There are some serious twists in the river that runs through Beckford, and I don’t just mean the landscape. This book has a large cast of unreliable characters. Everyone is keeping secrets, and either lying to themselves or lying to others. And it’s the very unreliable, twisty nature of the Into the Water, which will make it an interesting book club read.
Use our Into the Water book club questions to help you unpack the plot (and puzzle out the lies). Our discussion guide offers 10 discussion prompts, the book synopsis and some thought provoking reviews– all of which will help you get the discussion going.
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Into the Water Synopsis
(We always chose to provide the publisher synopsis because we feel that it’s worthwhile to discuss whether the official book description actually squared with your experience of the book.)
Into the Water, Paula Hawkins
A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.
Left behind is a lonely 15-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from – a place to which she vowed she’d never return.
With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying listen that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.
Beware a calm surface – you never know what lies beneath.
10 Into the Water Book Club Questions
- “Please Julia, it’s time we put all that stuff behind us. Don’t be stubborn”. But Julia says to herself “…Why should you get to choose when to call time on the trouble between us.” Indeed there was a lot of trouble between the sisters, largely through a lack of communication. Can you even assign blame, considering what happened to Julia?
- The book had a pretty large cast of characters, each with their own issues and secrets. Were you able to juggle all of storylines? Which ones resonated with you?
- From Erin “seriously, how is anyone supposed to keep track of all the bodies around here”. Seriously…did you keep track of all of the bodies?
- “Beckford is not a suicide spot. It’s a place for getting rid of troublesome women”. And indeed, while most of the story is modern day, some of the “troublesome women” were gotten rid of as early as 1679. Consider how society got rid of troublesome women in the past and how that works today.
- What truly makes these women “troublesome”. What were they actually challenging… who are they inconveniencing?
- From Nickie, “when you start taking pictures and talking to newspapers and asking questions about witches and women and lost souls, you’re not asking questions, you’re asking for trouble”. And yet, Nell persisted, even though she got plenty of messages to stop. Why do you think she persisted?
- Mark…creepy pedophile, clueless dude in love, man with a good heart but impulse issues…or what? Did he disappear of his own volition or did Lena do him in?
- Some of the chapters were written in the first person, and others in the third person. Did you notice that? If so, why do you think the author chose to do that?
- When the clues start lining up about 75% into the book, the confessions begin and many of the confessors (such as Mark and Nickie) keep saying “you’re not listening”. Is that true. Were the folks of Beckford just tuning out what they didn’t want to hear?
- Are you the kind of reader who liked to puzzle out a whodunnit? If so, who did you think dunnit and how did your opinion evolve over the course of the book?
Selected Reviews for Into the Water
“There’s a sinister air throughout, with unknown voices and footsteps on creaking floorboards in the dead of night. There are lots of threads to the storyline, lots of frayed edges, but Paula Hawkins pulls them all together to create a fascinating read.”
“Every character is questionable, which is typical and fun, but there are instances when *blame* can seem to spread too evenly between suspects, as was the case here for me. It makes the focus on each character too equal and sort of dulls the opportunity for surprise.”
“Although the numerous narrators created constant confusion, the storyline was never broken, and the suspense kept flowing strongly along the river of words pulling this gripping saga together.”
“At no time did I feel any suspense building nor could I form a connection with any of the unlikable characters. The ending was lackluster, leaving me with several unanswered questions.”
3 Books Like Into the Water
For more psychological thrillers, start with our list of books similar to The Silent Patient, then check out our discussion guides for The Silent Patient, A Flicker in the Dark and Northern Spy. If you are up for more murdering liars, we have discussion guides for the The Paris Apartment, The Guest List, I Have Some Questions for You, Wrong Place Wrong Time and The Maid. Each of the guides has a synopsis on the top of the article.
The Winter People, Jennifer McMahon
This book is set in small town Vermont, where strange doings and disappearances are the stuff of lore.
When Ruthie’s mother Alice goes missing, Ruthie tries to piece together what happened. As she scours the house, she finds some clues that suggest that Alice had been hiding some dark secrets. She uncovers the diary of a past owner of the house, Sara, who in 1908 was found dead on the property. The story goes back and forth, revealing the story behind Sara’s death and present day Alice’s disappearance.
This book has a solid creep factor and thick atmosphere.
A Dark and Twisted Tide (Lacy Flint #4), Sharon Bolton
If you liked the police procedural, watery murder mystery element of Into the Water, then check out A Dark and Twisted Tide.
Lacy Flint has left her DCI position to take a job with the river police. She lives in a houseboat on a creek that spills into the Thames. When she and her friend find a shrouded body in the water, she begins to investigate. She discovers an immigrant smuggling operation but isn’t sure if it relates to the murder.
To further complicate the matter, Lacy has been receiving some creepy gifts.
The author sends Lacy right into the danger zone, delivering on a twisty plot. And if you like the book, there are 5 total in the series.
The Woman in Cabin 10, Ruth Ware
If the whole woman in peril, Gone Girl, Woman on the Train vibe is your thing, then this book is for you.
Lo Blacklock thinks that she’s scored the best writing assignment ever when she’s invited to go on the inaugural journey of a deluxe new cruise ship. But then she witnesses what she believes is a woman being thrown overboard. And yet, no one is missing from the ship, the crew and guests don’t believe Lo, and her poking around gets her into big trouble.
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