printed copy

Summer Friends

Holly Chamberlin

ISBN 9780758292261
Publish Date 5/27/2014
Format Paperback
Categories General, Women's Fiction, Kensington

In this compelling novel set against the beautiful backdrop of Ogunquit, Maine, bestselling author Holly Chamberlin 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, and lasts throughout their college years in Boston. 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 to Maine, her life steeped in family and community. Twenty years pass, until one summer, Maggie returns to Ogunquit to pay an extended visit. And for the first time, the friends reflect on 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. . .

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

"A great summer read." –Fresh Fiction

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. Sarah’s sudden vulnerability awakens vulnerabilities in Adelaide, Cordelia, Cindy, and Stevie. More than ever each feels the need for succor, attention, support, and sympathy. Talk about how closely we adopt our friends’ pain and experience it as somehow our own. Do you think this is something women experience more than men, a sort of sympathetic engagement in the lives of those we love? Do you think this tendency is something taught or inherent—or, perhaps, both?

2. Courageous actions come in many forms. Talk about the acts of courage each of the main characters perform. For example: Stevie’s coming out to Cordelia and later, to her parents; Cordelia’s care of Stevie, her habit of standing up to bullies, her willingness to share parts of her true self (Pinky with Stevie and her foolish thoughts about losing her virginity to John Blantyre with Sarah); Sarah’s decision to keep the baby (was her brief attempt to offer him for adoption an act of courage or desperation?); Cindy’s attempts to have a family and her willingness to adopt Henry; Adelaide’s decision to give up her son and then her willingness to welcome him back into her life.

3. Do you think that Cindy’s refusal to sell the quilts is an act of selfishness? If her original idea of selling them was made in haste, is she justified in changing her mind? The quilts are hers, though their sale would benefit her family. When is one justified in not making a sacrifice for loved ones?

4. Consider the notion of what it means to “act out of character.” For example, Cordelia tends to underestimate her strengths and abilities, almost playing to an image of the silly young girl. Why do you think she engages in this sort of self-deprecation? How much of it is conscious or chosen? How much of it is the result of an image she has allowed others to create for her? Sarah wonders if she was ever really the responsible person people thought she was, or if she had been like an actor assuming a role written by someone else. Cindy feels resentment at having been placed in her current situation and is surprised to discover there are limits to her willingness to sacrifice for her family. We see mild-mannered Joe express the desire to kill Justin. Does anyone ever achieve a perfect harmony between the person inside and the person perceived? Or is there always tension between two perceived halves—halves that are really one complicated whole?

5. Adelaide briefly contemplates cutting all ties with her parents. Do you think she would be justified in doing so? After all, she feels she gets nothing positive from the relationship. But how can she really know what (if anything) her mother gets from it—good or bad, conscious or unconscious? When is someone justified in saying, “I appreciate the good things you have done for me, but I cannot forget or forgive the bad things”? Do blood ties require loyalty, or is loyalty a choice?

6. At one point Jack reminds Adelaide that Cordelia is a typically naive and self-righteous teenager, for whom the world is black and white and actions right or wrong. How do Cordelia and Sarah and Stevie mature (become more nuanced) over the course of the book? After Sarah’s death, Cordelia and Stevie are convinced that they will never be happy again. If they were older, do you think they would feel so sure of a dark future? How does age and experience change the process of grieving and recovery? Consider Cindy. Though devastated by the loss of her older daughter, she knows she has a duty to her remaining daughter, husband, and grandchild—as well as to herself—to carry on. Consider Adelaide’s process of recovery from the loss of her first child. How complete or successful has her recovery been, and how does Sarah’s pregnancy affect her healing?

7. “No person is an island.” How does Sarah’s pregnancy affect the lives of each of the other main characters, in ways both mundane and psychological or emotional? Is anyone better off for the changes wrought by Sarah’s getting pregnant? Is anyone worse off for having spent the final months of her life by her side? Stevie and Cordelia tell us they see no rhyme, reason, or good having resulted from Sarah’s death. Could an argument be made against that opinion?

8. Consider Cindy’s keeping secrets from Joe—the call from Mrs. Morrow; her decision to sell the heirloom quilts; and Sarah’s offer to put her baby up for adoption. In the first case, Cindy feels she is protecting her husband from further grief. In the second and third cases, she is afraid that he will oppose her opinions and thwart her will. How do you think Joe would feel if he knew his wife was withholding information, thoughts, and feelings from him? How does stress cause a person to act in unexpected and perhaps less than fully honest ways?

9. Cindy has trouble remembering that Sarah’s baby is not her own. Adelaide has trouble distancing her remembered teenage self from the pregnant teenage Sarah. Talk about why each woman might have difficulty establishing emotional boundaries in this situation. On a related note, Adelaide, tempted once again to search for the father of her son, suddenly rejects the notion as a betrayal of her relationship with her husband. Do you think this feeling of guilt is justified, given the fact that Jack knows all about her past? Or is something else keeping Adelaide from pursuing her former lover?

10. How might Sarah’s being pregnant have influenced Stevie’s decision to come out to Cordelia as gay? If Cordelia hadn’t become a friend, do you think Stevie would have been able to come out to her friends from school? Would she have chosen to confide in Sarah instead?

11. Do you think the Bauers should have attempted to hold Justin accountable for his actions regarding Sarah? Do you think it would have been worth the time, effort, and emotional cost to urge him to take responsibility for his child? Do you think they acted against the best interest of their daughter and grandson? Or do you think that the Bauers, given their strong sense of independence, made the right call? (On a related note, what do you think of their decision not to have an autopsy?) What do you think the Kanes, given Adelaide’s past and their own somewhat different character as a family, would have done if Cordelia had been the one to get pregnant?

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

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Customer Review

Summer Friends (Wednesday, July 30, 2014)
Reviewer: jbarr5

Summer Friends by Holly Chamberlin
This summer novel is about two women who met each other as girls and summered each year in the same town in Maine. Delphine Crandall not only works the family farm, but helps in the diner.
Maggie Weldon grew up on the other side of the tracks and has never wanted for anything in her life. They were the best of friends, even pinky promised some things and they were able to go off to college together.
Years later they reunite back in the town but Maggie can't get through to Delphanie. I found this a hard book to read because there are few characters but mostly they just needed to talk out their problems with one another
as to why they stopped communicating with each other. Del realizes when a family medical tragedy occurs that she has to back out of her plans with Maggie and doesn't give an explanation.
Maggie tries to help by intervening several times and Maggie doesn't see that side of things. Glad of the ending and getting things out in the open....
I received this book from The Kennsington Books in exchange for my honest review


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