Fascinating,” Grief said as he stepped over to the girl. He slid the buttonhook out of his pocket and dragged it lightly across her cheek.
Violet twitched.

Will Grief return to the Morgan household, or is he gone for good by the end of the novel?

3. Was Owen justified in slapping Grace? Why can’t he forgive himself for striking her? What other times in the novel can Owen not forgive himself?

4. In chapter thirty-five, pages 302–303, the author writes of Violet:

After all, she was jealous of her sister, and she did throw that sparkler.
All of it true.
But not the truth.

How can other people’s accounts of the tragedy be true but not the truth? What other examples of “true v. truth” can you find in the novel? Can you think of any examples of this concept in today’s world?

5. The author describes the chorus of churchwomen who appear every few chapters and speak in one voice as “flawed but well-intended.” How do you view these women? Do they transform in any way by the end of the novel? How do the helpful hints from Mrs. Joe’s Housekeeping Guide relate to each chorus and the chapters that follow?

6. What is ironic about Violet and Stanley’s run-in with the widow in Murray’s Store? What other examples of irony are in the novel?

7. Describe Violet’s friendship with Stanley. Would they still have become friends if Daisy hadn’t died? Why or why not?

8. Violet blames herself for Daisy’s accident. What else does she blame herself for? Is she responsible for any of these events? Why or why not?

9. Is Grace a good mother? Is Owen a good father? How do they change over the course of the novel? Are these changes permanent? Why?

10. Most of the sermon material attributed to Billy Sunday was found in the sermon’s “Theatre, Cards and Dance,” “Backsliding,” and “Get on the Water Wagon,” all written by William A. Sunday. How relevant are Sunday’s messages in today’s world? What effect, if any, does Sunday’s revival have on Owen? How about other characters in attendance? Compare Sunday’s brand of evangelism to evangelists today.

11. Although Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night takes place from 1913–14, many of its issues, including immigration, unfair labor practices for adults and children, excavating fuel at the expense of nature, evangelism, and spiritualism are relevant today. Compare and contrast these issues as they relate to early twentieth century America and today.

12. How does the author explore the themes of loss, truth, redemption, and grace? What other themes did you discover as you read the novel?