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Discussion Guide

The Book of Atlantis Black: The Search for a Sister Gone Missing

By Betsy Bonner

A young woman is found dead on the floor of a Tijuana hotel room. An ID in a nearby purse reads “Atlantis Black.” The police report states that the body does not seem to match the identification, yet the body is quickly cremated and the case is considered closed.

 

So begins Betsy Bonner’s search for her sister, Atlantis, and the unraveling of the mysterious final months before Atlantis’s disappearance, alleged overdose, and death. With access to her sister’s email and social media accounts, Bonner attempts to decipher and construct a narrative: frantic and unintelligible Facebook posts, alarming images of a woman with a handgun, Craigslist companionship ads, DEA agent testimony, video surveillance, police reports, and various phone calls and moments in the flesh conjured from memory. Through a history only she and Atlantis shared―a childhood fraught with abuse and mental illness, Atlantis’s precocious yet short rise in the music world, and through it all an unshakable bond of sisterhood―Bonner finds questions that lead only to more questions and possible clues that seem to point in no particular direction. In this haunting memoir and piercing true crime account, Bonner must decide how far she will go to understand a sister who, like the mythical island she renamed herself for, might prove impossible to find.


This discussion guide and recommended reading was shared and sponsored in partnership with Tin House Books.

Discussion Questions

Use these discussion questions to guide your next book club meeting.

The Book of Atlantis Black begins with “On June 25, 2008, a young woman with my sister’s IDs was found dead on the floor of a hotel room in Tijuana.” How does knowing this information from the beginning shape or inform your reading of the book?
Transcribed sections from Atlantis’ videotaped interview appear throughout the memoir. What purpose do these serve?
Betsy and Atlantis’ mother plays a significant role in the book. Discuss any parallels between Atlantis and her mother’s stories.

"Haunting, mind-bending. . . . A wrenching portrait."
― The New York Times Book Review

"Gripping. . . . Betsy Bonner is the storyteller, but Atlantis Black is the story, the mystery, the victim, sometimes the perpetrator and always the question."
― NPR

"Evocative. . . . Bonner manages to create something richer than a real-life whodunnit."
― Split Lip Magazine

"You'll read it in one sitting."
― HelloGiggles

"A haunting, profound investigative memoir that will resonate with readers as both a compelling true crime story and an affecting literary work."
― Library Journal, Starred Review