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Let the Tornado Come

Let the Tornado Come

A Memoir

  • reading group guide
From an award-winning poet comes this riveting, gorgeous memoir about a young runaway, the trauma that haunted her as an adult, and the friendship with a horse that finally set her free.

When she was eleven years old, Rita began to run away. Her father’s violence and her mother’s hostility drove her out of the house and into the streets in search of a better life. This soon led her into a dangerous world of drugs, predatory older men, and the occasional kindness of strangers, but despite the dangers, Rita kept running. One day she came upon a field of horses galloping along a roadside fence, and the sight of them gave her hope. The memory of their hoofbeats stayed with her.

Rita survives her harrowing childhood to become a prize-winning writer and the wife of a promising surgeon. But when she is suddenly besieged by terrifying panic attacks, her past trauma threatens her hard-won happiness and the stable, comfortable life she’s built with her husband. Within weeks, she is incapacitated with fear—literally afraid of her own shadow. Realizing that she is facing a life of psychological imprisonment, Rita undertakes a journey to find help through a variety of treatments. It is ultimately through chasing her childhood passion for horses that she meets a spirited, endearing horse named Claret—with his own troubled history—and together they surmount daunting odds as they move toward fear and learn to trust, and ultimately save, each other.


Horse Saves Troubled Teen

From an award-winning poet comes this riveting, gorgeous memoir about a young runaway, the trauma that haunted her as an adult, and the friendship with a horse that finally set her free.

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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Let the Tornado Come includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Rita Zoey Chin. 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.


When Rita Zoey Chin starts having panic attacks after moving with her husband to a bucolic Massachusetts town, she wonders: why now? After an abusive childhood and life as a teenage runaway, she has finally found stability and the love of a faithful and kind man. But the trauma of Rita’s past—a past that her husband, Larry, does not want to hear about—refuses to lie dormant. And at a time when it seems her life couldn’t be more peaceful, she is besieged by sudden terror: a racing pulse, shortness of breath, tunnel vision, and fear that her heart will explode. As her panic attacks increase in severity and frequency, Rita tries everything from cognitive behavioral therapy to cooking and pottery classes to an Oprah-approved healer to various psychiatrists and therapists. But it is not until she meets a horse named Claret—damaged and skittish in his own way—that she can finally heal. Let the Tornado Come is a triumphant story about love, about the transformative bond bet see more

About the Author

Rita Zoey Chin
Photograph © Sharona Jacobs

Rita Zoey Chin

Rita Zoey Chin’s writing has appeared in Tin House, Guernica,The Rumpus, Freerange Nonfiction, and elsewhere. She received her MFA from the University of Maryland and now lives in Boston, where she teaches at Grub Street, mentors teenage girls, and rides her mischievous horse.




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