Reading groups and clubs are one of the best, most foolproof ways to find great books. Why? Almost everyone who is in such a group is an avid reader. They've been around the block and back and can usually recommend a great novel for their book club to read and discuss. That means a much better lineup of books on your shelf or in your e-reader that you can look forward to reading with pleasure.
When Barefoot Girls was being read and evaluated by my wonderful group of beta readers, one of my readers and friends, Elise, said that a group discussion guide would be perfectly suited to this book: one that covers many issues that matter to women (while it entertains). As a result, said guide was created and included in the back of the book. Yet, it's not easy to reach unless you've downloaded the novel or bought a paper copy, so here it is in all its glory for book lovers out there who are looking for a guide for Barefoot Girls:
READERS GROUP GUIDE: Barefoot Girls by Tara McTiernan
When her hometown newspaper reviews Hannah O’Brien’s newly released novel, the nature of her book is called into question when the reviewer suggests it is a memoir depicting her neglectful alcoholic mother – Keeley O’Brien Cohen, the most beloved of the Barefoot Girls - a little too accurately for fiction, citing rumors rather than sources. Deeply hurt and betrayed, Keeley cuts Hannah out of her life. Desperate, Hannah does everything she can to apologize and explain, but her pleas fall on deaf ears. Meanwhile, the rest of Hannah’s life starts to unravel, pushing her to risk her engagement to Daniel, the one man who had been able to scale the high walls around her heart.
At the eleventh hour, the Barefoot Girls are able to convince Keeley to send Hannah the keys to the Barefooter house, the home and heart of their friendship. Barred from their clubhouse since she was twelve, Hannah grabs the chance to visit the little shack filled with memories and perched at the tip of Captain’s Island in the Great South Bay on Long Island, New York.
As Hannah battles to come to terms with her equally blessed and troubled childhood and understand her mother and her sister-close friends, she’s confronted with the power of forgiveness and the dangers of holding on to the past.
READING GROUP QUESTIONS AND TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION
- There were several fascinating settings in the novel: Manhattan and Park Avenue society, the wealthy enclaves of Greenwich and Westport, Connecticut, and remote rustic Captain’s Island (a fictionalized composite of several small islands on Long Island, New York). Which one did you find most intriguing and why?
- Hannah is lost is the world at the beginning of the novel, slowly finding her way and growing more confident, even demanding, as the novel progresses. Did you relate to her? What about her reminded you of yourself?
- The four Barefoot Girls are a rare group of life-long friends. Have you ever wanted friends like that? Do you already have them? Did you feel that the book genuinely touched on what it’s like to be part of a gang of girls? What parts were most vivid to you?
- One of the themes of the novel is the unique relationship between mothers and daughters. Did you feel that the book adequately described the challenges of being a mother? What about the experience of being a daughter?
- Some of the Barefooters were raised in happy homes (Zooey and Amy and, to a lesser degree, Pam) and some were abused as children (Keeley). How well did you think the story addressed childhood abuse? What about Hannah’s frequent abandonment by Keeley as a child? Did you feel that the book adequately addressed the fallout of childhood abuse and/or neglect?
- Rose is one of the dominant antagonists in the story. Did you think that she was realistic? Did she remind you of someone from your youth? How did you react to her mental breakdown and final acts of violence?
- Keeley has suppressed the memories of her painful childhood and even some of her early years raising Hannah. What do you think the author is saying about suppression of memories and the consequences of "putting the past behind us" without examining it?
- Amy and Pam are both strong characters who bicker frequently yet remain friends. What do you think holds their friendship together? What friendships have you had that are similarly fraught?
- Daniel is a player who has finally been caught by cupid's arrow and faces the inner challenge of not being able to escape the love he feels for Hannah and the outer challenges of Hannah's ambivalence and his former wing-man Brian's efforts to break up his engagement. Do you believe that a playboy can reform and be in a committed marriage? What future do you see for the couple?
- In Keeley and Zo's final confrontation about Hannah's upbringing, Zo said," We do the best we can in this crazy world, we make our stupid mistakes, but if we have love and we show it to each other, nothing can be that wrong that it can’t be fixed.” How is the concept of love's healing power important in the novel?
Hoping this helps facilitate lots of fascinating conversations!