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The Promise Girls
by Marie Bostwick
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Every child prodigy grows up eventually. For the Promise sisters, escaping their mother’s narcissism and the ...
In an emotionally rich and captivating new novel, New York Times bestselling author Marie Bostwick reunites three sisters whose deep bond is rooted in an unconventional past.
Every child prodigy grows up eventually. For the Promise sisters, escaping their mother’s narcissism and the notoriety that came with her bestselling book hasn’t been easy. Minerva Promise claimed that her three “test tube” daughters—gifted pianist Joanie, artistic Meg, and storyteller Avery—were engineered and molded to be geniuses. In adulthood, their modest lives fall far short of her grand ambitions. But now, twenty years after the book’s release, she hopes to redeem herself by taking part in a new documentary.
Meg, who hasn’t picked up a paintbrush in years, adamantly refuses to participate, until a car accident leaves her with crushing medical bills. While she recuperates in Seattle, the three sisters reluctantly meet with filmmaker Hal Seeger, another former prodigy. Like them, he’s familiar with the weight of failed potential. But as he digs deeper, he uncovers secrets they’ve hidden from each other—and a revelation that will challenge their beliefs, even as it spurs them to forge their own extraordinary lives at last.
“Reading Marie Bostwick is like wrapping yourself up in a warm, hand-crafted quilt. Her books, rich in character and plot, are stitched together by a skilled wordsmith.” —Debbie Macomber, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“THE PROMISE GIRLS is a beautiful story about the ties that bind—love, laughter, memories, even secrets kept so long they become a part of the fabric of a family. Marie Bostwick exquisitely tells the tale of the three Promise girls, former child prodigies who learn to heal the scars of a bitter past so that they can love—and forgive—again.” —Melanie Benjamin, New York Times Best Selling author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue
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Discussion Questions1) The Promise Girls tells the story of three sisters, Joanie, Meg, and Avery, whose personalities broadly conform to somewhat familiar patterns regarding birth order – bossy, hyper-responsible first born, shy, peacemaker middle child, the flighty, irresponsible baby of the family. If you have siblings, do you think birth order has played in a part in forming your personality and influencing the relationship dynamics in your family? If you are an only child, how that influenced your personality?
2) Though Joanie is devoted to her sisters, she values her relationship with her friend, Allison, because “she cared about Allison but didn’t feel responsible for her” and could share things with Allison that she could never share with her sisters and do so without fear of judgment. Do you find it easier to be honest with friends than family? Do you sometimes hold back sharing with your family members because you fear their judgment? Or do you feel secure that you can tell your family members anything and know that they will continue to love and accept you as you are? If the latter, are you taking steps to change that pattern in future generations? How?
3) Meg Promise Hayes was a painting prodigy. However, after her marriage she gave up painting entirely to help Asher in his home construction business, becoming his bookkeeper, office manager, scheduler, and co-designer. What did you think about Meg’s decision to put aside her creative vocation in favor of the family business? What she being practical and selfless? Or did you think she had hidden motives for putting aside her career as a painter?
4) Avery, the youngest Promise sister, has a vivid imagination that she fosters intentionally. Did you admire that quality in Avery? Or, like Joanie, did you find yourself wondering when Avery would ever grow up? Did you believe that Avery was as carefree as she claimed to be? Why or why not?
5) Meg and Asher met when they were just 19 and 22 and were married six weeks later. Hal first laid eyes on Joanie when they were both 17 and never really got over her. Do you believe in young love? Love at first sight? Can it last over the long haul? Or do you think the slow and steady burn of love is preferable to a quickly sparked flame of passion?
6) Many characters in The Promise Girls experienced a major career change at some point in their lives and statistics tell us that most Americans will experience five to seven change careers over the course of a lifetime. Do you see that as a positive or negative aspect of modern American life? Have you undergone a major career shift in your own life? If so, was it by choice or necessity? What positive or negative impacts has that had on you?
7) Considering career shifts – if finances were no object, what would your fantasy career be? What is it that you find appealing that career? Do you think that this is something you ever make happen? If so, what steps would you need to take to turn your fantasy job into a real world career? Or if a career shift is just impractical now, are there hobby or volunteer opportunities you could pursue in that field?
8) Asher and Meg’s construction company specializes in “Not-Do-Big” houses, well-built and efficiently designed homes small homes. Avery lives a “Tiny House” with just a little over 200 square feet. Their stories reflect a growing trend among people who have decided that less house is a fair trade-off for greater financial freedom. Have you ever considered downsizing to a “Not-So-Big” home? What about a tiny house? What would be the plusses and minuses of such a move? Just for fun, get some graph paper and pencils and sketch out a floor plan for your perfect, compact sized dream house.
9) Personal creativity is one of the major themes of The Promise Girls. Meg believes that “inside every person, there is an artist waiting to get out, that all human beings are born with a natural talent and urge to express themselves through art.” Do you think this is true? If so, what do you think prevents people from expressing their artistic side? What can people do to help knock down those creative blocks and live a more creative life?
10) When it comes to spiritual matters, Avery is vocal about her faith and the reasons behind it, some coming from personal experiences, some from her observations of the natural world, including the fact that there two thousand different species of starfish. Whether you profess a personal faith or not, what experiences or observations give you a sense of something greater than the here and now of this world? What wonders of nature inspire you with awe and make you think about the bigger questions of creation, God, and human existence?
11) A scathing review that referred to her as a “talented amateur” was part of the reason Meg gave up painting. However, as we learned in the story, the word amateur is taken from the Latin word amatorem, meaning lover, so an amateur is somebody who does something purely for the love of it. What things do you enjoy doing, artistic or otherwise, purely for the love of it? What might you want to try in the future? What step can you take to make that happen?
12) For personal reflection. Minerva’s arrival in Seattle stirs up strong memories and emotions in her daughters, especially Joanie. As the story unfolds, Joanie learns that Minerva’s motivation for the decisions she made, while still hurtful to her daughters, were more complicated than she realized. Most of us carry some childhood hurts into adulthood. If you were able to have an adult conversation with someone who caused you pain in childhood, what would you want to know about the circumstances and reasons surrounding that situation?
13) When Meg loses her memory, including all memory of her marriage, she and Asher start from square one getting to know each other again, spending several weeks “dating” that Meg was hesitant to give up. Why do you think Meg found that situation so appealing? Why was she afraid to recommit herself to her marriage? If you’re married or in a long-term committed relationship, does a month of “dating” your beloved sound like a fabulous fantasy? Or way too much work? If your relationship could use a bit of reviving, what are some steps you could take to rekindle the love you knew early on?
14) “Sometimes the hardest part to play is yourself”. Is this is true? Why or why not? What gets in the way of you being yourself? What could you do to make it easier?
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