Reading Guide

Discussion Questions

  1. Estrella deMadrigal’s statement on the first page wisely expresses the lesson she learns from her experiences. What are those lessons? Has there ever been a time in your own life when you felt like you “knew nothing at all”? How did that experience change your view of both yourself and the world?
  2. As she watches a man with a red circle on his jacket being beaten, Estrella says that a monster crept up from the well, the deepest part of the earth, and was set loose in her community. What is that monster? How does the monster destroy life and change her world?
  3. When does the relationship between Catalina and Estrella begin to change? Why does Estrella begin to lie to Catalina? What role does Andres play in the change? How did this change affect Estrella’s view of friendship?
  4. The futures of both Luis and Estrella are determined by their grandfather. Why do they both obey his wishes? What will the family gain from Luis’s decision to become a priest? Do you think this is the right decision for him or should he have chosen a different path?
  5. How is Estrella’s mother, Abra, treated differently that the other women in the community? Why is she singled out to be above the rest? How does she impart her special gift to Estrella (page 33)? How do you think this helps Estrella throughout the novel?
  6. Estrella’s grandfather refuses to teach her. Why do you think that is? What events cause him to eventually change his mind? How does he begin her education?
  7. Why are the Muslim and Jewish people who converted to Christianity still not considered equal (page 27) Where is the inequality apparent in the community? Do you see this type of inequality in your own community today? In what ways have things changed since the 1500s and in what ways have they stayed the same?
  8. How do Andres and Estrella prove their love to one another? What role does trust play in their relationship? How important would you rank trust in your personal relationships?
  9. What emotion is behind Catalina’s betrayal of Estrella and her family? How does Catalina’s betrayal affect the community as a whole? Have you ever felt betrayed by someone close? How did this affect your relationship?
  10. What does Incantation mean? Do you think it is an appropriate title for this novel? What do you think it refers to?
  11. On page 167, Estrella reflects, “Some people say, ‘Save yourself and you save your life.’ I say, ‘Be yourself and you save your soul.'” How does this apply to Estrella’s life? How could she have changed the lives of her family? Have you ever been in a situation where you had to choose between being yourself and saving yourself? What did you choose and why?