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About The Book

“When two roads diverge...take the one that leads to the beach! Hannah McKinnon delivers a charming gem of a novel in Mystic Summer. I adored this book.” —Elin Hilderbrand, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Rumor

A chance run-in with a college boyfriend puts a young woman’s picture-perfect life in perspective in this warm-hearted and lyrical novel—from the author of The Lake Season.

Since finishing graduate school, Maggie Griffin has worked hard to build an enviable life in Boston. She’s an elementary school teacher in a tony Boston suburb, a devoted sister, and a loving aunt. With her childhood best friend’s wedding quickly approaching and her own relationship blossoming, this is the summer she has been waiting for.

But when Maggie’s career is suddenly in jeopardy, her life begins to unravel. Stricken, Maggie returns home to seaside Mystic, Connecticut, where she expects to find comfort in family and familiarity. Instead, she runs into Cameron Wilder, a young man from her past who has also returned home, and whose life has taken a turn that puts Maggie’s city struggles in harsh perspective. When tragedy strikes for Cameron, Maggie is faced with big decisions as she weighs what matters most and strives to stay true to the person she’s become.

Set against the gorgeous backdrop of a New England summer when past and present collide, Mystic Summer is a gorgeous novel about looking back, moving forward, and the beauty that blooms when fate intervenes.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Mystic Summer includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


When she’s blindsided by a trio of seemingly unconnected events—her best friend’s summer wedding, a heartbreaking potential layoff, and a chance run-in with an ex-boyfriend—Maggie Griffin has no idea that she’s just embarked on a summer that will change her life and cause her to question everything she holds dear. A devoted Boston resident, she returns to her hometown of Mystic for the summer, where the past and present collide. Her journey of discovery impacts others’ lives, as well, and when a vulnerable child is suddenly in danger, Maggie must make a choice. Should she hold tight to the life she’s built, or let go—and allow room for something even better? Critically acclaimed novelist Hannah McKinnon spins a warm-hearted and thoughtful story of summer, friendship, and self-knowledge that is sure to charm women’s fiction fans everywhere.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Maggie and Erika are two best friends who prove that opposites attract. Despite how they exasperate each other, what are the ties that bind these childhood friends, and how does their relationship change throughout the novel?

2. On page 5, Maggie notes: “I have always taken pride in my skill to find good in all of my students . . . Even when I have to dig deep.” How does she apply this optimistic spirit and goodwill to other characters in the novel? You might consider the Cam, Jane, Erika, and Peyton as examples.

3. Jane is a constant sounding board for Maggie as an older sister (a role she’s played their entire lives), and Maggie’s parents are likewise close confidants and advisers. What are some of the bonds that have held this family together? Find examples in the text to support your answer, in addition to discussing the more emotional side.

4. Change and stability are two of the major forces that drive Mystic Summer’s plot, but the author never makes them simple opposites. For instance, for Maggie, Boston represents change in that she must navigate finding a new home, but it is also the stable, safe choice when she considers returning to what she knows. How do other elements of the book embody this duality? Discuss Maggie’s relationships with Cam and Evan, her friendships, and the town of Mystic, itself.

5. One of the most charming parts of Mystic Summer is its description of parenting—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Compare and contrast Cam and Jane’s approaches to raising kids. Which did you relate with most?

6. Erika gives Maggie a lot to think about when she tells her about her difficult summer with Chase, her old high school boyfriend. Do you agree with her decision not to tell Trent about her infidelity? Why or why not?

7. Maggie makes the decision to forge a reconnection with Cam impulsively. Discuss this decision with your book club. What does Cam represent to her? Why is this so important at this point in her life?

8. Why does the Edwin Bate house evoke such nostalgia for Maggie? What does it come to represent for her?

9. Lauren, Cam’s ex and Emory’s mom, is one of the novel’s most complex characters. What are her struggles and motivations? When does she feel most sympathetic to you?

10. Peyton, Erika, and Maggie are a close-knit group, but each has a distinct part to play in their friendship. Discuss the role each woman holds in their trio. How do their approaches to crises (like Erika’s wedding venue meltdown) reveal their personalities?

11. Hannah McKinnon makes the interesting narrative decision to never show Erika and Trent’s wedding, though it’s arguably the focal point of the book. What effect does this have on how you experience Maggie’s story?

12. “This is not my style. I am not the girl who shouts after old boyfriends in the street” (page 112). In what other ways does Maggie challenge her own expectations of herself and her  relationships throughout the novel?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Research atrial septal defect, the congenital heart condition that affects baby Emory (the American Heart Association’s website at is a great place to start). Ask your book club members to bring contributions to one of the many great charities that supports children with this life-threatening defect, like the Children’s Heart Federations, the AHA, or International Children’s Heart Foundation and make a group donation on your club’s behalf.

2. Even if your book club is chilly and landlocked, there’s no wrong time of year to evoke a Mystic summer. Serve New England beach-themed snacks like mini lobster rolls, corn on the cob, and spicy shrimp, and make sure to have lots of chilled white wine on hand! You can even try your hand at making homemade mini-pizzas inspired by the real-life namesake of the film Mystic Pizza.

3. A summer wedding is at the heart of Mystic Summer, just like in The Lake Season, Hannah McKinnon’s debut novel. Bring in some of your favorite wedding pictures—whether they’re from your own nuptials, or friends and family’s. As you peruse each other’s photos, tell your best wedding stories, and give a prize to whoever can share the funniest mishap!


About The Author

Photograph by TK

Hannah McKinnon is the author of several novels, including The Lake SeasonMystic SummerThe Summer HouseSailing LessonsThe View from HereMessage in the Sand, and The Darlings. She graduated from Connecticut College and the University of South Australia. She lives in Connecticut, with her family, a flock of chickens, and two raggedy rescue dogs.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books (June 7, 2016)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781476777733

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Raves and Reviews

“When two roads diverge. . . take the one that leads to the beach! Hannah McKinnon delivers a charming gem of a novel in Mystic Summer. I adored this book.”

– Elin Hilderbrand, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Rumor

“Hannah McKinnon’s Mystic Summer is a heartwarming story of lost love and the against-all-odds chance of finding it again. . .Mystic Summer is a lovely summer beach read that will keep readers turning the page until the very end!”

– Nan Rossiter, New York Times Bestselling Author of Under a Summer Sky

“Mystic, Connecticut provides an enchanting backdrop for this delectable summer read, in which the pull of home exerts its power on a delightful cast of characters... Hannah McKinnon masterfully shows that you can go home again— it's what you do when you get there that counts.”

– Meg Mitchell Moore, author of The Admissions

"Hannah McKinnon's new book reminds readers that the right choice isn't always the logical one. Beautifully written, Mystic Summer blends the simple allure of past summers with the messiness of the present. It's the perfect summer read—any time of the year."

– Amy E. Reichert, Author of Luck, Love & Lemon Pie

“Sometimes sweet, sometimes tart, Mystic Summer is a refreshing story about the choices we make and the choices sometimes made for us.”

– Shelly Noble, New York Times Bestselling author of Whisper Beach

“New adults and women’s fiction fans will find this book appealing. It’s a novel for twenty-somethings facing major decisions including love, marriage, first apartments, jobs, houses, and the decision whether or not to have children.”

– Library Journal

“Hannah McKinnon’s The Lake Season is a pure delight. Iris Standish is such an appealing woman, handling an overload of family calamities with good sense and good will, not to mention a few really good times. It’s a bonus that the setting on Lake Hampstead is as enticing and refreshing as McKinnon’s voice.”

– Nancy Thayer, New York Times bestselling author of Nantucket Sisters, on THE LAKE SEASON

“McKinnon’s voice is sharp and evocative…Making use of a gorgeous setting and serious themes, this novel rises above a flock of fluffier beach reads.”


“If you enjoy a novel with a gorgeous setting and a side of dark family secrets, you will enjoy The Lake Season, which I recommend to fans of Nancy Thayer and Elin Hildebrand.”

– Confessions of a Book Addict on THE LAKE SEASON

“Two sisters, a glittering New England lake, and one desperate, last-chance summer set the stage for Hannah McKinnon’s emotionally affecting new novel, The Lake Season. The story features the complex Iris and her unpredictable sister Leah but its power extends well beyond the beautiful, heartbreaking bond between these two women. A memorable rumination on life, loss, and how to find a path home.”

– Michelle Gable, nationally bestselling author of A Paris Apartment, on THE LAKE SEASON

“Family and secrets colliding at a lakeside wedding…[a] must-read.”

– Cosmopolitan on THE LAKE SEASON

“This is a beautiful tale of sisters, a heartfelt journey of truth and choices that will leave you deeply satisfied.”

– Linda Francis Lee, bestselling author of The Glass Kitchen, on THE LAKE SEASON

“Hannah McKinnon's lyrical debut tells the story of a pair of very different sisters, both at a crossroads in life. McKinnon's great strength lies in her ability to reveal the many ways the two women wound - and ultimately heal - each other as only sisters can.”

– Sarah Pekkanen, New York Times bestselling author, on THE LAKE SEASON

“Fans of Debbie Macomber and those looking for a great summer read will enjoy this first foray into adult fiction by McKinnon (Franny Parker; The Properties of Water)...the story features engaging character development and an on-again, off-again romance that will keep readers intrigued.”

– Library Journal on THE LAKE SEASON

“Charming and heartfelt! Hannah McKinnon's The Lake Season proves that you can go home again; you just can't control what you find when you get there.”

– Wendy Wax, nationally bestselling author, on THE LAKE SEASON

“Seasons of change take us home to the places and the people who shelter us. Well-told, and in turns sweet and bare, The Lake Season offers a compelling tale of family secrets, letting go, and the unbreakable bonds of sisterhood.”

– Lisa Wingate, Nationally Bestselling Author, on THE LAKE SEASON

The Lake Season is one of those rare gems of a book that’s both impossible to put down and emotionally complex. Do yourself a favor and put The Lake Season on your summer reading list: you’ll love getting to know Iris Standish and her family and Hannah McKinnon’s writing is so beautifully evocative that even the most landlocked of readers will swear s/he can smell the fresh New England summer air.”

– L. Alison Heller, author of The Never Never Sisters, on THE LAKE SEASON

“A lovely, heartwarming novel that captures the intricacies within family and friend relationships . . . . McKinnon's empathic characters will make readers wish their story continued past the book's end.”

– RT Book Reviews

“Set against the gorgeous backdrop of a New England summer when past and present collide, Mystic Summer is a novel about looking back, moving forward, and the beauty that blooms when fate intervenes.”

– Bibliotica

“The perfect summer read . . . .a book about friendship, long-lost love, and really looking at what makes you happy in your life.”

– Dandelions Inspired

“A chance run-in with a college boyfriend puts a young woman's picture-perfect life in perspective in this warm-hearted and lyrical novel from the author of The Lake Season.”

– Books a la Mode (8 Heart Review)

“This is a fun, sweet romantic read with intriguing characters and relatable situations. The charming seaside locale, summer setting, foodie descriptions, and themes of home, family, and love kept me distracted during sweltering days. Keep this one in mind when packing your beach bag this summer.”

– The Reading Date

"A chance run-in with a college boyfriend puts a young woman's picture-perfect life in perspective in this warm-hearted novel."

– Hinsdale Living Magazine

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