Good Books for Book Groups: Whiskey & Charlie by Annabel Smith

Whiskey and Charlie CoverLast week, the LIT book club discussed the novel Whiskey & Charlie, an Australian book published here in the United States last year. Originally titled Whiskey Charlie Foxtrot, this is the story of twin brothers who grow apart as they grow up. Whiskey and Charlie are nearly inseparable as kids. They use walkie talkies to communicate and have a special shorthand language. As they grow, Charlie begins to resent Whiskey as the golden boy who gets everything he wants and doesn’t care about anyone but himself. Eventually the two stop talking completely. When Whiskey is hit by a car and sustains life-threatening injuries, Charlie is forced to reevaluate who is responsible for the rift and what might be done to heal it. As Whiskey’s coma stretches from days to months, his family begins to consider what life would be like without him.

Why It’s Good For Book Groups

Whiskey & Charlie is full of topics that can launch a great group discussion. A discussion will probably begin with the issues that come along with any sibling relationship. Whiskey and Charlie may be more complicated than most siblings, but the issues they face aren’t particularly unique. Other story lines deal with an unexpected pregnancy and adoption, and the issue of life support and medical intervention. These are issues that do frequently come up in other books, though. Something a little more unusual—and one of the ways Smith excels—is how she shows the way Charlie sees himself and develops much needed self-awareness through the novel.

While we had a good discussion, the majority of our club did agree there were some issues with the book. Much of this conversation centered around the way that some characters acted quite out of character. Without revealing too much plot, we also wondered if some elements of the story were resolved too easily to be fully plausible. This didn’t make Whiskey & Charlie a bad book for our discussion, since these questions actually led to interesting conversation, but it wasn’t the strongest book we’ve read, either. No two clubs are the same, so your discussions and feelings might be quite different from ours.

Resources We Used

We started with the book club questions that can be found both in the back of the U.S. paperback and in the online reading group guide. In a conversation with the author, Smith talks about a family relationship that went sour much in the same way asthe relationship of Whiskey and Charlie, and how it inspired the book. We love hearing about the writing process of our authors, and she discusses this, too. The website Dear Author reviewed the book and posed some particularly interesting questions about the appeal of the structure of the book. Voorheesville Public Library in New York has a very helpful set of questions available online as well. Finally, we looked at Booklist and other professional reviews.

What’s Up Next

Next month we’re reading Dead Wake by Erik Larson, the story of the sinking of the Lusitania. It’s a bit long for a book club selection, but with a riveting story and a focus on personal stories it’s a quick read. We’re looking forward to switching gears!

About the Author:

Liz Kirchhoff is an adult services librarian at the Barrington Area Library in the Chicago suburbs. She is a longtime book reviewer and has read for the American Library Association's Notable Books Council. After her first book came out last year, Liz swore she'd never do that again (even though she probably will). Now she happily reviews books written by others.

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