BOOK CLUB QUESTIONS for August Gale: A Father and Daughter’s Journey into the Storm:

How did the book’s personal journey about the author, her father, Nana, and Ambrose affect you? Did it stir up some stories/memories in your own family history?

What themes are strongest in the book? Betrayal, forgiveness, strength?

Does your community, town, or city have a historical tragedy or event that affected families like the 1935 August Gale affected Marystown?

Why do you think historical and personal stories like those told in August Gale should be preserved and passed on?

The night before Paddy Walsh is set to sail from Marystown with his two sons, his wife Lillian spots a sole dark cloud in the sky. She considers it a bad omen and begs Paddy not to go. 

There are several scenes in the book in which the characters either see spirits or feel strongly about ‘omens,’ 

How do you feel about ‘spirits’, omens? Do you have any personal experience with them?

The book also has a strong religious theme and several scenes with the fishermen bringing their religious medals on board the schooners or throwing holy water into the sea and  ’crossing the waves’ to calm the ocean. What do you think of the religious beliefs of the fishermen and their families? 

Paddy Walsh is one of the book’s most memorable characters. What do the scenes tell you about his beliefs, his passions, his moral code?

Lillian Walsh and many other wives and mothers suffered after the sea claimed their husbands, sons, cousins and neighbors. They contended with their grief and they struggled to feed, clothe and nurture their children. How do you view these women and how they coped with their challenges?

Like the Marystown women, Patricia Walsh, Ambrose’s wife, and known as ‘Nana’ to the author, experienced her own struggles and heartache. What surprised you about Patricia and her actions in California?

Father McGettigan is also a strong character in the book. Like most people, he has good and bad traits. What did you think of him before the gale claims several of Marystown’s men? What did you think of him after he has to go door to door to inform the families of their losses?

Ambrose is another compelling character in the story. What did you think of his actions throughout the book, how he abandoned his family twice? Why do you think he made these choices?

Ambrose’s son Ronald was angry at his father for most of his life. How do you think traveling to his father’s Newfoundland birthplace and to his childhood homes in Brooklyn and Staten Island help heal him? How do you think Ronald changes at the book’s end? Ronald did not want to travel to Marystown. Why do you think he made the journey?

Author Barbara Walsh also experiences several emotions: fear, sadness, concern and a deep desire to learn more about the 1935 gale, her ancestors, and particularly her grandfather. How do you think the research into the storm and her father’s childhood affected her?

August Gale goes back in forth in time from present day to 1935. Did you enjoy the book’s format?



Why did you write this book and how long did it take you to do the research and the writing?

Why was this a difficult book to write?

What was the first trip to Newfoundland like?

What was it like to ‘interview’ your father and try to get him to talk about a past he had long kept secret?

What surprised you as you researched the 1935 gale, your grandfather and your father’s childhood past?

Who were some of your favorite people in the book and why?

How did you gather all the information to recreate the storm and the scenes leading up to the gale?

There were a lot of stories about spirits in the book. How did you get these stories?

Do you believe in spirits, omens, superstitions? 

How did the book affect your dad and Ambrose’s children?

How has the story affected you and your five sisters and mother?

What did the people of Marystown think of the book?

Did your feelings about Ambrose change as you researched and wrote the book?

The book reads like a novel, but is non-fiction. How did you get the information for scenes like when Paddy is out in the storm looking for the ‘stray dory’, or when Paddy and his sons row out to the beach and meet the two young boys and their dogs?

Will there be a movie?


SAMMY IN THE SKY. Illustrations copyright © 2011 by Jamie Wyeth. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.