printed copy

The Summer Everything Changed

Holly Chamberlin

ISBN 9780758275349
Publish Date 6/25/2013
Format Trade Paperback
Categories Kensington, General, Women's Fiction

Bestselling author Holly Chamberlin welcomes readers to the sunny beaches and unspoiled beauty of Maine, in this poignant, thoughtful new novel of a mother and daughter in the midst of profound change. . .

When Louise Bessire was living in Boston, she dreamed of another way of life, far from the phony smiles and small-talk of corporate dinners. Now she's got what she wanted--though not exactly in the way she hoped. Blindsided by her husband's affair, Louise has used her divorce settlement to buy Blueberry Bay, a picturesque bed and breakfast in Ogunquit. And with a celebrity wedding taking place on the premises this summer, business is looking up.

While Louise deals with paparazzi and wedding planners, her sixteen-year-old daughter, Isobel, is falling hard for local boy Jeff Otten. Being singled out by Jeff--nineteen, handsome, and from a wealthy family--almost makes up for her father's increasing neglect. Yet even in the glow of golden beach days there are sudden, heart-wrenching revelations for both Louise and Isobel. It will be a summer that tests their strength and courage and proves that through every changing season, nothing is as steadfast as a mother's love. . .

Praise for the novels of Holly Chamberlin

"A thoughtful social commentary and tender narration of friendship and loyalty." --Publishers Weekly on Last Summer

"Nostalgia over real-life friendships lost and regained pulls readers into the story." –USA Today on Summer Friends


1. When we meet Isobel we learn that she is a notoriously open and honest person. Not long after, we see her begin to keep secrets from her mother, a new habit that takes even Isobel by surprise. Louise decides that this is merely a sign of her daughter’s increasing independence. Does this view have some merit? Or do you think Isobel’s keeping secrets from and then lying to her mother is an unconscious indication of anger or frustration? Is it perhaps an unconscious indication of a need for some control over her life after the divorce and move to Maine?

2. Isobel’s dear friend, Gwen, comes from a stable home environment, albeit after years in the foster care system. Isobel attributes Gwen’s good sense and judgment to her early childhood experiences; Gwen might argue that being the daughter of two loving and committed parents has helped make her strong. Talk about how the girls are different and yet alike, and about how nature and nurture have each played a part in forming their characters.

3. Catherine mourns the fact that she never had a child. She also feels angry about the insensitive and judgmental remarks various people have made regarding her personal choices. Talk about how having a child or not can, and often does, deeply determine a woman’s sense of purpose or fulfillment. Do you sympathize with Catherine’s decision (in some ways very practical) not to have a child without also having a loving husband?

4. Louise deliberately puts off facing her sense of something being “wrong” in her world until after the celebrity wedding, an all too common and understandable— if unfortunate—way of coping with undue stress. Later, Louise harshly criticizes herself for being blind to the truth about her own daughter while being acutely wrapped up in the troubles of others. Discuss Louise’s culpability—and/or her innocence—in her daughter’s distress.

5. Consider Isobel’s natural exuberance; her native trust in people’s goodness; her habit of avoiding and minimizing her pain; her fear of risking someone’s displeasure by displaying anger, even when she feels she has a legitimate complaint. How much of her complex personality might be attributed to her family’s changing dynamics? When are parents not to blame or to be held responsible for a child’s mental and emotional habits and character? In other words, when does a child become responsible for her own responses to the world?

6. Talk about the role of a father in a daughter’s life, especially during the confusing years of adolescence. In what ways can a father help or hurt his daughter’s burgeoning sense of self and independence? In particular, talk about how Andrew’s relationship with Isobel might have contributed to her falling victim to Jeff’s attentions and eventually, to his bullying. Should Louise have taken a more active role in compelling her ex-husband to be a more attentive parent? Or was this not her responsibility? What about Vicky’s responsibility— if any—to her stepdaughter?

7. It is said that a sense of self-esteem comes from what we achieve, not from the compliments we receive. By belittling Isobel’s efforts with CityMouse, a project that has great meaning for her, Jeff attacks Isobel in a very vulnerable place. It could be argued that the most violent damage Jeff inflicts on Isobel is psychological. Referring to your own experiences or those of friends and family members, talk about the various forms of abusive or bullying behavior to be found in a domestic relationship.

8. Isobel’s blog entries often speak to her strong belief in the importance of individualism, yet under pressure from Jeff, Isobel is led to betray herself and her own uniqueness. To this day, many otherwise strong and intelligent women fail to be true to themselves and their own beliefs when confronted with bullying tactics both at home and in the workplace. Considering your own experiences, what one piece of advice would you give to girls on the cusp of becoming young women?

9. The shame of being identified as a victim prevents many people, both men and women, from speaking out about an abusive situation. Can you understand Quentin’s cousin Lara’s reluctance to reveal Jeff as her abuser? Can you understand why her parents accepted money in return for keeping quiet? Can you understand Isobel’s fear that exposing Jeff as a bully might put those she loves in danger? Bullying is the abuse of power. What other reasons (real or imagined; practical or fantastic) might an abused person claim for keeping silent?

10. After Jeff has been arrested and the truth about his treatment of Isobel has come out, Louise and Isobel speculate about Jeff’s mother and the role she played in his career as a bully and an abuser. Talk about the part Sally Owen might have played in forming her son’s character. Is she perhaps partly to blame? Is she possibly blameless? What do you think she hoped to accomplish by sending Isobel the note, in which she acknowledges but fails to apologize for her son’s behavior?

About Holly Chamberlin:


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:

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