printed copy

Summer Friends

Holly Chamberlin

ISBN 9780758235077
Publish Date 6/28/2011
Format Trade Paperback
Categories Women's Fiction, Kensington

In this compelling novel set against the beautiful backdrop of Ogunquit, Maine, the bestselling author of Tuscan Holiday and One Week in December portrays an unexpected friendship, and its consequences for two very different women as time inevitably sweeps them into adulthood…

Over the course of one eventful summer, nine-year-old native Mainer Delphine Crandall and Maggie Weldon, a privileged girl “from away,” become best friends. Despite the social gulf between them, their bond is strengthened during vacations spent rambling around Ogunquit’s beaches and quiet country lanes, and lasts throughout their college years in Boston. It seems nothing can separate them, yet after graduation, Delphine and Maggie slowly drift in different directions…

With her MBA, Maggie acquires a lucrative career, and eventually marries. Delphine is drawn back home, her life steeped in family and the Maine community she loves. Twenty years pass, until one summer, Maggie announces she’s returning to Ogunquit to pay an extended visit. And for the first time, the friends are drawn to reflect on their choices and compromises, the girls they were and the women they’ve become, the promises kept and broken—and the deep, lasting ties that even time can never quite wash away…

“An honest, forceful novel about love, family, and sacrifice.”--Booklist on One Week in December

“It does the trick as a beach book and provides a touristy taste of Maine’s seasonal attractions.” --Publishers Weekly on The Family Beach House

Prologue

1971

It was late August, the end of summer, at least, the end of summer for nine-year-old Delphine Crandall and almostnine- year-old Maggie Weldon. Both would be starting the fourth grade in about a week, Delphine at the local public grammar school five miles from her home in Ogunquit, Maine, and Maggie at Blair Academy, a private grammar school in Concord, Massachusetts, where her family lived. It was the end of the summer, but it also felt like the end of the world. It was bad enough having to go back to school, but it was far worse to be parting from each other for what would be a whole ten months. In other words, forever. The girls were hanging out in the backyard of the Lilac House, the expensive and recently renovated home Maggie’s parents had rented for the summer. There was a giant swing set, metal monkey bars, and a slide. Two banana-seated girls’ bikes lay on the grass; each had a plastic basket in front and streamers from the ends of the looped handlebars. The new pink bike was Maggie’s. The old red bike had once belonged to Delphine’s ten-year-old sister, Jackie, but it belonged to her now.

Delphine, who was swinging ever higher, legs pumping furiously, wore a faded red T-shirt that, like her bike, had once belonged to Jackie. Across the front were the words—also now faded—“Red Sox Rule.” Her jean shorts had been cut down from full-length jeans that had badly frayed at the knees. Her sneakers, caked in mud from a morning’s romp around the edges of the pond in the woods behind her house, had once been white, back when her mother had bought them at a resale shop in Wells. Her hair, which was thick and the brown of glossy chestnuts, hung in a messy braid down her back, fastened near the end by a rubber band that had once held together a bunch of scallions. Her eyes were as dark and luminous as her hair. Her skin was deeply tanned. Since school had let out she had grown an amazing three inches and was now as tall as Jackie, which meant no more hand-me-down pants. Secretly, Delphine hoped she would grow to be really tall someday. But given the fact that both of her parents were well under six feet, she doubted that she would.

Maggie was on the swing next to Delphine. She was too hot to move and was sitting as still as possible. The neck of her pale pink T-shirt was embroidered in darker pink thread. Her white shorts, which she hated but which her mother made her wear, came almost to the knee and, worse, had a crisp pleat right down the middle of each leg. Her sneakers were white, coated only that morning with that liquid paint- like stuff that came in a bottle with a picture of a nurse on the front. The coating was her mother’s idea, too. Maggie’s hair, which was the color of jonquils, was neatly drawn into a ponytail and held in place by a wooly purple ribbon. Her skin, almost white during the winter, was now a pale gold. Her large, almost navy blue eyes were currently distorted by the thick lenses of a pair of tortoiseshell-framed glasses she had gotten right after school had let out for the summer. She was still embarrassed by them, though her parents and even Mr. and Mrs. Crandall had assured her that she still looked pretty. Maggie was tall for her age, taller than Delphine, who, even though she had sprouted, was never going to be a towering Weldon. Maggie’s mother bragged about being “model tall” at five feet ten inches, and Maggie’s dad was six feet two inches. Peter, her thirteen-year-old brother, was already the tallest kid in his class, though he was terrible at basketball, something Maggie found very funny. She was bad at basketball, too, but it didn’t matter for girls to be bad at sports. Not at Maggie’s school, at least.

Around her left wrist, each girl wore a macramé bracelet. Earlier in the summer, Dephine’s sister had taught them how to make them, and if the bracelets weren’t as perfect as the ones Jackie turned out, Maggie and Delphine thought they were beautiful. Delphine’s was already dirty and a bit frayed. Maggie’s looked as fresh as the day Delphine had given it to her. Still, when it got dirty, which it would, Maggie would not let her mother coat it with that white paint stuff she used on her sneakers. That would be so embarrassing.

“Are you sure these glasses don’t make me look like a dork?” Maggie asked for what Delphine thought was the bazillionth time.

Delphine began to slow her swinging. “I’m sure,” she said. “Why would I want to be friends with a dork?”

“Ha, ha, very funny. I just hope the kids at school won’t laugh at me.”

“If anyone laughs at you—which they won’t—tell them your best friend in the world will come down from Maine and beat them up.” Her feet dragged in the sand below the swing and she came to a stop.

“No!” Maggie looked genuinely shocked. “You wouldn’t really beat someone up, would you?”

Delphine grinned. “Try me. I beat up Joey, once.”

“Liar. Your brother’s, like, huge compared to you.”

“Well, I bet I could beat him up. He makes me mad enough.”

“Because he’s a boy and boys stink,” Maggie said emphatically. “And they’re stupid.”

“Mostly,” Delphine said with a shrug. “My dad’s okay, though. And your dad is pretty nice.”

“Yeah, but my brother is gross.”

“Maybe boys get nicer as they get older. Like, really old, like our dads. Well, anyway,” Delphine said, “remember you’re leaving in like an hour. We have to do a swear about being best friends. We have to do a pinky swear.”

“What’s that?” Maggie asked.

Delphine laughed. “Come on! Everyone knows what a pinky swear is.”

“Well, I don’t. We don’t do pinky swears in my school.”

Delphine rolled her eyes dramatically. It made her feel slightly dizzy. Maybe it was all that swinging. And it was really hot. “Oh, all right,” she said. “Stick out your pinky. Now I link my pinky with yours and we swear whatever we’re swearing and then we pull our pinkies apart.”

The girls linked pinkies and Maggie said, “Me first. I swear I will be your best friend forever and ever.”

“Me too,” Delphine said.

“No, you have to say all the words.”

“Okay. I swear I will be your best friend forever and ever.”

“Pinky swear.”

The girls pulled their pinkies apart, and Maggie said, “Ow.”

Delphine leapt off her swing and stood with her hands on her hips. “So, write to me the minute you get home later, okay?”

“Okay. And you write to me the minute I leave, okay?”

“Okay.” Delphine considered. “But I won’t have much to say. Maybe I should wait till just before I go to bed tonight. Maybe Joey will do something stupid at dinner. The other night he laughed so hard at something Jackie said milk came out of his nose and all over the table. It was gross. Also kind of funny, though.”

“I guess it’s okay if you wait.”

Delphine suddenly looked doubtful. “You’re sure your parents promised you could come back to Ogunquit next year?”

“Yeah. Mom said Dad already gave the guy who owns the house some money. So it’s all set.”

“Cool. I’m thirsty. Does your mom still have stuff in the ’fidgerator?”

“Refrigerator,” Maggie corrected. “I think so.”

Maggie got up from her swing, and with their arms around each other’s waists the girls trooped into the Lilac House for lemonade.

READING GROUP GUIDE

1. When the reader first meets Delphine, she appears to lead a simpler, less fraught, and perhaps less self-focused life than Maggie, and yet before long the reader sees that in actuality Delphine is more self-conscious and more aware of and troubled by issues like social and financial status than her old friend. Talk about the differences between the inner and outer, or social, selves of the women. How does each woman meet or defy the reader’s initial expectations?

2. At several points in the novel, Maggie and Delphine talk about the expectations their parents set for them, the expectations they assumed their parents set for them, and the lingering effects of their upbringings. For example, to a large extent Maggie has repeated her mother’s style of parenting with her daughters, a style she refers to as the opposite of ‘helicopter parenting’. To a large extent, Delphine denies her mother’s somewhat stern style of parenting by ‘spoiling’ her youngest niece. Maggie is sure that her parents are proud of her social achievements. Delphine has come to doubt that her parents have any respect for the sacrifices she’s made for the family. Talk about to what extent it’s possible for an adult child to truly and irrevocably liberate herself from needing or wanting a parent’s love and approval.

3. At various moments throughout the novel, both Maggie and Delphine realize that since their reunion they have been making assumptions about and even passing judgment upon the other’s life, something that as children and then young adults they had never done. At one point Delphine notes that many if not all children have an ability to accept – almost not even to perceive - differences that might strike an adult as formidable obstacles to a relationship. In the context of the book as well as in the context of your own lives, talk about how along with a maturing of intelligence and a ripening of rational judgment, the passing of time can also bring a narrowing of creativity, imagination, and liberality, and of how it can sometimes even lead to a person’s making unfair, even discriminatory decisions. Can such a decay of kindness and acceptance be reversed?

4. Do you think there is any value in Delphine’s ‘relationship of convenience’ with Harry Stringfellow? If so, where does that value lie? Do you think Mr. and Mrs. Crandall’s silence about the unusual relationship is a sign of respect or disrespect for their daughter? The same question could be asked about Jemima’s silence or refusal to voice an opinion.

5. The three women with whom Delphine has a personal relationship – her sister, Jackie; her neighbor, Jemima; and, of course, Maggie – are each quite different and serve quite a different purpose in Delphine’s life. Talk about the value of each unique relationship, as well as about each relationship’s possible flaws.

6. Maggie repeatedly claims that she has never had one great passion or one great love of her life. Do you think that most people are led to expect a central, defining relationship with a person, a career, or a physical place? And if so, is this a damaging romantic fantasy or is a defining passion a healthy goal towards which to work?

7. Today it’s common for people to move away from the place where they were born and raised, and as a result, families can be scattered far and wide and communication becomes less face-to-face and more orchestrated by intermediary channels. The Crandalls, however, are an example of a family that has chosen to remain within close proximity of each other. Do you think Delphine made the right choice to return to Ogunquit after college? At one point she mentions that her homecoming was entirely undistinguished; she was treated as if nothing about her could possibly have changed. Should she have remained in Boston for a few more years before returning home? Should she have never gone home at all? And did she believe she ever really had a choice?

8. Maggie’s family moved often, her grandparents lived across the country, and Mrs. Weldon had a penchant for extreme and frequent redecoration of their home. Interestingly, the adult Maggie lives in the town next to the one in which her parents finally settled and for years has been seeking some sort of ‘real’ connection with others – whether through a church community, or with Delphine, or finally, with her husband. What do you think is the source of Maggie’s intense loneliness?

9. Delphine believes that change for the sake of change is fine for the young who have plenty of time to correct and recover from their mistakes. Maggie thinks that Delphine’s opinion is a smart one but isn’t so sure she feels like being smart at this moment in her life. Discuss when and in what circumstances it’s healthier or wiser to accept what is, rather than leave it behind for something other. Alternately, discuss when it is healthier or wiser to move on – and how it’s ever possible to know the difference.

10. Delphine comes to realize that for a long time she equated selflessness with maturity. When do you think she began to take self-sacrifice too far so that it eventually became not a sign of maturity but one of weakness?

11. Maggie claims that she’s never really had to sacrifice her self for the sake of others, except perhaps to some extent when her children were small. Given, for example, her devotion to her friendship with Delphine, do you think Maggie is underestimating her capacity for sacrifice?

12. While watching the journalist Robert Evans on television one evening, Maggie and Delphine discuss the notion of work and its meaning. Talk about your own thoughts on the relative merits of work performed for the good of the wider world and work performed for the good of one’s immediate world. Is one inherently more valuable than the other? In our society at large, or in your more local community, is one kind of work considered – rightly or wrongly – to be more valuable? Where does a person’s social responsibility begin and end?

13. Delphine firmly believes that when revisiting one’s past, perhaps especially one’s romantic past, there is a danger of rekindling a generalized longing, restlessness, and dissatisfaction in one’s present life, the result of which can only cause harm. Given your own experiences, do you agree with her?

14. In the Epilogue, Delphine is grateful for Maggie, the person who “lighted the flame within” her. Share a personal story of someone who greatly changed and deeply affected your life in a positive way. Does that person – alive or dead; present or absent – continue to play a supportive role in your life?

15. Where would you like to see Maggie and Delphine ten, even twenty years in the future?

About Holly Chamberlin:

CLICK HERE TO READ AN EXCERPT OF THE BEACH QUILT.


Holly Chamberlin was born and raised in New York City. After earning a Master’s degree in English Literature from New York University and working as an editor in the publishing industry for ten years, she moved to Boston, married and became a freelance editor and writer. She and her husband now live in downtown Portland, Maine, in a restored mid-nineteenth-century brick townhouse with Betty, the most athletic, beautiful and intelligent cat in the world. Readers can visit her website at: www.HollyChamberlin.com.


Average Customer Review

Based on 3 reviews


Customer Review

A Memory-Provoking Take of friendship (Saturday, July 30, 2011)
Reviewer: Nancy Narma

Sometimes friendship can withstand the test of time, distance, patience, determination and love. When Delphine Crandall, a native of Ogunquit, Maine, met Maggie Weldon, a summer visitor in 1971, they struck up a friendship and “pinky-swore” they would be best friends forever and ever. This stayed true throughout countless summers and into their college years, then, as personalities changed, with fear setting in and self-confidence retreating, their friendship took “a leave of absence” over many years encompassing changes in their families and the path of life both had chosen to take. After 20+ years and many unanswered letters, Maggie contacted Delphine through her parents and announced she had decided to spend her vacation in Ogunquit and catch up on life with her old friend . Delphine dreaded this. She was satisfied with her life and didn’t want Maggie butting into her business and asking questions she had no intensions of answering. Delphine liked her privacy and ignored the constant battle within herself that she was indispensable and unappreciated around the family farm business plus dealing with her unhealed heart from breaking up with the now famous Robert Evans so many years ago. Had she done the right thing? Or, was she just scared of what the outcome could have been for both of them? There were times she wished she could “try her wings” and experience life as Maggie had done—complete with career, husband and family. However, this seemed not to be, especially with her long-standing relationship with Harry. Maggie, on the other hand, envied her long-lost friend’s capabilities and independence. This was a slow, extremely detailed read that may “hit you in the gut” as it, perhaps, will tug at your own memories.
Nancy L. Narma

A thought provoking read! (Wednesday, July 27, 2011)
Reviewer: Toni

I’m giving “Summer Friends” 3.5 Stars.

“Summer Friends” is a story of love and friendship. What would you do to win a friend back? How long is too long to rekindle a friendship? Would you give up on life and love to do your family duty?

The innocence of first love and friendship can be destroyed in an instant. Delphine and Maggie couldn’t be more different as children. They become instant friends and the love and companionship seems to be strong and healthy until events unfold for these two young women. Questions are left unanswered and dreams are left unfulfilled. Two broken hearts drift apart, lonely and shattered.

Delphine Crandall is a woman who lives for her family and community. She feels secure and protected by all that is around her. Once a vivacious and adventurous child, Delphine is now a stoic self sacrificing adult. What changed her perception in life? Delphine is content and happy at 49. That is until an old friend comes to visit. Her forgotten past that she buried away comes rushing back. Never wanting to revisit lost opportunities and regrets, Delphine does not welcome her friend back with open arms.

Maggie Weldon has a charmed life. She has a loving husband, two beautiful daughters and a fulfilling career. Something is missing and she believes she knows what it is, her friend Delphine. Her friend has always held a special place in her heart and she misses what they had. Never one to give up, Maggie decides to drag Delphine back into her life, even if she fights her the whole way. She knows what they had will last a lifetime and she is done waiting for Delphine to come to her.

Twenty years ago, Delphine walked away from a promising life and Maggie. The mystery of that departure has plagued both women, but in different ways. This story is about a journey of forgiveness and revelations. Ms. Chamberlin eases us through the years, from the beginning to the end. Taking us through the process of discovery that is frustrating and gratifying. Delphine’s reasons for her drastic change in early adulthood, is described in a slow thought out process. Maggie’s own discovery of her unsatisfying life is also revealed. Together the women realize what friendship is really about and come away stronger women.

“Summer Friends” is a thought provoking book. It makes you look at yourself in a different way, making you question past choices and decisions. While the book is a slow read I believe it works. Self reflection sometimes can’t be thrown in your face. You need to sit back and allow it to flow over you and sink in. Pick up “Summer Friends” to read about the beauty of commitment between two people that can last a lifetime.

For the Love of Friendship (Friday, July 22, 2011)
Reviewer: Amy Lignor

A book with an in-depth look at pure and utter friendship, with a huge amount of soul and heart.

Readers begin in the 1970’s in a beautiful part of Maine, with white sand beaches, sun and relaxation galore. Delphine Crandall lives in Maine full time. A girl who has a huge, supportive family all around, wears faded t-shirts, and loves the old bicycle that was passed down to her by her older sister. It’s a fun summer, especially when she crosses paths with Maggie Weldon. Maggie is a great girl who has a completely opposite life from Delphine’s. She lives in Lilac House - a very wealthy ‘cottage’ that her parents renovated and will come to every summer. She dresses to the nines, her bike is brand new and shiny, and she attends Blair Academy in Concord, Massachusetts. Of course, at the age of nine, no one cares about wealth or connections, they’re just looking for a fast friend. As the summer comes to an end, Delphine and Maggie make a ‘pinky swear,’ vowing that - no matter what - they will stay friends for life.

Over twenty years later, readers join Maggie Weldon Wilkes in her new Lexus heading towards Maine. It’s been a long time since she’s seen her old best friend. They stayed together through thick and thin, but something happened in their Senior year of college that broke them apart, and Maggie is determined to find out what exactly that was way back when. She has children now - children who are at college and only call Mom when they need money. And she also has a husband named Gregory who is tops in his field, and most of their marriage is done by text messaging because they’re always on the run.

As Maggie journeys back to Maine, and the remembrances come back full force of a friendship so dear that she wants nothing more than to get it back, she notices how the world has evolved. Where there was once peace and serenity, there is now tourists galore and McMansions up and down the coast. When she gets into town, she and Delphine get together for their first talk in a long time, and the novel begins to delve into everything from envy and jealousy of each other’s stations in life; to love, sacrifice, and renewing the “vow” that two friends made so long ago.

Delphine is unmarried with no children. Her boyfriend is a lovely man, but has an ill wife who he can’t divorce because he made a vow a long time before. Delphine works her behind off at her family’s farm, and spends her spare time knitting, reading, and conversing with her very large cat. She has a difficult time meeting up with Maggie again - not only does Maggie have “wealthy” beliefs that don’t jive with Delphine’s life, Delphine also wants nothing to do with explaining to Maggie why their relationship had to come to an end.

The author does a brilliant job of showing the reader how people and friendships evolve as much as the location itself. Both women have come far in life. And, although their differences didn’t matter at nine years of age, they create quite a stunning gap when people mature and try to understand a soul that is completely different from themselves. Each and every chapter is lovely and will remind readers just how much their one true friend means to them. Most likely, after this read, there will be a great many phone calls “catching up” with the ones you love.


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