The little beach house on Martha's Vineyard has a rickety porch and no
closets, but the gorgeous location is unbeatable--and more than enough
to entice three total strangers into a house share for the summer. . .
At first, the only thing Gincy, Danielle, and Clare have in common is a
desire to spend weekends away from the city. No-nonsense Gincy has
worked hard to leave her small-town childhood behind. Danielle grew up
with every advantage and is looking for a husband who'll fit neatly into
her pampered life, while Clare is enjoying a last burst of independence
before marrying her ambitious fiancé. Yet lazy beach days and warm,
conversation-filled nights forge an unexpected connection. And over the
course of one eventful summer, Gincy, Danielle, and Clare will discover
that friendship isn't always measured in how well you know a person's
past--but in opening each other's eyes to everything the future could
hold. . .
"Nostalgia over real-life friendships lost and regained pulls readers into the story." –USA Today
on Summer Friends
"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
1. In the beginning of the book, Gincy presents herself as
“the go-to girl.” Clare says that she’s “pleasant and easy to
please.” Danielle claims to have good self-esteem. In what
way is each character right or wrong in her self-assessment?
By the end of the book, how might each character’s self-
description have changed?
2. Gincy despises her brother Tommy for being a drunken,
unmotivated “dirtbag.” Danielle loves and to some extent
idolizes her older brother, David, a successful doctor.
Clare’s brothers, James and Philip, have little if anything
to do with her, though she wishes they were close. How
might the brother-sister relationship have influenced
each character’s chosen lifestyle or romantic decisions?
3. Gincy dutifully loves her father, though until certain
events in this story, she hasn’t truly appreciated his capacity
for caring. Clare respects her father though he only
values her through the achievements of her fiancé.
Danielle genuinely loves her father, and he adores her as
his “little girl.” How might the father-daughter relationship
have influenced each character’s chosen lifestyle or
4. Gincy has little love and no respect for her mother. Clare
loves her mother, in spite of the fact that Mrs. Wellman’s
dashed hopes for independence might have negatively influenced
Clare’s ability to achieve the same. Danielle
loves her mother but is wary of being smothered by her
concern. How might the mother-daughter relationship
have influenced each character’s chosen lifestyle or romantic
5. Talk about the notion of parental pressure and how each
character to some extent misinterprets her parents’ expectations
of her. For example, Gincy feels that her parents have no expectations for her and don’t even want
her in their house. Clare assumes that her parents expect
her to fail. Danielle thinks that her parents are eagerly
awaiting her move back home. How might each character
be right or wrong?
6. All three of the young women claim to have trouble forming
friendships. Gincy has an unhealthy “mascot” sort of
relationship with Sally, her office mate. Clare longs for
the easy intimacy of childhood friendships. Danielle feels
alienated from the girls with whom she grew up. Gincy,
Clare, and Danielle’s coming together is partly a matter
of timing; each character is ready, whether she knows it or
not, to reach out to another person. What other factors
might have contributed to the formation of this seemingly
7. Gincy feels great remorse for her behavior after Sally
drunkenly declares her love. She feels that she has not
taken Sally seriously as a person, that she has “underestimated
(Sally’s) capacity for joy and pain.” Do you
think Gincy is right to feel remorse, or do you think she is
being too hard on herself? How do her feelings about her
behavior toward Sally relate to her grief over the suicide
death of her colleague, and to the anxieties about her potential
life as Rick’s partner?
8. Discuss the notion of privacy in a committed relationship.
Consider Clare and her concerns about keeping a secret
9. Explore how each character views marriage. In what ways
are their views naïve or mature? For example, Gincy, perhaps
with her parents’ unspectacular marriage in mind,
has strenuously avoided the notion of commitment, and
yet, when Rick asks her to move in with him, the issue that
holds her back is her own perceived unworthiness. Clare,
on the brink of a wedding she doesn’t quite want, sees
marriage as an inevitable duty, almost a trap. She also sees
it as a state of “belonging” with other women. There isn’t
much joy in Danielle’s view of marriage. She sees it as a
necessary goal, a sign of maturity, “an end to something.”
10. Discuss the characters’ ideas about men. In what ways are
their ideas simplistic, realistic, or idealized? Which character
do you think most understands and appreciates
men as full human beings? Which character do you think
least understands and appreciates them?
11. Discuss the notion of a “leap of faith”—what is required
when we’ve told ourselves we want one thing and quite
another thing suddenly presents itself as a viable option.
How does each character take—or not take—that leap?
12. At one point Rick says, “Life is short, Gincy. When something
good happens, you embrace it.” But it’s not always
easy to determine what is good for us at any given moment.
Sometimes we aren’t prepared to make a big decision
about our happiness. Discuss this in relation to
Gincy, Clare, and Danielle.
13. Discuss the notion of honesty and fidelity, lying versus not
telling the entire truth, in the case of each character. Consider
Claire’s one-night stand with Finn in Boston; Gincy’s
aborted one-night stand with Jason in Oak Bluffs; and
Danielle’s continuing to date other men even while dating
Chris. How is each situation different? Is any situation
understandable, if not exactly excusable?
14. Clare tells us that she is no longer in love with Win, but
that she does still love him “in the way you love someone
you know so well it’s almost like loving yourself. Or, at
least, being used to yourself. Win was just there like I was
just there.” Discuss the validity of love as habit, or its lack
15. Win’s brother Trey says, “Family owes something to family.
Even if it’s just pretending to get along.” Do you
agree? Discuss in relation to Gincy, Clare, and Danielle.
16. Clare worries that by marrying Win, who holds opinions
she finds offensive, she might be “by proxy a narrow-
minded, spiritless person.” Discuss the notion of collusion
in a relationship. Is it possible to be with a person whose
values and morals differ seriously from your own and not
be somehow affected by them?
17. At one point Clare says, “You can get over anger . . . Hurt,
too, can be mended... But sadness is different. It doesn’t
seem to ever go away; it rests deep inside. Sadness is profound
disappointment.” Discuss this.
18. Clare wonders if longevity in a marriage is a worthwhile
accomplishment if the years together are “bland, possibly
soulless.” Is Clare’s question naïve or mature? She also assumes
that in a long-term exclusive relationship it is impossible
to experience “flashes of supreme passion and
knowledge.” Do you agree with her?
19. Rick believes that “Life can’t be about expectation. . . .
Nothing’s ever as you expect it to be. Life has to be about
risk. If you want to be happy, there’s no other way.” Discuss
this in relation to Gincy, Clare, and Danielle.
20. After Clare leaves Win at the altar, Gincy says, “One person
is brave enough to change and others follow.” Discuss
how this is true—or not true—for each of the characters.