This reading group guide for The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Zoraida Córdova. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.Introduction The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina
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is a novel about an Ecuadorian American family from Four Rivers, now scattered across the United States, that has to reconnect with their roots and uncover the secrets of their matriarch’s past before they’re all destroyed by a hidden danger. Determined to save what’s left of their family and to discover the truth behind their inheritance, Orquídea Divina’s descendants travel to Ecuador—to the place where she buried her secrets and broken promises and never looked back. Alternating between Orquídea’s past and her descendants’ present, The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina
is an enchanting novel about what we knowingly and unknowingly inherit from our ancestors, the ties that bind, and reclaiming your power.Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Orquídea Divina travels across continents, countries, and state lines by train, bus, and on foot in order to find a place where she could build a home of her own. What journeys have you or your family taken for a better future? How far would you go?
2. Once Orquídea has created the home of her dreams, she is deliberate with the protections she ritualistically put on the house in Four Rivers. Aside from the magical reasons why she pressed gold-leaf laurel leaf into the shutters, why else might she feel the need to make this as safe a space as possible? Think back to the way she felt in her mother and stepfather’s home in Guayaquil.
3. Consider the way Orquídea was perceived and received when she first arrived in Four Rivers. Compare to the way immigrants are received today, particularly in the United States.
4. Compare and contrast how each of our protagonists—Marimar, Rey, and Tatinelly—have followed their own life paths. In what ways do they each connect with their heritage?
5. Although Orquídea has invited her progeny back to Four Rivers for her own funeral, she is instead transformed into a ceiba tree—in a limbo state between life and death. Think also of Orquídea’s pact with the river spirit; the way the land was when Orquídea transformed and how Marimar had to coax it back from the brink; the roses that sprout from Marimar, Rey, and Rhiannon’s skin; and the significance of being named after an orchid. What role does nature play in this novel?
6. Though Orquídea remarried several times, her family tree is mainly populated by strong women. Discuss the role of matriarchs in the Montoya family. How does it compare to your own family’s dynamics?
7. From fathers who are absent or gone too soon to powerful men who face their downfall before Orquídea, discuss the roles of the men in The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina
. How do their relationships with our protagonists affect them?
8. What does the Londoño Londño Spectacular Spectacular represent for Orquídea? How does that change as her relationship with Pedro Bolívar Londoño III develops?
9. Tatinelly always felt ordinary; lucky and proud to a Montoya but also happy to love them from the periphery as she felt like she was never truly a part of them. What did she inherit from Orquídea? What was the significance of her final moment?
10. The climax of the novel pulls all of the characters back to Four Rivers, to the base of Orquídea Divina’s ceiba tree. Why was this the perfect location for their last stand? What did it mean for the remaining Montoyas to come together once more?
11. The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina
is categorized as magical realism, but there are rules—almost laws of nature—to the magic infused in the Montoyas’ story. What are they? What is the price they each have to pay?
12. Zoraida has brought the Montoya family so vividly to life that many readers have said they see their own family members in Orquídea, Marimar, Rey, Tatinelly, or the others; or that they wish they could befriend them in real life. Which character resonated with you the most? Why?
13. Setting plays an important part in the novel. Though the location of Four Rivers is left purposefully vague within the United States, where do you think it might be? Why? Compare Orquídea’s experience growing up in Ecuador and her descendants’ experience visiting decades later.Enhance Your Book Club
1. Look up the sites that the Montoyas visit in Ecuador. Have you ever visited before? Though we see a glimpse of the past through Orquídea’s childhood and her descendants’ trip decades later, what is the history of these locations? Think back on your own family’s provenance. What history has been passed down through the generations?
2. Zoraida created a playlist while writing The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina
. You can listen to it here (https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5OvxHM7guxWarZ9AP66N94?si=85f440317a9f41fb) and enjoy with your book club.
3. As a visual writer, Zoraida created a mood board on Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/zlikeinzorro/the-inheritance-of-orqu%C3%ADdea-divina/[PE1]
) to reference while working on The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina
. Does her vision for the mood and settings match what you visualized as you were reading? How do they differ?
4. To learn more about Zoraida Córdova, read reviews of The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina
, and learn about her events, visit Zoraida’s official site at www.zoraidacordova.com.A Conversation with Zoraida CórdovaQ:
What novels were you drawn to growing up?A: I was drawn to fantasy novels. When I was a little girl growing up in Queens, New York, I would go to the Jamaica branch of the public library and search for magical words. Witches. Vampires. Ghosts. Faeries. I wanted a portal to get me out of the mundane world and into the magical one, and that’s why I gravitated to those stories. Q:
What inspired you to write your own novels? A: When I was in junior high school, one of my teachers gave us an assignment to write a three-page short story for extra credit. I wrote a twenty-one-page short story. It was filled with drama, and the teacher gave me great edits. But only a check plus, same as everyone else! It’s funny, after that I just knew I wanted to be a writer. I went to the National Book Foundation’s writing camp for two summers. I researched everything I could about the publishing industry and sent my first query letter when I was seventeen. My query was better than my novel, but by the time I was twenty-four I had sold my first book. So it took me eleven years, but I haven’t stopped writing since. Q:
You’ve written novels for middle-grade and young adult readers, and even romance novels under a pen name. What inspired you to write a magical realism novel for adults?A:
Since publishing my first novel in 2012, I’ve resisted the term “magical realism.” It’s loaded. As a YA fantasy author, when a review has called my fantasy novels magical realism, it always felt like a dig or a way to separate me from a genre I love and respect deeply. My books like Labyrinth Lost
are very much fantasy. The magical aspects belong to another world and are extraordinary.
But the tradition of magical realism, emerging from Latin American literature, has fascinated me since I read Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate
at far too young an age. It is the intersection of the magical and the mundane. This is, of course, a larger conversation, but that’s my takeaway. I wanted to write about a family, an impossible set of circumstances. That story took this shape.
So, here I am, after four years of working on The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina
, I ended up writing a magical realism novel for adults!Q:
Would you say that The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina
was your most personal novel to date? A: Yes. I’ve squeezed Ecuadorian characters into other works before. But this is the first time I go home and show the city where I was born. Orquídea’s stretch of the river is the one my family lived in for decades. Her family is like mine in so many ways, and she is a composite of my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.Q:
Who or what inspired the characters in this novel?A:
Unlike my protagonist, Marimar, I’m an immigrant. However, I did want to write about an Ecuadorian family and what a single Ecuadorian family might look like out of millions. I come from a line of very strong women. Women who have survived. A legacy of single mothers that perhaps feels like a curse and blessing on its own. My own grandmother is a lot sweeter than Orquídea Divina, but just as tough. Ultimately, the inspiration was partially this sense of rootlessness which I’ve grappled with my whole life. That feeling stems from not knowing entire family trees because the records were lost because of migration or poverty or simply carelessness. Like Orquídea, I’m still searching for my roots and I think that’s a lifelong journey. If I can’t have answers, then my characters can.Q:
Which character do you see yourself in the most? A:
I want to say I’m a hopeless romantic like Marimar and I have a hard time letting people get close to me. But Rey’s inappropriate humor—yeah, that’s me, too. Q:
Would you ever revisit the Montoyas in a future novel?A: I want to say no, because I did write this as a standalone. These characters end in the exact place I want them to. They’re not perfect, but they have hope again. But when it comes to writing, I don’t think I believe in absolutes. If it’s the right story, I would consider it. Though I definitely wouldn’t try to force a story. That’s just not how I work. I truly want readers to walk away with these characters in their hearts and imagine their own continuations.