1 review

Words between Us
by Bartels

Published: 2019-09-03
Paperback : 384 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 1 of 1 members
Robin Windsor has spent much of her life under an assumed name to avoid association with her infamous parents. She thought she'd finally found sanctuary running her used bookstore in quiet River City, Michigan. But when she receives an eerily familiar book in the mail on the morning of ...
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Robin Windsor has spent much of her life under an assumed name to avoid association with her infamous parents. She thought she'd finally found sanctuary running her used bookstore in quiet River City, Michigan. But when she receives an eerily familiar book in the mail on the morning of her father's scheduled execution, Robin is thrown back to the summer she met Peter Flynt, the perfect boy who ruined everything. Why would Peter be making contact now? And why does she have a sinking feeling that she's about to be exposed all over again?

With evocative prose that recalls the classic novels we love, Erin Bartels pens a story that shows that words--the ones we say, the ones we read, and the ones we write--have more power than we imagine.


"Alternating between flashbacks and the present day, The Words Between Us is a story of love found in the written word and love found because of the written word. It is also a novel of the consequences of those words that are left unsaid. Bartels' compelling sophomore novel (after We Hope for Better Things, 2019) will satisfy fans and new readers alike."--Booklist

"Erin Bartels drew me in with a unique premise and held me there with her strong storytelling and complex characters. . . . Bartels has given her readers a novel to read slowly and contemplate. It shows a true love for literature that all book-lovers will enjoy and a deeply rich storyline that will keep you engaged until long after the final page is closed."--Life Is Story

"The Words between Us is a story to savor and share: a lyrical novel about the power of language and the search for salvation. A secondhand bookstore owner hiding from a legacy of scandal, tragedy, and heartbreak must unlock the secrets of the past to claim her happiness. I loved every sentence, every word."--Barbara Claypole White, bestselling author of The Perfect Son and The Promise between Us

"Erin Bartels has done it again. She's created a story that has set up camp in my mind and now feels more like a memory, something I lived, than a piece of fiction. The added benefit is that it's a story about books, some of the best ones ever written. If you are the kind of person who finds meaning and life in the written word, then you'll find yourself hidden among these pages."--Shawn Smucker, author of Light from Distant Stars

"Vividly drawn and told in expertly woven dual timelines, The Words between Us is a story about a woman who has spent years trying to escape her family's scandals and the resilience she develops along the way. Erin Bartels's characters are a treat: complex, dynamic, and so lifelike I half expected them to climb straight out of the pages."--Kathleen Barber, author of Are You Sleeping

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


Most people only die once. But my father is not most people. He is a monster.
He first died on a Wednesday in November 2001, when his sentence was handed down—We the members of the jury find Norman Windsor, on three counts of murder in the first degree, guilty; on the charge of extortion, guilty; on the charge of obstruction of justice, guilty; on the charge of conspiring with enemies of the United States of America, guilty. And on and on it went. Or so I imagine. I wasn’t there. The teenage daughters of the condemned generally are not present at such events. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1.Robin spends much of her life running away from any association with her parents because of their crimes, making up a new name, a new history, a new identity. But she doesn’t always (ever?) truly control that identity. She can’t control what others say or think about her. When have you felt out of control of your own narrative? What did you do to try to write your own story? How have you failed? How have you succeeded?

2.How would you characterize Robin? Brave? Impetuous? Naive? Strong? Does your impression of her character change as she ages? How do you see her growing through her trials?

3.Robin’s friend Sarah clearly has a drinking problem, and rumors abound about her cavalier relationships with men. Have you ever had a self-destructive friend? What did you do to help? What do you wish you’d done? Or perhaps you have been that self-destructive friend. If so, how did your friends and family help you? How did they hurt you despite their good intentions?

4. As Robin and Peter share books, they grow closer to one another. What have you shared with a friend that brought meaning to your relationship? Movies? Music? Secrets?

5. How did you feel when Robin left Peter and Sussex behind? Do you think she was overreacting? What would you have done in her situation?

6. Robin spends a lot of time and energy trying to avoid her problems. How do you think her life may have been different if she had just faced them head-on?

7. Robin’s friend and employee Dawt Pi has a strong faith that helps her through the difficulties of being away from her family in a strange new country. How does faith play a part in your life and struggles? Is it a source of comfort? Do you have a friend like Dawt Pi whose faith you lean on when yours falters?

8. A lot of Robin’s problems can be traced to misinterpreted words, whether they were things she’d heard or things she’d read (or read into, in the case of Mrs. Flynt’s notes in the books). When have you been misunderstood by a loved one or a dear friend? How did you make it right?

9. Books are central to The Words between Us. What three books do you think most shaped you as you were growing up? What are some of your favorite books right now?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Member Reviews

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  "The Words Between Us"by Silversolara (see profile) 09/06/19

Books, books, books, and one bookworm. Well, quite a few bookworms and one from Robin's past.

Hiding since she was fourteen from a scandal that her jailed parents were involved in caused

... (read more)

by ebach (see profile) 09/06/19

THE WORDS BETWEEN US is Erin Bartels' second novel, following WE HOPE FOR BETTER THINGS, and it is probably the better of the two. I would categorize it as a young adult novel. So it is as Y... (read more)

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