This reading group guide for TOGETHER WE WILL GO 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. IntroductionThe Breakfast Club meets The Silver Linings Playbook in this powerful, provocative, and heartfelt novel about twelve endearing strangers who come together to make the most of their final days, from New York Times bestselling and award-winning author J. Michael Straczynski.
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Mark Antonelli, a failed young writer looking down the barrel at thirty, is planning a cross-country road trip. He buys a beat-up old tour bus. He hires a young army vet to drive it. He puts out an ad for others to join him along the way. But this will be a road trip like no other: His passengers are all fellow disheartened souls who have decided that this will be their final journey—upon arrival in San Francisco, they will find a cliff with an amazing view of the ocean at sunset, hit the gas, and drive out of this world.
The unlikely companions include a young woman with a chronic pain sensory disorder and another who was relentlessly bullied at school for her size; a bipolar, party-loving neo-hippie; a gentle coder with a literal hole in his heart and blue skin; and a poet dreaming of a better world beyond this one. We get to know them through access to their texts, emails, voicemails, and the daily journal entries they write as the price of admission for this trip.
By turns tragic, funny, quirky, charming, and deeply moving, Together We Will Go
explores the decisions that bring these characters together and the relationships that grow between them, with some discovering love and affection for the first time. But as they cross state lines and complications to the initial plan arise, it becomes clear that this is a novel as much about the will to live as the choice to end it. The final, unforgettable moments as they hurtle toward the decisions awaiting them will be remembered for a lifetime.Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Stracyznski begins the novel with an introduction stating “Its publication in this volume is not indented to condone or condemn the actions described herein” (viii). What do you think of this narrative device? Did you go into the story thinking the passengers who boarded would die?
2. At the very beginning of the book, Mark advertises “the weirdest cross-country party ever” online (4). Why did you initially think Mark decided to include others in his decision to kill himself?
3. The bus gets fuller as the trip goes on, with about twelve passengers at its height. Each person is struggling with their own reasons for joining the trip. Whose journey did you identify with most? Why?
4. Vaughn tells Tyler he’s decided “most people are morons . . . they spend years, decades, hell, their whole lives regretting or apologizing for things nobody else even remembers” (78). Vaughn describes this guilt as “sandbags” that weigh people down. Do you agree with Vaughn’s assessment? What do you think is each character’s “sandbag”?
5. Mark has a righteous anger at the world due to the shootings and violence he grew up with. He describes his decision to die as his right, saying, “And don’t you dare fucking judge us for it” (114). What did you think of Mark’s perspective? Does his eventual decision change how you felt about Mark’s justification for suicide?
6. Theo describes the freedom they feel in the trip as “luminous” and “joyful” (121). Why do you think it took this trip for Theo and so many of the other passengers to feel this way?
7. Why do you think everyone who intended to kill themselves was still so deeply affected by Sailor’s death? What qualities you think Zeke and Sailor brought to the group during their time on the bus? How do you think the dynamic shifted after they left?
8. Theo shares their writing with Mark. Why do you think Theo’s story was left to the imagination? Theo and Mark both identify as writers. How do you think their world views differ? Why do you think they are both drawn to suicide?
9. Did you believe Mark’s intention from the beginning? Why or why not? Were you surprised when the group asked him to leave and he stopped narrating?
10. Peter’s decision to kill himself was driven by logic rather than emotion. He almost decides to end his life before the final destination of the trip. Why do you think he hesitated? What do you think of his final choice?
11. Theo has an interaction with a woman who doesn’t try to dissuade them from killing themself. She says, “you’re already gone. . . .You’re already on the other side of the horizon” (243). Did you agree with this assessment of Theo? Do you think the same is true of the rest of the passengers?
12. Were you surprised at who was left on the bus at the end of novel? Why or why not?
13. When Karen is reflecting on the experience of the events in the novel, she says, “The reason so many people are vulnerable to suicide is because they think it could never happen to them, so they don’t know what to look for, what feelings could lead to making that decision” (291). She describes it as a flu vaccine, so that people will understand what symptoms to look for and understand the situation sooner. Do you agree with Karen’s decision to upload the records online?Enhance Your Book Club
1. Mark requires passengers who board the bus to share their stories via online journals. Keep your own daily journal for a week. Reflect on how the process makes you feel. Is this something that you would want to continue? How do you think you would react if someone intended to publish your week’s reflection, as Mark tried to?
2. The cross-country trip includes multiple stops along the way, including an EDM concert and an abandoned shopping mall. If you were making a final journey, where would you want to go and what would you want to see?
3. One of the most important parts of a road trip is the music. With your book group create a shared playlist of perfect road-trip songs. You can play it in the background on the day of your book club meeting.
4. Though Mark didn’t intend to kill himself, he dealt with ideas of suicidal ideation starting in high school. Research the concept of “suicidal ideation” and explore the differences between “suicidal ideation” and being suicidal. Look at the key warning signs and differences and discuss how they manifested through the characters in the book.
5. Peter describes “seppuku” to Mark as something that Romans and Greeks did as a “virtuous death” (131). Research the history of seppuku. What do you think of this practice and why it existed?