Topics for Discussion
Follow the River Home
- How important is the setting in Follow the River Home? For those who are familiar with New Mexico, do the descriptions of place ring true? For those who have never been there, does the book change how you previously imagined New Mexico?
- Much of the book is written from the point of view of a man. Did it feel authentic? Were you surprised to learn the author is a woman?
- Do you resonate with the protagonist, Daniel Arroyo, or does he remind you of someone in your own life? What are his strengths, and his flaws? Do you know any Vietnam veterans, or anyone who suffers from PTSD?
- In the end, Daniel finds a measure of peace. What choices did he make that led him to resolution? How did he grow as a person, and what else might he have done to further his healing? Where do you see his life going at the end?
- Why was Emily a troubled little girl, and what might have caused her to become a homeless woman? What were her physical and emotional survival skills? Do you think she will have stayed with her sister?
- The epigraph speaks of baptism. How does the concept of baptism reverberate throughout Follow the River Home? The word “baptism” appears in each of the stories in Part Two of the book. Find and discuss the reference to baptism in the context of each story.
- Why did the author structure the book in two parts? What is the meaning behind Part One’s title “The River Reader,” and why is Part Two called “The River Flyway?”
- Is the ending of Daniel’s story in Part One satisfying? How do each of the stories in Part Two cast a different light on characters or scenes from Part One?
- Discuss the meaning of the book’s title, Follow the River Home. What does it mean in terms of the lives of Daniel and Emily? Is the book’s cover evocative of the title, even though it shows no river?
- The migration of the sandhill cranes is referenced many times in the book. How is this a metaphor for the title, as well as for the lives of Daniel, Emily, and other characters?
Enhance Your Book Club
Follow the River Home
- Volunteer at an organization in your community that provides services to the homeless, such as a shelter, a church that provides meals, or a tutoring program for homeless children in your public school system. Gather useful items to donate to your community’s homeless population, such as toiletries, socks, and warm clothing.
- Research PTSD and veterans, especially Vietnam veterans. Learn more about the experiences of Vietnam veterans at Vietnam Veterans of America. Look for opportunities to volunteer at your local veterans organizations.
- Do an internet search for maps and photographs showing the Rio Grande as it flows through New Mexico. Study Great River by Paul Horgan, for a detailed history of the different cultures that developed along the Rio Grande.
- Learn about the folklore of New Mexico’s Rio Grande in My Land Sings—Stories from the Rio Grande by Rudolfo Anaya.