If your book club is reading Approaching Neverland and would like the author to talk with your group, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Approaching Neverland was the only book that everyone in our book club loved."
San Leandro, CA
"Our discussion with Ms. Kennedy, author of Approaching Neverland, was one of the best programs ever!"
Stanford Women's Club of the East Bay
"Weeks after talking with the author about Approaching Neverland during our book club meeting, we're still raving about our phone visit with her."
"We laughed, we cried, and everyone left our book club meeting feeling inspired."
Here are some suggested Reading Group Discussion Questions for Approaching Neverland:
Walnut Creek, CA
1. How did the intimate "Prologue" set the stage for the book you were about to read? When did you first understand the title Approaching Neverland? Did you have different interpretations of the title as the story progressed?
2. "No one ever asked us how our mother was, or ever offered to say a prayer for her to get better. Mental illness scared people (p.29)." What methods did Peggy and her siblings use to deal with their mother's illness? How did their mothers' absence encourage or prohibit certain traits in the children?
3. The author writes "Since early childhood, we had defended our mother, in our minds if not to the world. To blame her was to deny her sickness and all that we had lived through as a result of it. Blaming her was next to impossible (p.78)." Was there a difference in how the "generations" viewed mental illness? What scenes expose the differences in how the grandparents, parents, siblings, and friends deal with mental health?
4. While Approaching Neverland is filled with memorable moments from the authors life, which scenes were the most surprising, most motivating, or most relatable to you?
5. During her cousin Bobby's "pea sticking" incident the author writes, "It felt good to see someone yell and then go back to being normal." What people in the story provided the most influence on the children growing up and why? What does this reveal about Peggy's desire to have a "normal" family life?
6. Peggy's father, Jack Kennedy, is a man of few words in her book. How does his silence speak louder than words? Explain how Jack was "both her husband and her warden" (pg. 71). What kind of man was Jack Kennedy? What were his strengths and weaknesses?
7. Approaching Neverland is subtitled as "a memoir of Epic Tragedy & Happily Ever After." How did the subtitle set the tone of the book? Would you share the authors' perspective on her situations in the same way? How would your reactions have been different if put in the same situations?
8. Even though the girls shared a room they all had scoped out their separate spaces. What life experiences allowed Peggy to finally understand her sister Sue's handwriting on the wall (pg. 106)?
9. While many could call the Kennedy clan a dysfunctional family, what allows the family to stay strong, not only in youth, but into their adult years? What scenes in the book paint a strong picture of how the family copes with problems?
10. In what ways are the Kennedy's similar to the "ideal" family and in what ways do they differ? Good families make sacrifices to benefit the whole family. Can you describe the sacrifices many family members were willing to make to improve the lives of others?
11. While Barbara's mental illness caused great hardship for the family, the author paints such a loving picture of her mother by focusing on her positive traits. What characteristics of Barbara do you see reflected in her children and how?
12. What did Peggy's dream of moving to San Francisco represent to her? What is going on in the scenes when the author repeats her desire to move to San Francisco?
13. The author educates us on the growing gay & lesbian movement as she gradually uncovers the "truth" about her family members. What foreshadowing did the author tease you with to let you know there may be other secrets unfolding in her family? How was the gay culture accepted in her family? In society at the time?
14. Having grown up with Paul, he is often referred to as part of the Kennedy family. Compare the traits that attracted Peggy to Paul when she was young, and re-attracted Peggy to Paul after their separation. What encounters mark turning points in their relationship over the years?
15. After a meeting with her marriage counselor the author writes "I cried again, this time from relief. No one had ever said it was okay to leave (p188)." Why was the author relieved? Discuss the many examples where independence is emphasized in the book, as well as situations where dependence is critical.
16. The book is separated into three parts - "Sink or Swim", "Sit or Dance", and "Crash or Fly." What do these titles reveal about the choices the author makes in her life?
17. The author describes "that madness and creativity are two sides of the same hand, both a result of being more open to stimuli streaming in (p129)." How do the children use their creativity to inspire their lives? How does this creative streak allow them to be more open?
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