This reading group guide for The Flood Girls includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Richard Fifield. 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
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In the tiny, isolated town of Quinn, Montana, Laverna Flood owns and operates the Dirty Shame, a local watering hole patronized by day-drinking lesbian silver miners and a variety of alcoholics, and moonlights as the coach of the Flood Girls, an all-women’s softball team that has never had a winning season. When her prodigal daughter Rachel returns after a nine-year absence, newly sober and hoping to redeem herself after sleeping with most of Quinn’s male population (including her mother’s boyfriend), Laverna plans on maintaining the silent treatment—until her right fielder suddenly quits, forcing her to put Rachel on the Flood Girls’ roster.
As Rachel reacquaints herself with Quinn and does her best to get past that stubborn Step 9 (it’s difficult to make amends when your entire hometown refuses to read your apology letters), she forms an unlikely friendship with Jake, a flamboyant twelve year old with exquisite taste, a vast second-hand wardrobe, and a long list of persecutors. Over the course of the Flood Girls’ first-ever winning season, Rachel finds comfort, self-acceptance, and a support system that gets her through the hardest of losses, both on and off the field. Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Laverna is a commanding—and often feared—presence in Quinn. Discuss Fifield’s depiction of Laverna. Would you describe her as an anti-hero? How does she act as both a divisive and a unifying force?
2. Fifield uncovers Rachel’s dark past slowly over the course of the book. How did your impression of Rachel change as you discovered more about her backstory? Ultimately, did you see her as a sympathetic character, despite her transgressions?
3. Discuss Jake’s and Rachel’s unlikely friendship. How do the two find common ground? What do they learn from each other?
4. How do Rachel and Laverna evolve over the course of the book? What experiences and life lessons allow them to overcome their years-long rift?
5. Redemption and forgiveness are two major themes of The Flood Girls.
Discuss the ways in which Rachel, Laverna, Bert, and Krystal attempt to make amends for their mistakes. How successful are they?
6. After recounting Quinn’s history of devastating fires, Fifield writes, “The whole town seemed to be waiting for the flames to return” (pg. 30). How does this sentiment resonate throughout the storyline? In your opinion, is The Flood Girls
a hopeful novel?
7. The Flood Girls
tackles serious issues like discrimination and addiction, but it is peppered with moments of surprising humor and levity. What was your favorite moment of comic relief?
8. As Rachel observes children in sleds pulled along by their dads’ four wheelers, she thinks, “This was how you survived the winter in Quinn . . . Sometimes you had to let other people pull you” (pg. 109). Discuss how the characters in The Flood Girls
allow others to help them, often in unexpected ways. Did any of these moments surprise you? Why?
9. Many of the characters are guided by religion and spirituality, from Bert’s evangelism to Rachel’s higher power to Jake’s rosary beads. What, in your opinion, does The Flood Girls
have to say about religion?
10. Why do you think Fifield decided to bookmark The Flood Girls
with two deaths? What are the legacies that Frank and Jake leave behind?
11. The Flood Girls
features an unforgettable ensemble cast, from the braless and tempestuous Red Mabel to meth-addled Black Mabel to big-hearted and big-toothed Bucky. Who was your favorite secondary character, and why?
12. In what ways does the landscape of Quinn, with its bitter snowstorms, bear invasions, and lack of street signs, traffic lights, and sidewalks, function as a character in The Flood Girls
? How does the setting influence the course of events in the novel? Enhance Your Book Club
1. Host a Flood Girls
–inspired movie night and watch A League of Their Own.
2. Learn to cross-stitch with your book club. (Bonus points if you cross-stitch while listening to Madonna.)
3. Pick a team name for your book club and design uniforms together. (Bonus points if you cross-stitch the design yourselves—while listening to Madonna.)
4. Learn more about the author by visiting his website (www.richardfifield.com), and by following him on Twitter (@richard_fifield) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/richardfifieldthefloodgirls). A Conversation with Richard Fifield You indicate in the author’s note that Jake’s storyline is semiautobiographical. How are you and Jake similar? How are you different? Aside from Jake, are there any other characters in particular that you relate to?
Jake and I are both from a small town in Montana. He dressed much better than I, however. I only wish I had his fashion sense! We both relied on Jackie Collins and Madonna for a taste of life outside the mountains. Like Jake, I stuck out from the crowd, and could not help it. Jake has a rough life, but I was fortunate enough to have a tremendously supportive family. There were certainly bullies growing up, but I always had a pack of girlfriends that offered love and camaraderie, and most important, protection. My real hometown is a much more nuanced place—the people of Troy are amazing. I was probably more like Misty as a child—I was definitely a handful. I relate to Rachel’s reckless faith, but also Laverna’s need for control. Which character was the most fun to write? Which was the most challenging for you?
My favorite character to write was Laverna, which should come as no surprise. I thought that Rachel would be the easiest to write, as our journey has been so similar, but giving her depth was a challenge at times. Did the process of writing The Flood Girls change the way in which you view your real-life hometown?
Most definitely! When I was growing up, all I could think of was getting out as quickly as possible. I hated it. Getting older, and writing this book, and practicing forgiveness have all made me realize how lucky I was. I’m from the last generation before the Internet, and I was forced to create my own entertainment. Dreaming and writing were my escapes. What was the revision process like for you, particularly given that you wrote the first draft of The Flood Girls so quickly?
Editing is painful. There is no better feeling than filling pages while writing a rough draft, but editing is like math, addition, and subtraction. I hate math. Writing a book is like having a baby, but then you have to wait months to find out if your baby is cute or completely horrendous. This process has taught me so much about patience, and most important, letting go. I am so thankful that I had such great readers and editors—Jenny Bent and Alison Callahan were invaluable, and I trusted them completely. You depict many different examples of drug and alcohol abuse in The Flood Girls. What would you most like your readers to take away from your novel regarding the nature of addiction?
For me, it’s really about faith. Rachel tries to push her way through recovery, and I know that doesn’t work. I have learned that I am powerless over people, places, and things. All I can control is my effort, and my reaction. Everything else is out of my hands. I’m sure that is why I am drawn to fiction—I can still control what happens, without having to make an amends! What do you think the future holds for your characters beyond the ending of the book? Will the Flood Girls improve upon their first winning season?
If it were up to me, I would only write about the Flood Girls for the rest of my life! I am madly in love with every character. I want to know what happens to them! Laverna needs a trophy, dammit. Does Jake take after you in listening to music while he works? If so, what is your writing soundtrack?
Absolutely. I cannot write in silence—I have an unquiet mind! I must have music, and I am a Type A Gay Virgo—each character had a playlist that I loved curating. Jake’s soundtrack had lots of Florence and the Machine, Sinead O’Connor, and the Cure. And tons of house music from the ’80s and ’90s—especially all of my cherished Madonna remixes. When writing Rachel, I listened to Patty Griffin, and only Patty Griffin. Her music devastates me, and makes me write honestly and with grace. Laverna, on the other hand, had a playlist full of Don Williams, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, the Judds, and Miranda Lambert. It was totally the jukebox at the Dirty Shame! Who are your biggest literary influences? What inspires you to write?
Anne Tyler, without a doubt. She can do no wrong. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant
is a book I reread every year. Geek Love,
by Katherine Dunn, is probably my favorite book of all time—I read it at a very young age, and learned that there are no boundaries in fiction. That book is FEARLESS, and should be canonized. I’m also obsessed with Ann Patchett, John Irving, Richard Russo, Barbara Kingsolver, John Updike, Kate Atkinson, Truman Capote, and Jackie Collins, of course. Who would you cast in the movie version of The Flood Girls?
Jake would have to be an unknown—I know there is a fabulous kid on Youtube somewhere that would be perfect for the part. I always imagined Jennifer Lawrence as Rachel—she just has this strength and quiet sadness that I am drawn to. Laverna is hard to cast; there are so many actresses that I admire for their ferocity—Alison Janney, Vera Farmiga, Tilda Swinton, Julianne Moore. Although she seems an odd choice, Reese Witherspoon would be perfect for Laverna—the character is an adult version of Tracy Flick from Election
. What are you working on next?
Hopefully, more Flood Girls novels! Currently, I’m writing a horror novel, just because I wanted to write something completely different. I’d love to write a novel about NYC in 1990—I’m obsessed with the supermodels (Naomi, Linda, Christy, etc.) and the drag ballroom scene. Paris Is Burning
. It’s just an honor to be a writer, and it is truly a pleasure to entertain people. I’m looking forward to the future!