Skip to content

Discussion Guide

The Friendship Trilogy Discussion Guide

The Friendship Trilogy grew out of  true stories about my experience as my mother’s caregiver, a musician in a folk group with my wife; a director of mental health, health care and spiritual care programs; as well as a spiritual explorer (as described in “The Adventurer’s Club” chapter.). These novel address the benefits of music, mindfulness

If you are interested in the Trilogy because of the goals the Less Stress, Better Health and More Love program, it may be helpful to review these question now to see how these stories address the use music, mindfulness and forgiveness; as well as the issues of prejudice and social justice

Discussion Questions

The Characters and their Journeys

  1. Which of the main characters, Donna or Susan, did you like better? Why? Did you identify with either of them?


  1. What obstacles does each woman need to overcome?
    1. When they first met as students?
    2. As working women and mothers?
    3. In their romantic relationships?
    4. How are these challenges similar or different to what you have faced?


  1. What had each woman achieved by the end of this novel?
    1. What challenges still face them?

Music, Mindfulness and Forgiveness

  1. Music plays a big role in the lives of Donna and Susan. (Please visit “The Friendship Trilogy Playlist” on Spotify or Amazon to hear some of the songs that Friendship sang to promote peace and find love.)
    1. How did their music help you to understand them better?
    2. How did they use music help themselves?
    3. How might music help you and your loved ones to have less stress, better health and more love?

  1. As the story begins, Susan is dismayed that the Bible at the September 11th Memorial Museum is open to Christ’s words of forgiveness. Susan thinks, “Turn the other cheek’? Forgive the terrorists who had killed my best friend that day? It made me sick.”
    1. Was your reaction similar to Donna’s when you read this?
    2. How has forgiveness helped or harmed you in your life?


  1. Early in the book, Melanie teaches Susan and Donna about ‘stupid-vision’ (i.e., “Seeing just the bad when you’re angry, afraid, depressed or stressed”) and ‘super-vision’ (i.e., seeing both the good and the bad, as well as the blessings that are around and within you)
    1. Has ‘stupid-vision’ caused you to make bad decisions in your life? Would forgiveness (i.e., focusing on the present instead of dwelling on the past and worrying about the future) help you to use ‘super-vision’ to make better decisions and have a happier life?
    2. How has fear, stress, anger, depression or other emotions kept you from seeing more love (i.e., a sense of oneness, connectedness and comfort) in your life
    3. What else might help you to use super-vision instead of stupid-vision?


  1. After the Christmas concert, Alia, a psychologist who had just published a book on “Retraining the Brain” said to Susan and Paul, “I think what you’re offering is a community ‘tool kit’ of cognitive-behavioral skills that can help change their thoughts and actions to reduce problems.”
    1. How might the “seeking-satisfaction exercise” or the “Love Skills (awareness, affirmations, assertiveness and acceptance) help people to reduce their problems and be happier?
    2. How might meditation, mindfulness training or related books (see a list below) help you and others to be happier

Social Justice

  1. Martin Luther King is quoted by a number of characters in Friendship. They are highlighted below is italics.  Discuss what these  quotes mean to the characters in the story and what they mean to you today.

When Donna and Susan visit the mission school:

  • Ansil, (who is historically documented at Dr. King’s guide on his visits to the Bahamas, including one just before King received the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo ) reports that while fishing at Bonefish Flats, Dr. King said:
    • “How can people see all this life and not believe in the existence of God?
  • While discussing Dr. King’s rehearsal of his acceptance speech for the Nobel Award:
    • “Non-violence is a powerful moral force when it’s built on a love which rejects revenge.”

That evening at her hotel, Susan learns from two other students that Dr. King has just been murdered in Memphis. As they grieve, the boy talked  about Dr. King’s letter from a Birmingham Jail (which he had learned about from his older brother, Al,  who had been jailed with Dr. King).

  • “I memorized Al’s favorite parts of that letter: ‘We’ll have to repent not only for the hateful words and action of the bad people, but also for the appalling silence of the good people, ’ And that we need to be ‘co-workers with God because – we are ‘all linked together in an inescapable network.;

 The Civil Rights movement is also an important factor  in the second novel, “The Power of Love,” when the life of one character is changed after he experiences  The Burning Bus( see “The Young Witness”,  a six minute PBS video interview)

On Mother’s Day in May of 1961, Janie Forsyth,a 12-year-old, assisted injured Freedom Riders when their bus was firebombed outside her father’s grocery sore near Anniston, Al).

In the novel, Peter (a fictional character)  becomes deeply ashamed that he did not help Janie who was his first girlfriend.



  1. How did religion help or harm Donna and Susan after they had been raped as teen-agers?
    1. How has religion helped you or harmed you to cope with the crises in your life?


  1. Ever since she was a teen, Donna struggled with the stigma of being gay.
    1. How did religion help her or hurt her in her journey?
    2. How did music help or hurt her?
    3. What was most harmful, and most helpful, for her?


  1. Donna decided to become a Methodist minister because she wanted to change their rules that discriminated against homosexuals. She thought it was unfair to be condemned by most churches for being a homosexual, because “being gay is the way God made me.”
    1. What do you think about this?
    2. Why do you think Donna insisted on being ordained as a Methodist, instead of becoming a minister in another church that would more accepting of her sexuality.


  1. In the Bahamas, Melanie introduced Donna and Susan to new ways of looking at religion by telling them:
    1. “All religions are fingers that point to God. But remember to worship God, and not the fingers that point to Him… or Her”
    2. ”Religion is a dangerous medicine. Too little can harm, but too much can kill”
      1. Did either Donna’s mother or Malik have “too much religion?
      2. What is the harm if you have too little religion, or none at all?


  1. When Donna and her friends “began noticing that every faith we explored seemed to have the Golden Rule at it’s core”. Donna made a list and shared it with her theology professor:
    1. The Buddhists, in the Undanavarga said: “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.”
    2. Muhammad in his Last Sermon said: “Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you.”
    3. Jesus said “Do to others as they would have them do to you” in the New Testament.
    4. Hillel the Elder who taught in Jerusalem one hundred years before Christ, said, “Whatever is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary.”
      1. Do you think that the commonalities among religion is greater than the differences?
      2. What has been your experience in learning about other faiths. Has it helped you or hurt you?

  1. Susan was reluctant to go Sufi dancing, “a dizzying Islamic ritual led by ‘whirling dervishes,’ until Donna and Pastor Rich reminded her that Christians, Muslims and Jews were all ‘people of the Book.’ Each of these religions believed the Bible’s first five books as sacred, even though they used different names to worship the same God.”
    1. Does it matter what name you use when you pray to God?
    2. Do you think God is separate being? …a spirit that flows inside each of us? …or something else?