Book Group Guide

The questions that follow are intended to enhance your group’s reading and discussion of AMERICAN GHOST by Janis Owens.


1. What specific themes did the author emphasize throughout the novel? What do you think she is trying to get across to the reader?

2. Did the rural North Florida culture presented in the novel lead to a new understanding or awareness of American history, or make you see it in some way you might not have thought of it before?

3. The author was raised in the church culture of the South, and has said her story was inspired in part by her favor Sunday School story. Any guesses which one?*

4. How do characters change or evolve throughout the course of the story? What events trigger such changes?

5. One of the themes of the novel is the legacy of violence. Some of the violence is obvious and explicit; some muted and passive. Jolie’s entanglement is obvious, but what of the other characters? What price do they pay?

6. Every character in the novel is burdened by assumptions of their identity based on their sex, race, dialect and caste, often in broad and prejudiced terms. They also indulge in a bit of racial profiling themselves. Do you think the author was making a point by weaving in such a tapestry of prejudice?

7. The main characters are from different backgrounds, ethnicities and religions, but they share a common trait: protective fathers, and extended families that are protective to a fault. How do these deep tribal loyalties help them? How to they hinder?

8. What motivates the action of a given character? In the course of the 14 year span of the novel, how do those motivations evolve?

9. The imagery of the ghost is well woven into the story on many levels. Who (or what) is the ghost in American Ghost?

*The Story of Purim, with Jolie being Queen Esther and Hollis as Mordacai.