By Renee Swindle
New American LibraryMay 2013

Trade Paperback352 pages, $15.00, ISBN: 9780451416643
Subject: Family / Personal Challenges / Women's Lives

  1. What was your response to Shake Down the Stars? Did the story hold your attention and engage your emotions?
  2. What parts of the novel made you laugh? Did any parts make you cry?
  3. Did you ever lose sympathy for Piper because of her “acting out,” and if so, when? Did she win you over again? What does the author do to help make you like her?
  4. Have you ever before read a novel with a main character who is alcoholic? Are alcoholic women more rare in fiction than you might expect, given how many people suffer from the disease? Did you find Renee Swindle’s portrait of Piper’s alcoholism realistic?
  5. Stargazing is one of the few reliable sources of emotional comfort for Piper. When you’re feeling down, what sources of comfort do you turn to?
  6. Piper’s mother and sister are capable but flawed women who just can’t meet Piper’s needs. Piper comes to realize that she must accept the family she’s got rather than the family she wishes she had. Is the same true for you and your family?
  7. The novel includes characters from a wide range of economic backgrounds—from rich to poor, from used-to-be-poor to now-more-than-comfortably-well-off. Did you enjoy seeing rich and poor rub up against each other? How did that aspect add to the story for you?
  8. Discuss the different approaches to Christianity described in the novel. Does one approach appeal more to you than the other? Does one seem more heartfelt and authentic?
  9. Discuss the young people in the novel—from Piper’s twin nieces, Sophia and Margot, to the students she teaches to the kids she encounters in her neighborhood. Whom did you most enjoy spending time with, and why?
  10. You could say that Piper is saved by some new friends she makes. Discuss the sacrifices her friends make, and the role of friendship in the novel overall. Has a friend ever saved your life?
  11. Piper is, above all, a mother grieving for her lost daughter. How central is Hailey to the novel? How does this exploration of a mother’s grief compare to similar stories you might have read?