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
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
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
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
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
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
“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.”
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. 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
“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
“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
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
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
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
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?