Reading Group Guide

To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting.”
                                                                                         – Edmund Burke

  1. In the first pages of Tornado Warning the reader learns that Elin is from Old Greenwich, Connecticut. What is the relevance to revealing the community where she was mostly raised?
  2. No one dreams that they will fall victim to abuse, yet it can happen to anyone. Why do you think society still resists talking about and working to end domestic violence?
  3. Elin describes her mother’s need to let her go when dropping her at boarding school. Do we ever really let go of our children regardless of their age?
  4. When we first meet Derrick he seems heroic. Do you think young women are in some ways influenced that they need to be rescued? If so what forums are responsible for that influence?
  5. “I became adept at painting a portrait of a girl who had it together on the outside, yet on the inside the canvas was more like spin art.” Pg. 23-4. Why do you think Elin was compelled for the people in her life to see her as ‘having it together’?
  6. Dogs play a significant role in Tornado Warning. What did you think about the differences between Abby and Chinook and their respective importance?
  7. There are clues that Derrick has an edge. Why do you think young Elin didn’t choose to pay attention to it?
  8. What was the significance of “Little” and “Helpless” in the journal?
  9. The journal is not always addressed the same: E.g. Hi E Babes!, Hi E, Hey, To whom it May Concern.  Why do you think she changed her greeting and how did you feel about it?
  10. What do you think Elin means when she refers to the many different families that exist? Pgs. 37-8. She also speculates on ‘the missing pieces’ what do you think she means by that? Later she states: ‘the normalization of self-deprecation left her vulnerable.” What do you think she means by that?
  11. Clearly Derrick lacked positive role models, do you think that excuses his behavior?
  12. Elin describes her discomfort with relying on a prayer and has to remind herself that arming her kids with information is the best way to protect her children. Pgs. 42-3 What do you think she means by that? If you have children how do you protect them?
  13. Often times we still hear victim blaming in society. In the story even Elin as a young person carries the burden of responsibility and thus is blaming the victim herself. Why do you think she blames herself for putting up with Derricks mistreatment of her and how do you think we can educate people that victim blaming is unacceptable?
  14. The reader learns Elin’s brother, who was born before she was, died. Pg. 46 Why do you think she says perhaps she and her mother are connected by their different survivals?
  15. “Abuse had an effect on me, but it has not made my life any less worthy, any less important, or any less valuable. I refuse to walk around leaning on that experience like a pair of crutches. I am not damaged goods, I am me.” Pg. 53 Why do you think this distinction is so important for her to state?
  16. It is clear that on some level she was not at liberty to “be her age”. How important is it for children to be given the freedom to be at the stage in life where they are versus having adult expectations placed on them? Do you think the high praise she received for her independence left her vulnerable?
  17. What do you think is meant by: “do unto others, even at the risk of doing yourself completely in.” Pg. 69
  18. How did you feel when Elin announced to her parents that she was moving in with Derrick? As a parent how would you respond to that sort of pronouncement by your child?
  19. Janet tells Elin that Derrick physically hit Rita. Why do you think she defended him and chose not to believe what was being told to her?
  20. On page 84, we learn about signs and the hyper vigilance that is required of a parent—she compares it to watching the water line of a pool. After which she says: “I am not the dog…I am not the dog…I am not the dog.” Why?
  21. Discuss the metaphor of a Tornado Warning, how do you feel it fits in this story?
  22. On pages 92-3, Elin describes her own fears that one of her children could fall victim to abuse. Do you think parents can really protect their children?
  23. After brining Derrick home from the hospital she says: “It’s like we are on the same side in our rage.” Pg. 108 What do you think the significance of discovering her own rage is?
  24. Throughout the book Elin’s mother seems to be rooting for her to continue her education, how important do you think this was to young Elin and do you think her mother may have known something was wrong?
  25. Pg. 111, with complete deliberation Elin kicks Derricks leg from the bucket while washing his hair. How did that make you feel?
  26. As a grown woman Elin forgives Derrick. Pg. 114 Why? And how do you feel about forgiveness as a means for healing?
  27. How did you feel when Jimmy was introduced in the story?
  28. Has reading Tornado Warning shifted your perspective about domestic and dating abuse?
  29. If you observed abuse in a relationship how might you offer to help?
  30. What are some ways you could make a difference to create awareness about dating and domestic violence? Do you feel inspired to make a difference?

A note from the author:

Please feel free to contact me at if your book club creates a question not covered on this list and your group feels it should be included.