The Folk Keeper
Franny Billingsley
Boston Globe-Hornbook Winner*

Franny Billingsley
Boston Globe-Hornbook Honor*
National Book Award Finalist**

Ten years + lie between these two books, but anyone who has read The Folk Keeper will notice a version of Corinna in Chime’s Briony. Chime is getting rave reviews, and with good reason. It is a remarkable book in many ways. The Folk Keeper is, too, and both books share similar heroines and themes. *(edited to add in the BG-HB Awards; the 2011 awards were announced this summer–neat that both books are honored/awarded 10 years apart). **(edited to add the National Book Award information)

These are set in mythic worlds, drawn heavily from the mythology and folklore of the British Isles. The Folk Keeper’s setting is more recognizable, complete with the sense of the “Other” (the folk, Selkies, and the like); Chime’s setting took some getting used to for me, but people love it: an alternate London/suburb in some nebulously defined past.

Both heroines must struggle to find their true identity and embrace their true calling. Chime is darker and much more complex–definitely more suited to an older teen audience. Folk Keeper is a bit more straightforward, but packs a similar message for a younger teen audience: be who you were created to be. Both heroines use writing/journaling/words to make sense of their identity and what they really know of the world. Both find love. Both have to relearn how to think of themselves. And both are not quite human.

These are not typical paranormal romances, however. You will not find vampires and the like preying on young human victims. You will find young women struggling to come to grips with who they were created to be, whether they like it or not. You will see them choose to love others, wrestle with “putting off the old” and “putting on the new.”

Things to Note/Discuss

  • Chime contains a couple of scenes in which a boy is trying to force himself on Briony. Nothing terrible happens, but sensitive readers (parents) might want to know.
  • Chime also portrays what happens when someone is emotionally abused; we see everything through Briony’s eyes, and this is a wonderful book. Nevertheless, it is much darker and more complex than Folk Keeper and more geared towards older teens.
  • How does writing something down help us make sense of it? Have you ever used writing/journalling to make sense of something in your life? Have you ever written your prayers down?
  • Did you figure out Briony’s/Corinna’s true identity before she did?
  • What is your calling? Are there elements of your calling that you are struggling against?
  • Are there untruths you have been telling yourself (or having someone else tell you) that you must now free yourself of? Where can we find the true source of our identity? When someone tells us something about ourselves that is contrary to Scripture, how can/should we react?