This reading group guide for That 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.IntroductionFrom the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Big Summer comes another timely and deliciously twisty novel of intrigue, secrets, and the transformative power of female friendship.Topics & Questions for Discussion
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1. Daisy and Diana are originally framed as opposites—Daisy as the timid housewife and Diana as the woman about town. However, the two end up having more in common than they could have ever imagined. Compare and contrast these characters and what they learn from each other.
2. From That Summer
’s onset, Weiner draws a connection between appearance, status, and perception; Diana even calls her executive get-up “drag” (p. 96). What are some other ways that characters signal their status? Across the book, do you think clothes are used more as a form of personal expression or as performance? In particular, you might think about Beatrice’s style and how it differs from her mom’s or Diana’s.
3. Our two main characters first meet as the result of a name mix-up. What is the importance of other names in this novel? In what ways do they serve as protective shields, or possibly burdens?
4. Various characters struggle with society’s suffocatingly narrow definition of success. In high school, Beatrice observes that “all the kids bragged about how little sleep they’d gotten and how much coffee they’d consumed” (p. 44). Daisy creates her own dichotomy of better/worse life outcomes (“Instead of a college graduate, she’d become a mom” [p. 32]). Does this novel argue that success should be equated with happiness? Which character is ultimately presented as the most “successful”?
5. Diana still thinks about what her life would have been like if she’d never been raped; “sometimes, the sorrow of the road not taken would overwhelm her” (p. 240). How are other characters haunted by the past, and how do they struggle to retain control of their lives and decisions? Does the novel ultimately offer hope for how to move forward?
6. How is social class portrayed in this novel? What is the effect of having characters in relationships with people of different backgrounds? What is meant to be our takeaway about the concept of an “institution”?
7. Age is a major theme in That Summer
: Diana was robbed of her youthful innocence, while Daisy was slotted into a maternal role usually inhabited by older women. Hal’s horrific actions are mostly dismissed under the guise of his “manly needs” (p. 28), and Beatrice’s actions are rejected due to teen stereotypes (“‘Teenage girls. They get emotional. As I’m sure you know’” [p. 41]). How do gender and age intersect here? What is Beatrice’s role in the novel, given that she is almost the same age that Diana was when she was raped?
8. Why do you think the author chose to set the novel on Cape Cod? What are some other important locations that inform or reflect these characters? Consider their homes, as well. How does Weiner evoke the power of both nostalgia and trauma in her descriptions? Is there a home you would want to live in?
9. Diana has had decades to imagine what she will do upon seeing her attacker. After she meets Brad she concludes, “‘I think that this is what I needed. Just to see him, and have him see me’” (p. 301). What exactly does this mean? Did your feelings about Diana’s quest change after Brad’s death?
10. Diana describes a “world where being born female meant spending years of your life at risk, and the rest of it invisible, existing as prey or barely existing at all” (p. 375). Do you think that Beatrice’s short-lived flirtation with Cade is proof that this principle still holds true, or is this a more generational concept? How do the women in the novel defy this idea? How does Michael fit into this viewpoint?
11. What is the effect of the novel’s different points of view? What do we learn about Beatrice and Daisy in being able to see the two from each other’s perspectives? How about Daisy and Diana? What did you think about Hal’s final section, and did it change your opinion of him?
12. That Summer
asks complex questions about who needs to be held responsible for assaults, and what it means to be a bystander. According to the book, what actions are considered irredeemable, and how has the Internet affected the answer to this question? Do you agree with Katrina, Teddy’s high school girlfriend, when she says, “‘I guess anyone’s capable of anything, right?’” (p. 289) How does this idea play into your idea of how severely actions should be punished, or whether they should be forgiven? Does the novel offer a definitive conclusion about who should be punished? How do the characters of Brad, Danny, and Daisy further complicate this question?Enhance Your Book Club
1. That Summer
is filled with mouthwatering food descriptions. Visit www.jenniferweiner.com/bookclubs to download Daisy’s Summer Cookbook and cook your favorite meal yourself!
2. If your group hasn’t already read Jennifer Weiner’s novel Big Summer
, consider reading it together and comparing its themes of complicated and enduring friendship with those of That Summer
. What similarities do you notice between the women in these two novels? What ideas and feelings does Jennifer Weiner explore in both?
3. Consider donating to or volunteering with RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, the nation’s largest anti–sexual violence organization.
4. Beatrice loves making her beloved mouse crafts; Diana decoupages shells. Together with your book club, create a craft featured in the novel, garnering inspiration from creations on Etsy and Pinterest.