Book Group Guide

The questions that follow are intended to enhance your group’s reading and discussion of THE BOOKSHOP AT WATER’S END by Patti Callahan Henry


1. The river is a prominent presence in The Bookshop at Water’s End. What does it mean to you and what does it represent? To the characters?

2. Bonny has wanted to be a doctor all her life. Is there a job or purpose you’ve been called to in your life? A profession you wish you’d started? (And if so, why not now?) Are we “called” to certain vocations? Is there anything you were “meant to do”?

3. When Bonny’s career is on the line, her identity collapses and she must find a new way to move through life. Is this a hazard of identifying so strongly with one’s career? Has this happened to you or someone you love?

4. Lainey is an artist and she expresses herself in the world this way. Does art help us express our internal world or is it just another career? Does Lainey’s art help her find her way to a better way of living with her husband and children? To reconciling the loss of her mother?

5. Both Lainey and Owen have lived without their mother since childhood, not knowing if she is dead or alive. Lainey has been obsessed with finding her, sometimes to the detriment of her husband and children. Would you continue to look for her or accept this loss? How far do we go to find those we love or bring them back into the fold of the family? How did living without a mother affect Lainey and her relationships and choices? How did living without a mother affect Owen and his relationships and choices?

6. Female relationships populate this novel—mother/daughter; best friends; mentor/ teen. How do these relationships shape and change each character? Do you have a Bonny or a Mimi in your life? How has that affected you?

7. Bonny has been in love with Owen for as long as she can remember. Is this “real” love or a pining for the past? Can she ever have a lasting relationship with him?

8. Lainey and Bonny have been best friends since they were eleven years old and yet Bonny kept her deepest thoughts about Owen to herself. Is this a betrayal of their friendship? Should she have told Lainey how she really felt all along? Have you had a friendship so long lasting and grounded in childhood?

9. When Piper loses George, each character blames herself in a different way: Piper for looking away; Lainey for being obsessed with finding her mother; and Bonny for distracting everyone when Owen appeared. When you read that scene, did you blame anyone? Did you find yourself blaming one of the women more than another? Why?