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American Ghost

American Ghost

A Novel

  • reading group guide
Jolie Hoyt is a good Southern girl living in Hendrix, a small Florida Panhandle town. All too aware of her family’s closet full of secrets and long-held distrust of outsiders, Jolie throws caution to the wind when she meets Sam Lense, a Jewish anthropology student from Miami, who is in town to study the ethnic makeup of the region.

Jolie and Sam fall recklessly in love, but their affair ends abruptly when Sam is discovered to have pried too deeply into Hendrix’s dark racial history and he becomes the latest victim in a long tradition of small-town violence. Twelve years later, Jolie and Sam are forced to revisit the unresolved issues of their young love and finally shed light on the ugly history of Jolie’s hometown. A complex and compulsively readable Southern saga, American Ghost is a richly woven exploration of how the events of our past haunt our present.
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  • Scribner | 
  • 304 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451674651 | 
  • March 2013
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for American Ghost includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Introduction

You could say Jolie Hoyt and Sam Lense were star-crossed lovers; the small-town daughter of a Pentecostal preacher tangled up with a Jewish graduate student from Miami; unresolved family histories and long kept secrets bubbling threateningly close to the surface. Only by breaking through the silence would they have any chance at uncovering the truth and ultimately finding peace. Janis Owens’ original narrative voice brings her characters to life and plunges us deep into the Florida panhandle, while the irresistible combination of romance, history, and suspense keeps the pages turning.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. In the opening paragraph of the book, we learn that Jolie and Sam’s relationship was “barely three months long, and as quickly ended as it had begun.” (p. 3) How did this knowledge affect your reading of the first part of the book? Why do you think the author chose to disclose this information up front?

2. The book is broken up into two separate parts: “The Indian Study” and & see more

More Books from this Author

Though our roots are in the Colonial South, we Crackers are essentially just another American fusion culture, and our table and our stories are constantly expanding -- nearly as fast as our waistlines. We aren't ashamed of either, and we're always delighted with the prospect of company: someone to feed and make laugh, to listen to our hundred thousand stories of food and family and our long American past. Crackers, rednecks, hillbillies, and country boys have long been the brunt of many jokes,...
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About the Author

Janis Owens
Photograph by Albert Isaac

Janis Owens

Janis Owens is the author of three previous novels and a regional cookbook. The only daughter of a Pentecostal preacher turned insurance salesman, she inherited her love of storytelling from her parents. She lives in Newberry, Florida.

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