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Promises to Keep

Reading Group Guide

    Promises to Keep
    By Genevieve Graham
    Reading Group Guide

    This reading group guide for Promises to Keep includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. 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.


    In the early 1600s, a hardy, hopeful stream of French settlers travelled from France to North America, settling predominantly along the shores of the Bay of Fundy in a region known as “Acadie.” They established a harmonious relationship with the native Mi’kmaq people, who taught them how to survive the unfamiliar land and traded with them. Within a few generations, the French, now known as the Acadians, had transformed the lush wetlands along the Bay of Fundy into some of the most fertile fields in the world.

    But Acadia was poorly positioned with regards to the politics of the day, and by the 1700s, the warring French and British vied for sovereignty over their land. When the Acadians refused to pledge allegiance to the invading British, the army began forcibly removing them from their homes.

    In Promises to Keep, Genevieve Graham reimagines this harrowing story through the eyes of Ame̒lie, a young Acadian girl, and Corporal Connor MacDonnell, a reluctant participant in the British plan to expel the Acadians. As their relationship deepens, more ships arrive to take Ame̒lie and her family away, and Connor is forced to make a decision that will alter the future forever.

    Topics & Questions for Discussion

    1. In 1755, women were expected to behave in a certain way, but Ame̒lie does not follow those social norms and early in the novel, she asserts her disinterest in marriage. How do her views about marriage compare to the expectations that would be placed upon her as a woman at that time? Are those expectations different in l’Acadie than in France? If so, why?

    2. Ame̒lie’s father Charles says that sometimes there is a difference between doing what is right and what is good. What do you think this means? Which is more important: doing what is right or doing what is good? Can you come up with some examples of this?

    3. In the prologue, the author uses foreshadowing as a device to introduce the story. What was the effect of the prologue? Did it change your opinion of Ame̒lie’s father when you realized he was the man who saved Me’tekw?

    4. If you were in Ame̒lie’s place, would you have escaped to the forest when the British were taking the Acadians away? Would you have done anything differently?

    5. Why does Ame̒lie struggle to trust Connor? And what changes her mind? What does Connor do to gain her trust?

    6. After the Acadians were forced from their land, the British burned their homes and crops to the ground. Why do you suppose this was done?

    7. Given what you know about Canadian history, does this portrayal of the expulsion of the Acadians change your understanding of their experiences?

    8. The author told the story mostly from the perspective of the Acadians. If this story was told from the perspective of the Loyalists, how might it be different?

    9. The Acadians were expelled from their land because they refused to choose a side. How did this attitude shape how the British saw and treated them?

    10. Connor promises to keep Ame̒lie and her family safe. Given the ending, do you believe he was successful?

    11. What do you think Promises to Keep means?

    Enhance Your Book Club

    1. Long before the arrival of Europeans, the Mi’kmaq lived along the eastern shores of North America, hunting, fishing, and farming in a region known as Mi’kma’ki. The particular region of Minas Basin and Grand Pré was the setting of heroes such as Glooscap. Research the history of the Mi’kmaq people and see if you can find stories about Glooscap and other legendary figures.

    2. In 2012, Amélie’s home, Grand Pré was made an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Read about the region’s history here:

    3. The Acadian Expulsion became known by many different names, including the Great Upheaval, the Great Expulsion, the Great Deportation, and Le Grand Dérangement, but it refers to the deportation of over 10,000 Acadians from 1755 to 1763. Many died along the way. Those that did survive later returned to eastern Canada, while others established a thriving French community in Louisiana, then a colony of Spain. In 2003, the Canadian government, on behalf of Queen Elizabeth, acknowledged the wrongs the Acadians suffered at the hands of the British and recognized July 28 as the anniversary of the deportation. Check out this timeline of Acadian history here:

More Books From This Author

Come from Away
The Look Book
The Look Book
Tides of Honour

About the Author

Genevieve Graham
Photograph (c) Janice Bray

Genevieve Graham

Genevieve Graham is the bestselling author of Tides of Honour, Promises to Keep, and Come from Away. She is passionate about breathing life back into Canadian history through tales of love and adventure. She lives near Halifax, Nova Scotia. Visit her at or on Twitter @GenGrahamAuthor.