Reading Group Guide
- The author began writing this book after reading a newspaper article about a baptism gone wrong. Does knowing the baptism scene was inspired by true events change your reading of the book? In what way?
- In Chapter Four, George Walter says to Melody: “You have choices to make.” Melody, Obi, and Geneva all make pivotal choices throughout the book. Discuss how the choices they make affect their fates.
- Three Rivers deals with religious belief, superstition, and myth. What is the book trying to say about the differences or similarities between various belief systems?
- Melody resents her mother, but is affectionate toward her father. Both her parents can be difficult and hard to like. Why is she kinder and more forgiving toward her father? Why does she resent her mother so much?
- Obi is determined to give his son a better life. In pursuit of this, he makes the unconventional choice to live as a drifter along the rivers of the Mississippi Delta. It’s a choice that puts both his son and him at risk in many ways. What are some of the perils of living the way Obi and Liam live? What are the benefits? Is he really giving Liam a better life?
- Pisa is described as having “a gift.” Given the events of the story, do you think Pisa actually has the ability to foretell or change the future? Or is she running a good con? Does it matter?
- When Melody discovers the true nature of the relationship between Bobby and Maurice, she is shocked and angry. Why does she react the way she does? Is she, as Maurice accuses, either bigoted or racist? Or is it something else?
- In Chapter Twenty-four, we learn a dark secret about Geneva’s past. How does this change the way you feel about Geneva? Does it make her more or less likeable as a character?
THE PAST IS NEVER is the winner of the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, the Mississippi Arts and Letters Award for Fiction, and the Mississippi Author Award for Adult Fiction (selected by the Mississippi Library Association). The novel is shortlisted for the prestigious Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction. This southern gothic novel steeped in local lore was selected as an "Okra Pick" by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance. Tyson's debut novel THREE RIVERS was a finalist for both the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction and the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Fiction. She was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi and now lives, writes, and teaches in Denver, Colorado.