Questions for Book Groups
Johnnie Come Lately
1. Johnnie’s mother has disappeared off and on, and she is haunted by her absence. Do you know of similar situations in your own family or that of a friend where a relative disappeared or was disowned? In your experience, how does that affect family dynamics?
2. In a heated discussion with her seventeen-year-old son, Johnnie admits to an old betrayal of trust that could affect her marriage to Dale. Have you ever blurted out something in the heat of the moment and later wished you hadn’t?
3. We learn early on that Johnnie is named after her uncle who died before she was born. In your experience, what power is there in a name? Are you named after a dead relative, and how has that affected your life?
4. Johnnie is white and her best friend, Whit Thomas, is African-American. Despite their differences in race, they enjoy a close-knit relationship. How have friendships with people outside of your own ethnicity or religion helped increase your awareness of diversity in our society?
5. In the story, Johnnie’s young son shocks the family with his decision to join the Army right out of high school. How would you handle the situation if someone you loved wanted to join the military during a time of war?
6. Johnnie’s new neighbor, Mr. Marvel, a portly gentleman with odd tendencies, makes Johnnie feel uncomfortable at first when he moves into the crumbling cottage across the street. Have you ever had neighbors, acquaintances, or just a local homeless character who made you feel uneasy for some reason, and how did you deal with them?
7. Family Secrets play a big role in the narrative. Do you know of situations where a family secret was exposed and it cleared the air? Should some family secrets remain a secret?
8. Raised by her grandparents, Johnnie still deals with abandonment issues long after her mother’s disappearance. Do you know anyone who’s been raised by relatives other than their parents. How did that affect them as adults?
9. Johnnie longs to go back to college to complete her degree. Have you or anyone you’ve known gone back to college in midlife? What are the advantages and disadvantages of attending college later in life?
10. Brother Dog, the Kitchen family’s chocolate lab, is treated as a member of the family. What importance has a pet played in your family?
Kathleen M. Rodgers