Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Finding Amos 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.
When Amos Davis finds himself in a nursing home after a car accident, he is saddled with the news that he suffers from Alzheimer’s disease—and the chilling realization that there is no one to care for him. Alone, the once-famous musician must confront the consequences of his years spent womanizing. His only hope for a family is in the three daughters—by three different women—that he abandoned years ago.
Up until now, Cass, Toya, and Tomiko were only connected by the heartbreak caused by their absent father. Now, they must reconcile their painful pasts with their present opportunities to connect and forgive—in the hope of rebuilding the family they never thought they’d have.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. The novel opens with Amos daydreaming about the past. In the memory, his father tells him he is not a “real man” because “a real man works. A real man’s hands got calluses. A real man’s got a crooked back from being bent over all the damn time workin’ in them fields” (page 2). Do you think that Amos ever considers himself a “real man”? In the end, how might Amos redefine what a real man is?
2. Discuss the structure of the novel. Do the changing points of view make this story equally about all of the characters—Amos and his three daughters? Or does this story seem to belong to one character more than another?
3. On pages 109 and 110, Max’s wife, Jewel, confronts Toya in her home, and Toya is reminded of scenes from her childhood between Melba Jean and Amos. “Like mother, like daughter” (page 109), she thinks to herself. Do you think Toya is likely to suffer the same fate as her mother? Is confronting her estranged father the remedy she needs to overcome the cycle of self-abuse? In your response, consider how Amos’s other two daughters, Cass and Tomiko, are like or unlike their mothers.
4. Examine as a group Toya and Max’s relationship. Is Toya in love with Max, or with the idea of Max? What does he represent to her? Do you think that their relationship could ever work? Why or why not?
5. What do Cass, Toya and Tomiko have in common? Do you think their shattered relationship with their father has made it difficult for these three women to find love? Is one more successful in love, or life in general, than the others? Is one the most damaged?
6. “If you go see that man, don’t expect any miracles from him, Toya … he can make you believe in ’em, but Amos ain’t never been good at deliverin’ on ’em” (page 152), Melba Jean tells her daughter. Do you think that the ability to change—or the inability to change—is a theme of Finding Amos? In the end, does Amos change? Does Toya? Do Cass and Tomiko?
7. What symbolism can you glean from the title Finding Amos? Who is finding Amos? Is this person or persons seeking Amos physically, mentally, or both? Do you think the title might also refer to Amos finding himself? Why or why not?
8. “You can’t disappear into a kitchen or lurk around in the corner of a room for the rest of your life” (pages 161-2), Alma tells Cass. What does Alma represent in Cass’s life? Do you think of her as a help or a hindrance to Cass’s growth as a character?
9. Revisit the scene, beginning on page 170, when Tomiko FaceTimes with Amos. How does she feel about seeing her father again after so many years? In your opinion, does it make sense that Tomiko wonders why “that love was nowhere to be found” (page 171)? Do you think it’s possible to love someone even when they don’t deserve it? Why or why not?
10. Consider the role of gender in Finding Amos. How do the women function in relation to the men in the novel? Is it notable that Amos has only daughters? Consider the bond of female relationships in your response, particularly between mothers/daughters, and the daughters and their close female friends.
11. Discuss Mark’s character. Do you think of him as a kind of guardian angel for Amos? Without Mark, do you think that Amos’s daughters would have been reconciled with their father and with one another?
12. On page 230, Amos admits to Toya, “I hurt you. Of all of them, I hurt you the most.” Does this confession change the hardness of Toya’s heart toward her father? Do you think this moment is a catalyst for the change that comes at the end of the book, both for Toya and all the characters? Why or why not?
13. In the end, Amos’s music brings him closer to his daughters. “Instead of his music pulling him away from them, he was going to sing a song he’d written for them” (page 274). Do you agree that the book’s message might be that the very thing that keeps you from opening your heart might be the very thing in the end that enables you to love? Do you think art has the power to heal? Consider Amos and Tomiko in your response.
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Finding Amos is unique in that it is co-written by three very influential writers: J. D. Mason, ReShonda Tate Billingsley, and Bernice L. McFadden. Read a book by each of these authors, such as Crazy, Sexy, Revenge (Mason), The Secret She Kept (Billingsley), and Gathering of Waters (McFadden). Discuss with your group the signature styles you find in each of these novels. Can you pinpoint what each writer brought to Finding Amos? Do any characters in Finding Amos remind you of characters from the other novels?
2. Initially, Cass is only able to demonstrate her love for her father through food. At Mark’s urging, she brings Amos collard greens, corn bread and cakes to supplement the unappetizing hospital food. Arguably, it is through cooking for her estranged father that Cass is able to slowly open her heart back up to Amos. For Cass, food has healing power, and enables a dialogue to take place between father and daughter that otherwise may not have been possible. Host a potluck with your book club, and in the spirit of openness, bring your favorite signature dish from childhood. Over the meal, share with your book club how the food reminds you about who you are or where you came from. Share stories, memories, pictures and tidbits about how you connect certain dishes with certain events in your life.
3. Music is the defining motif of the Finding Amos—it is music that is responsible for Amos’s wayward lifestyle and the thing that ultimately unites the family together in the end. Listen to Amos’s genre of music—folksy blues—with your book club, or, if possible, attend a local venue that features live blues music. Consider how you feel listening to the melodies, and imagine being the abandoned daughter of the singer. What is it about music in general, and this type of music in particular, that causes one to have a strong emotional reaction? Is there a song from your childhood that evokes a particular emotional reaction? Start by listening to “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding to begin your discussion.