Step into the captivating world of The People We Keep, a mesmerizing novel that entwines music, longing, and the unyielding quest for a place to call home. Set in the small town of Little River, New York, in 1994, we meet April Sawicki, a young songwriter whose spirit yearns for something greater.
Trapped in a motorless motorhome, she strives to escape her stifling existence, working at Margo’s diner and dreaming of a life beyond her grasp. Yet, when April takes a daring leap and sets out on a remarkable journey, she discovers the true power of chosen kinship and the boundless potential within her soul.
In this discussion guide, we will have a look at some amazing book club questions for The People We Keep and why it’s a must-read for anyone trying to get a glimpse of April’s poetic tale, where music becomes her solace, and her lyrics pave the path to belonging.
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The People We Keep Book Club Questions For Discussion
- April’s relationship with her father is one of the major points in the narrative of The People We Keep. Her father’s abandonment at a crucial stage in her life, coupled with the destruction of her guitar, creates an emotional chasm that impacts her deeply and influences her subsequent choices and behaviors.
How do you think April’s relationship with her father, the consequent feelings of abandonment, and her struggle to cope with it through music, shape her character development throughout the novel?
- Throughout the novel, April forms different relationships, with each of them affecting her in different ways. From her initial romantic relationship with Matty to the more significant ones with Adam, Justin, and then Ethan, her relationships take on various dimensions and implications.
Do you think these relationships actually helped April get better in terms of understanding love and her self-worth? Also, what’s your take on the impact these relationships had on her development as a person, an artist, and eventually a mother?
- The People We Keep presents the theme of “chosen family” through the various friendships April forms over the course of her journey, particularly with Carly, Bodie, and Ethan. These relationships serve as a counterpoint to her traumatic relationship with her biological father, providing her with the love and support she lacked in her childhood.
How do these friendships help to redefine April’s understanding of family, and how do they contribute to her emotional healing and personal growth?
- One pivotal moment in the novel is when April discovers her pregnancy. This event, combined with the knowledge that the father could only be Justin, leads her to leave Asheville without explanation, reflecting her fear of responsibility and potential rejection.
What’s your take on the way this situation catalyzes her journey towards understanding herself in a better way, not just as a partner but as a mother this time?
- The novel ends on a hopeful note, with April being surrounded by her elective family after the birth of her son Max. She realizes that despite her doubts, she has a network of support and love through her friends.
This shows that pessimism is a natural human trait but being optimistic should be our end goal.
Do you agree?
- Set in the 1990s, the book is full of nostalgic elements like payphones and references to economic conditions of that time. The lack of modern technology serves to enhance the authenticity and rawness of the story, contributing to the overall atmosphere and emotional depth of the novel.
How does this setting influence the tone and progression of the story, and what impact does it have on the challenges the characters face?
- The People We Keep showcases a wide array of characters whom April encounters throughout her journey, demonstrating a clear portrayal of the ‘found family’ trope. Each person she meets, despite their oddities and personal challenges, contributes love and companionship to her life.
Discuss how these characters add to the richness of the narrative. Which one was your favorite among them?
- The diverse settings throughout the book, including various bars, coffee shops, and especially the town of Ithaca, serve as more than mere backdrops—they are critical to the plot. Each location embodies a unique personality and bears significance in April’s journey.
Do you agree? If yes, which one, according to you, had the most influence on the story?
- Music plays a crucial role in the story, almost becoming a character itself. It represents April’s passion, solace, and unique expression. April’s music and her relationship with her guitar are explored in great detail, illuminating her creative process and connection to her instrument.
Discuss how music shapes April’s identity and her experiences.
- Finally, the protagonist, April, is a character who is both resilient and full of heartache. She navigates her life on the road with a mix of jaded cynicism and cautious optimism, which forms a character that is relatable and endearing. Her development throughout the narrative is likened to a child growing up, with us readers, helpless to intervene in her trials and tribulations.
How does April’s journey, both emotionally and physically, portray the narrative of growth and knowing oneself, and how does her character development influence your perception of her decisions and outcomes in the novel?
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