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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

The Summer Place

1. The novel includes very different mother-daughter relationships: Veronica and Sarah, Sarah and Ruby, Annette and Ruby. How are their relationships similar, and how are they different? What do you think of Annette’s rejection of motherhood? How did it affect Sarah to become a stepmother to Ruby at such a young age? Why do you think Veronica has such a different relationship with Sarah, her daughter, compared to Sam, her son? Are there “right” and “wrong” ways to be a mother?

2. The relationship between Eli Danhauser and his first wife, Annette, was cut short when she left him and their young child, Ruby. Were you shocked by her rejection of motherhood? Did she redeem herself to Ruby at the end? How was this balanced by the stepparent relationship between Ruby and Sarah?

3. This story includes many secrets, some of which are revealed by the end and some of which are not. Do you think the characters make the right choices about which secrets to keep and which to reveal? Is there a right way to share a secret that will change someone’s life? Is honesty always the best policy? How do different backgrounds --- such as between generations, or between women and men --- affect the decisions made by different characters about their secrets?

4. After we hear the story of Sarah’s friend Marni, she thinks to herself that the story is a warning, “End your marriage and you and your children will suffer” (page 127). Do you think this is a common feeling among married women thinking about separation? How about among married men? Discuss the difference.

5. All three women in the Weinberg/Danhauser family have built professional lives around their creative interests: Veronica is a writer, Sarah is a musician, Ruby works in the theater. Both Veronica and Sarah must make choices and sacrifices as they balance their creative lives with their professional and family lives. How do their stories reflect the unique pressures on women who have creative or artistic interests? How do their dreams change as they get older and move into different stages of their lives? Do you think Ruby will eventually make similar choices to those made by Sarah and Veronica, or will she take a different path?

6. After growing up extremely close to his sister, Sam moves across the country for college and ends up staying after graduation. Do you think he felt like he needed to move so he could separate himself from his twin? What did you think of their dynamic?

7. Discuss Sam’s journey of sexual discovery after his traumatic experience of becoming a young widower. What was the importance of fanfiction and online dating? In what ways do you think anonymity both was beneficial and detrimental to him?

8. In the Cape Cod community where the events of THE SUMMER PLACE unfold, there is a distinction, sometimes tense, between the “pond people,” the families (like Owen’s) who have owned vacation homes in the area for generations, and newer homeowners like Veronica and her family. How do the socioeconomic and cultural differences between these groups influence the events of the novel? Do you have any sympathy for the “pond people”?

9. It is revealed that the completed novels that Veronica left behind are based on Sarah’s life, but Sarah decides to have them published anyway. What do you think of her decision? Would you have been angry with Veronica? What did you think of her explanation, “that’s what writers do”?

10. After Eli confesses to Sarah his own duplicity, she decides not to come clean about her dalliance with Owen. Why not? Do you think she made the right choice not to tell him? Do you think he would have forgiven her? What did you think about Sarah’s relationship with Owen? Was he taking advantage of her when they met later in life?

11. At the end of the book, Rosa tells Gabe the full truth about his paternity and her ruse involving Eli. She even introduces him to his father. How would you have reacted to the news? Would you have forgiven Rosa for her lie?

12. Were you happy that they decided not to sell the family home in the end? Do you think it was important to keep it in the family?

The Summer Place
by Jennifer Weiner

  • Publication Date: April 4, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press
  • ISBN-10: 1501133586
  • ISBN-13: 9781501133589