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Set in a picturesque Maine beach town, bestselling author Holly Chamberlin's heartwarming and insightful novel delves into the choices and changes faced by two families over the course of one eventful summer. . .
Everyone in Yorktide, Maine, knows sixteen-year-old Sarah Bauer. She's a good student and a dutiful daughter, as well as a beloved best friend to Cordelia Kane. So it's a surprise to all when sensible Sarah reveals that she is pregnant.
Though shocked, Sarah's family is supportive. But while Sarah reconciles herself to a new and different future, the consequences ripple in all directions. Her father--a proud, old-time Mainer--tries to find more work to defray expenses. Her younger sister grapples with a secret she can't share. Cordelia feels abandoned, and Cordelia's mother faces the repercussions of a long-ago decision. As Sarah's mother, Cindy, frets about how she'll juggle childcare with her job at the local quilting store, she seizes on an idea: to band together and make a baby quilt. Piece by piece, a beautiful design emerges. And as it progresses, reflecting the hopes and cares of the women who create it, each will find strength in the friendship and love that sustains them, in hardship and in joy. . .
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. 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
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
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?