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Introduction

The Dry 
by Jane Harper

Title

Movie

Pacific Standard, Reese Witherspoon's production company, has acquired the rights to The Dry. The film does not have a release date or trailer as yet.

Author

Jane Harper
©Jane Harper 2017

Book Trailer

Author Interviews

About the Book

A mystery that starts with a sad homecoming quickly turns into a nail-biting thriller about family, friends, and forensic accounting according to the first line of the Kirkus review.

After getting a note demanding his presence, Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown for the first time in decades to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. Twenty years ago when Falk was accused of murder, Luke was his alibi.

Falk and his father fled under a cloud of suspicion, saved from prosecution only because of Luke’s steadfast claim that the boys had been together at the time of the crime. But now more than one person knows they didn’t tell the truth back then, and Luke is dead.

Amid the worst drought in a century, Falk and the local detective question what really happened to Luke.

As Falk reluctantly investigates to see if there’s more to Luke’s death than there seems to be, long-buried mysteries resurface and so do the lies that have haunted them. Falk will find that small towns have always hidden big secrets. (From the publisher.)

About the Author

Jane Harper was born in Manchester, England, and moved to Australia with her family at age eight. She spent six years in Boronia, Victoria, and during that time gained Australian citizenship. 

Returning to England with her family as a teenager, she lived in Hampshire before studying English and History at the University of Kent in Canterbury. 

Jane Harper has worked as a print journalist for 13 years both in Australia and the UK.

After she had a short story accepted for inclusion in the annual Fiction Edition of The Big Issue (Melbourne), Jane turned to fiction writing in a serious way. In 2014, she signed up for a 12-week online creative writing course. The story she submitted for acceptance into the program turned out to be the beginning of her first novel, The Dry. By the end of the three months, Jane had her first draft of the novel.

The Dry won the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript in 2015. Rights have since been sold in more than 20 territories and been optioned for a film as stated above.

Jane and her husband live in St. Kilda, outside of Melbourne, with their daughter. Jane now writes fiction full time. Her second novel, Force of Nature, is being released in the US on February 6, 2018.

Discussion Questions

  1. The novel begins with a prologue that describes flies being drawn to the scene of the murders. Why is this approach such a powerful way to introduce the events of the novel? 
  2. How does the drought color our impressions of Kiewarra, its residents, and the Australian bush throughout the novel? 
  3. Secrets and lies and the reasons why people keep them are the core of this novel. Luke and Gretchen both keep the secret about their whereabouts on the day Ellie died, even from Falk, but for different reasons. How does the keeping of this secret affect their relationship with each other and with Falk? How does it impact the way the truth comes out about Ellie's death? 
  4. Why do you think Gretchen is so reluctant to tell Falk who Lachie's real father is? Who do you think it is? 
  5. Jamie Sullivan's secret needlessly hinders the investigation into the Hadlers' deaths, and yet his fears about what people in a small town might do if they found out about his—and Dr. Leigh's—homosexuality are understandable. Similarly, Ellie Deacon keeps the secret of her father's abuse, with tragic consequences. What does this tell us about the nature of secrets, and the need for truth? Is it better for some secrets to be kept? 
  6. "Falk felt a sharp pang of longing for what might have been" (p. 112). How has growing up without a mother affected Falk's life? In what ways does this become especially apparent when he and his father move to Melbourne and cut all ties with his childhood home? 
  7. "Why couldn't he let her in? Why wouldn't he let her in? Did he not trust her? Or did he not love her enough?" (p. 140). Falk's adult relationships have not been what he hoped. How have the events surrounding Ellie's death and his relationship with Ellie in life affected Falk and his ability to engage with people? 
  8. Do you think that leaving town was the right way for Erik Falk to deal with the situation he and Aaron were facing? How did his father's doubts about him affect Aaron? 
  9. "I know Luke was your mate and Dow's a dickhead, but in a lot of ways they were quite similar. Both larger than life, got tempers on them, always had to be right. Two sides of the same coin, you know?" (p. 136). Luke is revealed to us as someone who had both good and not so good qualities. In spite of their long friendship, Falk cannot quite rule out that Luke might have committed the murders of his wife and son. In what ways did Luke differ from Grant Dow? What was it about Luke that made people think him capable of murder? 
  10. "As they shook hands for what would prove to be the last time, Falk found himself struggling to remember, once again, why they were still friends." (p. 185). In spite of their shared childhood, Luke and Falk had very different personalities. What is it that spells the end of their friendship? Do you think they would have remained friends if they hadn't lied about where they were at the time of Ellie's death, and/or if Luke had told Aaron where he really was in the first place?
  11. The bush, the rock tree, and the Kiewarra River are the scenes of several major events in the novel. Why do you think Aaron is drawn to these places? What does the contrast between the wild places in the novel and those tamed by human habitation show us? 
  12. Jane Harper has chosen to tell this story in the past tense and third person, from Aaron Falk's point of view, and with flashbacks from various characters threaded throughout. What is the effect of this? How does it shape the reader's understanding of Aaron himself, as well as of the other characters in the novel? 
  13. Some of the flashback scenes are shown to the reader a second time in a more expanded form as the novel progresses. What does this device show us about the reliability of the assumptions we make about the events and the characters? 

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Flatiron Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.