The Women by Kristin Hannah Book Club Questions & Guide

If your book club is looking for a novel that lends itself to a great discussion, we enthusiastically recommend The Women by Kristin Hannah. This highly-anticipated novel from one of our favorite authors definitely lives up to all the expectations. Historical fiction fans have long noted the lack of books featuring women’s roles in Vietnam, and this novel does an excellent job of shedding light on both women’s experiences in the war and the challenges of reaclimating to life back home.

If you haven’t yet read the book, we recommend instead hopping over to our Summary & Review post to read more about The Women without spoilers. There you’ll find a synopsis of the book as well as our thoughts on it to help you decide if it’s right for your book club. Beyond this point, this post contains spoilers, as it is intended for those who have already finished reading the book.

A hardback copy of The Women by Kristin Hannah laying on top of a world map with Vietnam in the center of the image

Book Club Discussion Guide – Online & Printable Versions

Online Version

The post below includes everything you need to host or participate in a successful book club for The Women. From discussion questions and a character list to food and cocktail ideas, we’ll help you put together a wonderful gathering.

Printable Version

We also have an optional printable The Women book club kit to take your meeting to the next level. The fully customized version of the book club guide is designed for printing and includes the following pages:

  • A Character List
  • Book Club Discussion Questions
  • Quotes from the Book
  • Icebreaker Ideas & Games Themed to the Book (with printable game cards)
  • Printable Bookmarks for All Your Members 
  • 2 Pages of Bonus Contextual Information
  • Themed Food & Drink Menu Ideas
  • Custom Designed Journal Page to Record Book Club Meeting Details
  • Themed Notes Page
  • A List of Additional Book Club Resources
Graphic illustrating 8 of the 21 pages included in the printable version of the book club kit

Etsy purchases do help The Book Girls to keep doing what we do. However, there is no pressure to purchase; you’re always welcome to use any of the resources below for free!

Book Club Questions for The Women by Kristin Hannah

In addition to The Women discussion questions below, we have a resource of 50 book club questions that work for any book. That post also provides tips for creating your own book club questions.

Read through these questions before your meeting and select your favorites so you can prioritize them. Most clubs won’t have time for every question, so start with those that you are most excited to discuss.

  1. Discuss the role of the McGrath family “heroes wall” in Frankie’s decision to enlist in Vietnam, and how she responds when her father later refuses to add her photo to the wall.
  2. When Frankie visits a Navy recruiting center, she sees anti-war posters and she wonders if people think protesting actually helps. Discuss how she feels about protesters throughout different parts of the book, including when she receives letters from home and when she returns to the US.
  3. Were you surprised by Frankie’s parents’ reaction when she told them the news of her enlisting? And were you surprised by their reception when she returned home after her two years of service?
  4. Frankie begged her mom to be proud of her before she left for basic training. Have you ever wished that someone would be proud of you?
  5. On her flight from Honolulu to Vietnam, Frankie (the only woman) was required to wear a skirt, nylons, and a girdle while the men were in comfortable fatigues. And when she first arrives in Vietnam, Ethel warns her, “Not all soldiers are gentlemen.” Discuss these and other unique challenges female service members faced.
  6. Before leaving the US, Frankie believed that she would not see any combat in Vietnam. Then her plane gets shot at trying to land. What surprised you the most about Frankie’s experiences as a nurse “in country”?
  7. Frankie’s friendship with Barb shifts her views on the Civil Rights Act. She says that she used to view it as a triumphant end but comes to see it as a fragile beginning. Reading this with an additional 50 years of historical perspective, what is your reaction to her observation?
  8. While serving as a nurse in the 36th, Frankie becomes close with a doctor named Jamie. Discuss her reaction when she found out Jamie was married. How did you feel about this relationship?
  9. How does the experience of losing her brother, Finley, impact Frankie’s decisions and interactions as a nurse in Vietnam?
  10. On her helicopter rides, Frankie observes both the beauty of Vietnam and the devastation of war. Discuss this dichotomy.
  11. In most of their letters home, both Finley and Frankie sugar-coated what was happening in the war. Contrast this to the letters that Frankie received from home in which her mother didn’t hold back about the protests and conflicts escalating stateside. Why do you think there was such a difference in the information shared in each direction? Compare this to the letters Frankie exchanges with Ethel once Ethel returns home.
  12. Frankie’s mom writes in one letter: “It is a strange world we are all in. Volatile and uncertain. We – Americans, I mean – can’t seem to talk to each other anymore, our disagreements seem insurmountable.” The same could be said today. Does it make you feel better or worse to realize/recall that this sentiment is not unique to our current political environment?
  13. Frankie observes that Major Goldstein, the chief nurse at the 36th, can’t fraternize with the other nurses because of the chain of command and that with so few women in Vietnam to begin with, it must make her job especially lonely. How do Frankie’s relationships with fellow nurses help her get by?
  14. On Christmas Eve, as Frankie and Barb stand over the body of a deceased soldier, they hear that The Stars & Stripes reported no American casualties the day before despite the fact that seven men died in their OR alone. Were you surprised by the disparities in what the public was told about the war? If you were alive during the Vietnam War, did this novel change any of your perceptions?
  15. While visiting Saigon, Frankie bought a t-shirt, silk, and a brass cigar cutter. Discuss the juxtaposition of shopping for souvenirs with Vietnamese currency in the middle of a war. How do you think the shopkeepers felt selling to American service members?
  16. Frankie is reunited with Rye for the first time in Saigon. As they become closer, he tells her he has broken off his engagement. Did you trust him? Do you think infidelity was as common during the war as it is portrayed in the novel, and if so, why?
  17. Barb leaves Frankie a photo of them with Ethel, and Frankie observes that they look so happy that you wouldn’t believe it was war. She hoped they could remember that they had good times, too. Have you ever experienced good times in the midst of a very difficult situation?
  18. As Frankie’s DEROS nears, she decides to stay on for another tour of duty. Do you think her decision had more to do with her desire to help, or her inability to envision her life “back in the world”?
  19. When she finally returns home, Frankie is constantly told (by civilians and vets alike) that “there were no women in Vietnam.” Considering how many soldiers were injured, why do you think so few seemed to recognize the vital role the female nurses played?
  20. Frankie turns back to nursing as a way to “save herself” after coming home from Vietnam. Does this do more to aid her healing, or to set her back?
  21. Discuss the role of music in this novel, including how Frankie reacts to certain songs differently at different points in her life. Are there certain songs that always elicit strong memories or reactions for you? Click here for a full list of the music references from the book (with page numbers) and to listen to all the songs
  22. Frankie says many times that she wants to learn to love Henry. Do you think that’s ever possible?
  23. Henry points out that the POWs returning in 1973 were greeted as heroes with yellow ribbons on trees, similar to the greeting of WW2 soldiers when they returned. However, Frankie’s return just two years earlier was much different. Discuss the differences.
  24. Were you surprised by the revelations about Rye? Did you predict what would happen?
  25. Discuss the heroes wall at The Last Best Place Ranch and how it compares to the one at the McGrath family home.
  26. Have you visited the Vietnam Wall or the Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington D.C.? Will this novel change the way you experience them if you visit in the future?
  27. After reuniting in the final chapter, where do you think Frankie and Jamie’s story goes from here?

List of Characters in The Women by Kristin Hannah

These are the key characters that bring The Women to life. Keep this list handy as a quick reference during your discussions—it will help keep track of who’s who as you delve into conversations. Our printable guide includes this character list if you find it easier to have a printed reference.

  • Lieutenant Frances “Frankie” McGrath – 20 years old at the beginning of the novel; enlists as a nurse to serve in Vietnam
  • Ensign Finley McGrath – Frankie’s older brother; graduate of the Naval Academy who is killed in Vietnam
  • Bette and Connor McGrath – Frankie’s parents; Bette came from old money with charm school etiquette; Connor, who was disqualified from military service, married his boss’s daughter but successfully grew the business
  • Lieutenant Commander Joseph Ryerson “Rye” Walsh – Finley’s best friend from the Naval Academy who is the first to tell Frankie that women can be heroes, too; Coyote’s commanding officer in the Seawolves; reunites with Frankie in Saigon; husband of Melissa (Missy) and father to Joey
  • Lieutenant Ethel Flint – ER nurse from Virginia who serves with Frankie at the 36th; later elopes with Noah Ellsworth
  • Lieutenant Barb Johnson – Black surgical nurse from Georgia who serves with Frankie at the 36th and then transfers to the 71st Mobile Army Surgical Hospital when Frankie is reassigned there
  • Captain Ted Smith – Doctor in the Neuro Ward at the 36th that Frankie works under for her first two months
  • Captain Jamie Callahan – Surgeon from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, who asks Frankie to be his surgical nurse at the 36th when Captain Smith goes home; they form a very close relationship before his helicopter is shot down
  • Coyote (Lieutenant Melvin Turner) – Seawolves pilot who begs Frankie to be his girl in Vietnam
  • Lieutenant Colonel Harry (“Hap”) Dickerson – OR surgeon at the 71st that Frankie learns a lot from
  • Henry Acevedo – Surfer psychologist that Frankie first meets at a protest in D.C.; later engaged to Frankie

We hope this character list is a helpful reference as you prepare to discuss the book.

The Women Book Club Menu & Decor Ideas

There are lots of references to food and drinks throughout the book – so many, in fact, that we had a hard time narrowing it down. Instead, we have three different theme ideas for you, complete with menus and beverages as well as simple decor suggestions. We even included a fun “care package” suggestion if your book club typically doesn’t include a meal.

Mess Hall Inspired

Frankie and her fellow service members ate their meals in the Mess Hall. On one of her first nights in Vietnam, she had Salisbury steak covered in brown gravy with green beans and mashed potatoes. And on the night of Barb’s send-off, the Mess Hall served turkey, sausage stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, and sweet potato casserole.

They drank coffee, Tab soda, and beer, but Frankie’s drink of choice was often a gin on the rocks.

Red Cross volunteers known as the Donut Dollies logged over 2,000,000 miles by jeep and helicopter in Vietnam, delivering coffee and snacks. For dessert, set up a Red Cross-themed donut bar with Jamie’s favorite, glazed donuts. This tablecloth would be perfect for the dessert table.

PHoto of the novel The Women sitting on a counter next to a bottle of gin and tray of donuts

Don’t forget to add a beaded door curtain if you want to give your book club gathering an authentic O Club vibe.

Coronado Island Inspired

Throughout the novel, we see several Coronado Island parties, including those at the McGrath Estate and the wedding shower for Frankie’s high school friend, Becky. The McGrath parties were decorated with palm fronds, candles in gold lanterns, and American flag bunting.

The appetizers included quintessential 1960s fare like pigs in blankets, ants on a log, and nut-covered cheese balls served with Ritz crackers. This Cheesy Pigs in a Blanket recipe from our friend over at Savory Experiments is a simple but elevated take on this retro appetizer.

Dinners featured ribs and burgers, corn on the cob, and potato salad, with tri-color cake for dessert. We recommend this Savory Experiment’s recipe for baby back ribs prepared in a slow cooker when you’re hosting a group because you can set it and forget it while you attend to all of the other hosting preparations!

For beverages, serve ice-cold Coca-Cola from the bottle. These parties also featured Manhattans, Frankie’s dad’s favorite cocktail, as well as champagne for toasting.

Hawaiian R&R Inspired

When Frankie is forced to take R&R in Kauai, she and Rye enjoy a delicious island meal. Start with shrimp dipped in spicy cocktail sauce, followed by a main course of roasted lamb, baby peas, and buttery potatoes Rissole. For dessert, serve a retro Baked Alaska with a layer of cake, a frozen ice cream center, and a topping of toasted marshmallow meringue. Of course, the meal wouldn’t be complete without a Mai Tai cocktail (or mocktail) garnished with a wedge of pineapple and a colorful paper umbrella.

If you want to fully transport your guests to Hawaii, add a floral tablecloth and light a white ginger-scented candle (a la Frainkie’s lei). Consider purchasing a set of vintage Hawaiian postcards (like the one Frankie mailed to Barb) to use as place cards or buffet cards.

To-Go Care Packages

While in Vietnam, Frankie craved specific comfort foods from home, which she would regularly request that her mom include in mailed care packages.

If your book club doesn’t typically eat a full meal, consider sending each person home with a small care package filled with any of Frankie’s favorite American treats: homemade cookies, Twinkies, PopTarts, pretzel sticks, and See’s chocolates. Use brown paper bags decorated with Airmail washi tape or Airmail stickers if you want to take your care package presentation to the next level.

Quotes from The Women by Kristin Hannah

We compiled a list of 35 of the best quotes from The Women, which make great talking points as part of a book club discussion.

Open with with page flags over printable of The Women Book Quotes

You can read all of the quotes online here, or if you prefer a printable version, the quotes are also included in our downloadable, custom book club kit for The Women. The kit also includes printable bookmarks featuring three of our favorite quotes from the novel.


Can I get a printable version of the book club guide?

Yes! We have a printable version of this guide in our shop that includes bonus goodies, like games, printable bookmarks, and bonus context for further discussion.

Is there a list of all the songs mentioned in The Women?

We loved all of the music references throughout the book, so we not only made a list of all of them, we also made a playlist that you can listen to free on Spotify! The printable version of our book club kit also includes ideas for several music-inspired games that you can play at your book club gathering for The Women, complete with game cards.

Is there a The Women audiobook?

Yes! The audiobook of The Women is extremely well done by one of our very favorite narrators, with a cast of narrators, Julia Whelan. You may recognize her voice as the narrator of numerous other Kristin Hannah novels. She has also narrated many other popular audiobooks, like The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, The Measure by Nikki Erlick, Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez, The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes, and Book Lovers by Emily Henry.

Audible listeners rate the audiobook performance 4.9 out of 5 stars. Of course, as with all audiobooks, some people enjoy the narration, and others don’t. We always recommend listening to a sample of the audiobook before committing to reading in this format.

Are they making The Women into a movie?

Several weeks before the publication of Kristin Hannah’s new book, The Women, Warner Bros. Motion Picture Group acquired the rights to the novel about nurses who served in the Vietnam War. Early reporting indicates that the movie adaptation of The Women will be overseen by Cate Adams and Diamond McNeil.

What are some other books like The Women?

We’ve compiled a list of more than a dozen book suggestions for fans of The Women. These recommendations include books about Vietnam and historical fiction about women serving in other wars, while some draw parallels to different aspects of the story.

The Women by Kristin Hannah book cover - red with gold accents

Are there other books by Kristin Hannah?

Yes! Kristin Hannah has a deep backlist that includes many highly-rated historical fiction and contemporary women’s fiction titles. Additionally, her earliest published books in the 1990s were romance novels.

As her writing has evolved, one thing that has remained consistent is her focus on strong female characters. Check out our complete author guide if you want to learn more about Kristin Hannah and her work, go straight to our list of all Kristin Hannah books in chronological order, or see a ranked list of the very best Kristin Hannah books according to our readers.

Photo of printable Kristin Hannah book list
This cute, one-page printable featuring all of the Kristin Hannah book covers is available exclusively for our Buy Me a Coffee BFF’s! Join our membership site today for instant access to your copy, along with some other fun perks!

We hope you found this book club guide helpful!

As a reminder, you can get the guide in a print-friendly format for your book club meeting in our Etsy shop! Each purchase helps us continue providing great book lists and book resources here.


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