Synopses & Reviews
“In a series of exquisitely presented snapshots, a young teen struggles to cope with the aftermath of her mothers suicide. . . . Stunningly beautiful.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Readers are drawn into Isabels world and her determination to keep on going in the face of her overwhelming loss and responsibilities.”—School Library Journal, Starred
An ALA Best Book for Young Adults
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Editors Choice
A Parents Choice Gold Award
"Holt's (My Louisiana Sky; When Zachery Came to Town) evocative novel set in Guam traces the difficult months following the suicide of native girl Isabel's mother. Brief (half- to three-page) chapters capture the heroine's moods and memories as she takes on added responsibilities at home and struggles to reclaim a sense of normalcy. Isabel's narrative poetically conveys her observations about the changes in each of her family members since the tragedy. Her younger sister, Olivia, now has nightmares and wets the bed; her father, always a man of few words, becomes even more silent and distant than before ('He's the magic man, reinventing the disappearing act'). Isabel is most deeply affected by the alterations in her brother's behavior. Frank, who once 'knew every knock-knock joke by heart,' becomes 'a stranger in the house,' as he grows increasingly removed and self-destructive. Holt smoothly juxtaposes here-and-now segments with haunting recollections of Isabel's 'sad and beautiful' mother, whose image starts to fade in the narrator's mind over time. The author works magic, recreating the sights, sounds and smells of Guam and encapsulating the essence of her characters through very few words. Readers drawn into Isabel's sadness will also share her surge of hope as she and family members begin the process of healing. Ages 12-up." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Reading Group Guide
1. Why did the author title the book Keeper of the Night
? What happens at night, and what does it reveal about each character that is concealed during the day?
2. Did you like the format of the book, which consists of short passages? How was reading it different from reading a book written in longer chapters? What characteristics of this particular story lent themselves to this format?
3. What are Isabels most significant traits? How might another type of character react to the events in the book? What are some of the forms grief takes for the members of Isabels family?
4. “Whenever I think of my mother, something fills up inside me, like water filling a bucket. It fills me up so much, Im afraid my feelings will spill over for everyone to see” (p. 9).
Why do you think Isabel fears that her feelings will come to the surface and be seen by others? What does she suppose will happen? Have you ever been afraid to let your feelings surface? Did they eventually emerge?
5. Look at the lists Isabel makes over the course of the story. Aside from the obvious function that some of them have as to-do lists, why do you think she makes them? Do you do anything similar when your life confuses or overwhelms you?
6. Pick one of your favorite “chapters” in the book. How does it add a piece to the puzzle of the story? How does the author convey a lot of meaning in a few words? Think about how you might tell the story of your own life. What part of your story might you paint a portrait of in this style? Try to write it down.
7. What realization comes to Isabel toward the end of the book? What does Dr. Gurrero (Ed) help her to see? What does she learn from the love story of Auntie Bernadette and Uncle Fernando (pp. 287 to 289)?
8. How does Mrs. Cruzs painting of Isabels mother help Isabel remember her mother, when photographs do not (pp. 276 to 278)? Has a photograph or another image shaped the way you remember something or someone? Can photographs lie?
9. “Roman stops by the cabana. ‘Hows Frank?
And just that one question is like the last drop in a full bathtub that makes the water run over the rim” (p. 250).
When Isabels emotions finally do come to the surface, what thoughts, accusations, and questions come out of her? Think about what she says to Roman, Ed, and her father.