Reader’s Guide: On the Road with Del & Louise

These questions about On the Road with Del & Louise, winner of the Agatha Award for Best First Novel, will help encourage conversation for book clubs, library programs, or any discussion group. Contact me at ar*@ar*************.com about the possibility of meeting with your group in person or via Facetime, Google Hangouts, or Skype.

  • Del and Louise are the novel’s protagonists but they’re often on the wrong side of the law. Do you relate with them or empathize with them despite their choices? Or do the lines they cross compromise your feelings about them?
  • From the start of the book, Del shows both ambition and determination—though not always in traditional, acceptable ways: getting his degree, looking toward careers, but also robbing convenience stores along the way. How does his story illuminate or complicate the idea of the American Dream?
  • The novel is set in tough economic times, including the bursting of the real estate bubble, and at various locations throughout the country, often drawing on local color (the wine industry in Napa, the wedding chapel business in Las Vegas) or local history (as in the Baby Moses case in North Dakota). How do the various settings—both the time and places—enhance the novel?
  • In the story “The Chill,” Louise wonders whether the bad things they’ve done in the past have come back to haunt them—“karma,” she wonders, struggling not only with the idea of fate but also choice and consequence and larger questions of justice, atonement, and redemption? How would you answer Louise’s questions in that direction? How does justice work in the book? Do you think that Louise earns some redemption? And what are your own beliefs on this topic?
  • How does a novel in stories work in comparison to a traditional novel? What’s gained by telling the story in this way? Do readers need to approach it differently?