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The Berry Pickers: A Novel
by Amanda Peters

Published: 2023-10-31T00:0
Hardcover : 320 pages
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2023 Barnes & Noble Discover Prize Winner Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction Finalist

A four-year-old Mi’kmaq girl goes missing from the blueberry fields of Maine, sparking a mystery that will haunt the survivors, unravel a family, and remain unsolved for nearly fifty ...

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Introduction

2023 Barnes & Noble Discover Prize Winner Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction Finalist

A four-year-old Mi’kmaq girl goes missing from the blueberry fields of Maine, sparking a mystery that will haunt the survivors, unravel a family, and remain unsolved for nearly fifty years

"A stunning debut about love, race, brutality, and the balm of forgiveness." —People, A Best New Book

July 1962. A Mi’kmaq family from Nova Scotia arrives in Maine to pick blueberries for the summer. Weeks later, four-year-old Ruthie, the family’s youngest child, vanishes. She is last seen by her six-year-old brother, Joe, sitting on a favorite rock at the edge of a berry field. Joe will remain distraught by his sister’s disappearance for years to come.

In Maine, a young girl named Norma grows up as the only child of an affluent family. Her father is emotionally distant, her mother frustratingly overprotective. Norma is often troubled by recurring dreams and visions that seem more like memories than imagination. As she grows older, Norma slowly comes to realize there is something her parents aren’t telling her. Unwilling to abandon her intuition, she will spend decades trying to uncover this family secret.

For readers of The Vanishing Half and Woman of Light, this showstopping debut by a vibrant new voice in fiction is a riveting novel about the search for truth, the shadow of trauma, and the persistence of love across time.

Editorial Review

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Excerpt

The day Ruthie went missing, the blackflies seemed to be especially hungry. The white folks at the store where we got our supplies said that Indians made such good berry pickers because something sour in our blood kept the blackflies away. But even then, as a boy of six, I knew that wasn’t true. Blackflies don’t discriminate. But now, lying here almost fifty years to the day and getting eaten from the inside out by a disease I can’t even see, I’m not sure what’s true and what’s not anymore. Maybe we are sour. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

Questions from the publisher - added by Pauline:

1) Amanda Peters has said that the opening line “The day Ruthie went missing, the blackflies seemed to be especially hungry” came to her, and the rest of the book followed. How did this line set the scene? What expectations did it give you for the story, and were those fulfilled?

2) When did you figure out the relationship between the two storylines, and how did it make you feel?

3) Have you ever discovered a family secret? How did it change your relationship with the people around you?

4) Did you prefer Joe’s voice, Norma’s, or the combination? Were there other characters you wished could give their point of view?

5) After Ruthie goes missing, what do you think keeps the remaining family members bound together? What do you think pulls them apart?

6) How does Ruthie’s disappearance echo tragedies and atrocities in the broader history of Indigenous peoples? Have you learned more since reading the book?

7) How does Norma’s feeling of being stuck between worlds come out in the story? In what ways might other characters feel a sense of duality or out of placeness?

8) Why do you think art-making becomes so important in the story? Are there other themes that jump out at you about making a meaningful life after loss?

9) In the end, why do you think Norma’s mother did the very drastic thing she did?

10) You might say this story is ultimately about forgiveness. Are you able to find all the major characters redeemable in some way, or are there any you cannot forgive?

11) If you were going to write a novel based on stories of family history your parents told you, as Amanda Peters has here, where would it be set and what might it be about?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Member Reviews

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by Trish V. (see profile) 07/10/24

 
by Stephanie L. (see profile) 07/05/24

 
by Carol . (see profile) 06/17/24

 
by Belinda L. (see profile) 05/09/24

 
by Deb H. (see profile) 04/28/24

 
by Heather J. (see profile) 12/26/23

An original story that gets the reader engaged in the experience of Indigenous families who have endured deep loss and separation. Lots to unpack here on white privilege, mental illness and motherhood.... (read more)

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