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Book clubs  •  4 February 2020


Riptides book club notes

Ponder this with your book club: can one bad decision tear your world apart?

If you enjoyed Half Moon Lake you'll love Kirsten Alexander's second book, Riptides. 

It's December 1974, Abby Campbell and her brother Charlie are driving on a dark country road when they swerve into the path of another car, forcing it into a tree. The pregnant driver is killed instantly.

In the heat of the moment, Abby and Charlie make a fateful decision. They flee, hoping heavy rain will erase the fact they were there. They both have too much to lose...

Ever considered which of your book club buddies would react best in a crisis? Ask them: in Abby and Charlie's shoes, what would they do?

Discussion points and questions:

  • Abby and Charlie make a calculated risk in the first chapter to save themselves and their families, careers and dreams. How did you judge them for that choice initially, and did your judgement of them change by the end?
  • A riptide is a fast-flowing current that can take swimmers out to sea. How do riptides, both literal and figurative, work their way through the novel? How do characters navigate the dangers that riptides pose to them?
  • Joh Bjelke-Petersen was premier of Queensland from 1968 to 1987 and is remembered for his deeply conservative policies. Riptides is also set during the three-year tenure of the progressive Whitlam government. How do these competing political influences play out in the lives of Abby and Charlie?
  • Natural disasters such as the Brisbane flood and Cyclone Tracy play a decisive role in Abby’s life in particular. These are moments of terror and crisis, but also provide opportunities for courage and solidarity. In what ways did these events feel like historical snapshots and/or relevant to today’s news?
  • Riptides is very much a novel about Brisbane: the river, the suburbs, the proximity to beaches and hinterland, and its subtropical climate. How does the Brisbane of the 1970s resonate with your own memories of the city?
  • Charlie’s experience of Bali takes place at the very beginning of Western exploration and development of the island. How does the Bali of the early 1970s, as described in the novel, compare with the Bali we know today?
  • What did you make of the relationship between Skye and Finn? What did you make of the relationship between Skye and John, Abby and Charlie’s father?
  • Based on what we hear from various characters, what do you think was happening at Eumundi? Do you think it was a utopian commune, a dangerous cult, or somewhere in between?
  • Abby’s yoga teacher tells the class, ‘Entrust yourself to the waves.’ What does she mean by this? How does one learn to trust the waves?

Riptides Kirsten Alexander

Set in Queensland during a time of tremendous social upheaval, Riptides is a gripping family drama about dreams, choices and consequences, from the author of the acclaimed Half Moon Lake.

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