“The Words Between Us is a story to savor and share: a lyrical novel about the pow-er of language and the search for salvation. I loved every sentence, every word” - Barbara Claypole White, bestselling author of The Perfect Son and The Promise Between Us
“Erin Bartels has created a story that feels more like a memory, something I lived, than a piece of fiction. If you are the kind of person who finds meaning and life in the written word, then you'll find yourself hidden among these pages.” - Shawn Smucker, author of Light from Distant Stars
“Vividly drawn and told in expertly woven dual timelines. Erin Bartels's characters are a treat: complex, dynamic, and so lifelike I half expected them to climb straight out of the pages.” - Kathleen Barber, author of Are You Sleeping
About This Book
Robin Windsor has spent most of her life under an assumed name, running from her family's ignominious past. She thought she'd finally found sanctuary in her rather unremarkable used bookstore just up the street from the marina in River City, Michigan. But the store is struggling and the past is hot on her heels. When she receives an eerily familiar book in the mail on the morning of her father's scheduled execution, Robin is thrown back to the long-lost summer she met Peter Flynt, the perfect boy who ruined everything. That book--a first edition Catcher in the Rye--is soon followed by the other books she shared with Peter nearly twenty years ago, with one arriving in the mail each day. But why would Peter be making contact after all these years? And why does she have a sinking feeling that she's about to be exposed all over again? With evocative prose that recalls the classic novels we love, Erin Bartels pens a story that shows that words--the ones we say, the ones we read, and the ones we write--have more power than we imagine.
(Spoiler alert—these questions assume you’ve already read the book)
1. Robin spends much of her life running away from any association with her parents be-cause of their crimes, making up a new name, a new history, a new identity. But she doesn’t always (if ever?) truly control that identity. She can’t control what others say or think about her. When have you felt out of control of your own narrative? What did you do to try to write your own story? How have you failed or succeeded?
2. How would you characterize Robin? Brave? Impetuous? Naive? Strong? Does your impression of her character change as she ages? How do you see her growing through her trials?
3. Robin’s friend Sarah clearly has a drinking problem, and rumors abound about her cavalier relationships with men. Have you ever had a self-destructive friend? What did you do to help, or what do you wish you’d done? Or perhaps you have been that self-destructive friend. If so, how did your friends and family help you, or how did they hurt you despite their good intentions?
4. As Robin and Peter share books, they grow closer to one another. What have you shared with a friend that brought meaning to your relationship? Movies? Music? Secrets?
5. How did you feel when Robin left Peter and Sussex behind? Do you think she was over-reacting? What would you have done in her situation?
6. Robin spends a lot of time and energy trying to avoid her problems. How do you think her life may have been different if she had just faced them head-on?
7. Robin’s friend and employee Dawt Pi has a strong faith that helps her through the difficulties of being away from her family in a strange new country. How does faith play a part in your life and struggles? Is it a source of comfort? Do you have a friend like Dawt Pi whose faith you lean on when yours falters?
8. A lot of Robin’s problems can be traced to misinterpreted words, whether they were things she’d heard or things she’d read (or read into, in the case of Mrs. Flynt’s notes in the books). Have you ever been misunderstood by a loved one or a dear friend? How did you make it right?
9. Books are central to The Words Between Us. What books do you think most shaped you as you were growing up? What are some of your favorite books right now?