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The Covenant of Water Book Club Questions


Explore the complex story of “The Covenant of Water,” Abraham Verghese‘s most recent book. The story spans generations and centers on an Indian family tormented by the enigmatic “Condition.” This intricate work, which was published in 2023, explores the nuances of Indian politics, history, and culture. It tells a moving tale of love, grief, faith, and reconciliation. We’ll explore interesting book club discussion questions for The Covenant of Water in this blog article. These questions will lead to insightful discussions on themes and characters in the book.

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The Covenant of Water book club questions

The Covenant of Water Book Club Questions
The Covenant of Water Book Club Questions

1. How does the historical setting of the novel (1900-1977) contribute to the challenges faced by the characters, especially the child bride, Big Ammachi?

2. In what ways does the “Condition” impact the dynamics of the Parambil family across generations? Can you draw parallels between the family’s struggles and historical events in India?

3. Explore the character development of Digby Kilgore and his journey from being a successful surgeon to a gentleman farmer. How does his life intersect with the Parambil family, and what role does he play in their lives?

4. Discuss the significance of the leprosarium run by Dr. Rune Orqvist in the novel. How does it serve as a backdrop for key events and connections between characters?

5. Explore the theme of love and loss in the novel, considering the relationships between Big Ammachi and JoJo, Digby and his lover, and Philipose and Elsie. How do these relationships shape the characters’ lives?



6. Analyze the impact of tragedy on the characters, such as the drowning of JoJo and the death of Philipose and Elsie’s son. How do these events influence the characters’ decisions and relationships?

7. Delve into the role of opium in Philipose’s life and its consequences. How does addiction affect his relationship with Elsie, and what role does it play in the narrative?

8. Explore the theme of identity and secrets in the novel, particularly the revelation that Philipose is not Mariamma’s biological father. How does this discovery affect Mariamma and her relationship with Digby?

9. Discuss the cultural elements highlighted in the novel, such as the caste system in India, the class system in the United Kingdom, and the small Christian community within India. How do these elements contribute to the characters’ experiences?

10. Explore Mariamma’s journey to become a doctor and her quest to find the cause and cure for the “Condition.” How does this quest shape her character and the overall narrative?



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11. Analyze the portrayal of women in the novel, focusing on characters like Big Ammachi, Baby Mol, Elsie, and Mariamma. How do these women navigate societal expectations and challenges?

12. Reflect on the theme of faith and doubt in the novel, considering Big Ammachi’s hope for a cure, Digby’s struggles with tragedy, and Mariamma’s journey of self-discovery.

13. Discuss the content warnings provided for the novel, including child marriage, suicidal ideation, drug use, and sexual assault. How are these issues addressed in the narrative, and what impact do they have on the characters?

14. Examine the symbolism of water in the novel, considering the recurring theme of drowning. How does water function as a metaphor, and what emotions or ideas does it represent?



15. Reflect on the role of family in the novel, especially the Parambil family’s resilience in the face of tragedy. How does the concept of family evolve throughout the generations?

16. Explore the significance of Mariamma’s reunion with her mother, Elsie, and the acceptance of her mother’s condition. How does this moment symbolize reconciliation and understanding?

17. Discuss the portrayal of medical scenes in the novel, given Verghese’s background as a physician. How do these scenes contribute to the overall narrative and the reader’s understanding of the characters’ experiences?

18. Analyze the theme of cultural intersectionality, focusing on the interactions between characters from different cultural backgrounds, such as Digby and the Parambil family.

19. Reflect on the impact of historical events, such as the British imperial presence in India, on the characters’ lives and the overall narrative. How does the historical context shape their experiences?



20. Consider the novel’s title, “The Covenant of Water.” What symbolic meaning might be associated with this title, and how does it reflect the themes and events in the story?

Book recommendations

For your next reading, you may choose one of the following books by Abraham Verghese.

Final words

We hope the book club questions for “The Covenant of Water” above will help you jumpstart a discussion in your book group. Please feel free to share any questions you may have in the comments section below.

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