Book Clubs

I truly hope that LET THE WILLOWS WEEP will make you think and want to talk about the book with other readers. I’ve loved being a member of a book club myself, and would be honored to be a part of your book group’s discussion of LET THE WILLOWS WEEP, either in person if possible or via video chat. Please fill out the form below to submit your request.

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By Sherry Parnell

Discussion Guide

  • The narrator of LET THE WILLOWS WEEP is—for much of the novel—a child. How did this affect your perception of the story? How might the tale be told differently if it were related solely from Birddog’s adult perspective? What does the younger voice allow or free the narrative to do, and how does it (if at all) limit what we learn in certain scenes?
  • Our protagonist is identified by others throughout the book with nicknames: Denny originally came up with Birddog, Samuel calls her Daisy, and Mrs. Tarmar refers to her as Butterfly. What’s the significance of who gets to name her, and what they name her? What do you make of the fact that we never learn Birddog’s real first name?
  • What examples of courtship, marriage, and love is Birddog exposed to before she meets Samuel? How does her experience of love align with or diverge from these role models?
  • The book certainly presents a range of what “a mother’s love” means. Discuss the mother figures in this novel. Do you see any redemptive qualities in Birddog’s mother?
  • Discuss the book’s characters’ moments of cruelty and tenderness. How are the two intertwined and contrasted with one another? How do these two qualities make someone like Caul a multi-dimensional character?
  • What do you think of how each Harlin family member responds to and changes following the sudden death in the family, and how the family dynamics adjust? Do you see this sad event bringing forth or solidifying existing traits or roles in these characters, or rather does it transform any of them? How do Samuel’s family and Birddog’s family differ in their dealing with grief?
  • The theme of belonging runs throughout this novel. Explore how its characters seek and rebuff belonging. 
  • How do you assess the actions of Birddog, Denny, their mother, Samuel, and his mother in the context of the book’s racially-charged world?
  • Appearances are a recurring motif in the book, from being concerned about what the neighbors think to having the right dress for an occasion to the color of one’s skin and what that signifies. Think and talk about all the different ways author Sherry Parnell incorporates appearances—both in the metaphorical and physical sense—to shape characters and drive the plot.
  • How does Parnell utilize seasons and weather to signal changes in the lives of her characters?
  • Re-read chapter one of LET THE WILLOWS WEEP once you’ve finished the novel. Do you respond to it in a new manner now that you’ve read the whole story? 
  • What do you think Birddog’s daughter’s future holds?