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About The Book

Set over the course of one summer, this perfect beach read follows a mother and her two daughters as they grapple with heartbreak, young love, and the weight of family secrets.

Brian and Margot Dunne live year-round in Seaside, just steps away from the bustling boardwalk, with their daughters Liz and Evy. The Dunnes run a real estate company, making their living by quickly turning over rental houses for tourists. But the family’s future becomes even more precarious when Brian develops a brain tumor, transforming into a bizarre, erratic version of himself. Amidst the chaos and new caretaking responsibilities, Liz still seeks out summer adventure and flirting with a guy she should know better than to pursue. Her younger sister Evy works in a candy shop, falls in love with her friend Olivia, and secretly adopts the persona of a middle-aged mom in an online support group, where she discovers her own mother’s most vulnerable confessions. Meanwhile, Margot faces an impossible choice driven by grief, impulse, and the ways that small-town life in Seaside has shaped her. Falling apart is not an option, but she can always pack up and leave the beach behind.

The Shore is a powerful, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting novel infused with humor about young women finding sisterhood, friendship, and love in a time of crisis. This big-hearted family saga examines the grit and hustle of running a small business in a tourist town, the ways we connect with strangers when our families can’t give us everything we need, and the comfort to be found in embracing the pleasures of youth while coping with unimaginable loss.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Shore 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.

Introduction

Meet the Dunne family, year-round residents of Seaside, New Jersey, where they run a vacation house rental business for the tourists who come and go every year. Between last summer and this one, Brian developed a brain tumor that has transformed him into a stranger to his wife, Margot, and their teen daughters, Liz and Evy. Each of the women fights to maintain a sense of normalcy as they adjust to new caretaking responsibilities and the anticipatory grief of a long good-bye. Liz seeks distraction in a flirtatious relationship with Gabe, a coworker at her boardwalk job who doesn’t know her family’s situation and is only in town for the summer. Evy, in between shifts at Sal’s Sweets and falling in love with her best friend, Olivia, secretly adopts the persona of a middle-aged mom in an online support group, where she learns some of her own mother’s deepest secrets. Meanwhile, Margot juggles running the family business, remembering when she first met Brian, and planning a new future for her and the girls somewhere far away from the hometown that shaped her.

A heartbreaking story infused with moments of spiky humor, The Shore explores first loves and family secrets, grief and growing up, and the ways we find comfort while coping with unimaginable loss.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. We meet the Dunnes after Brian’s brain tumor has already changed him into a different person than the husband and father Margot, Liz, and Evy knew. How has his diagnosis also changed each of them? How do they deal with the uncertainty of not knowing when the end will come? What changes when Dr. Zimorodi tells them, with more certainty, “by the end of summer” (page 72)?

2. Discuss the use of social media in the novel—from Evy and Liz curating their Instagram profiles and checking up on their friends and crushes, to Margot finding support in an online forum and going through Brian’s old Facebook posts. How does social media function as an outlet for the characters? What positive and negative effects does it have?

3. What do you think of Evy’s decision to invent a new identity on GBM Wives forum? Discuss her reaction to learning privileged information about her parents on the forum. How does this compare to Liz’s reaction to stumbling upon Brian and Margot’s college emails?

4. Writing as Pamplemousse7 about losing someone to a glioblastoma multiforme tumor, Evy asks the GBM wives: “It’s worth it, isn’t it, to buy a few more months even if he isn’t himself, even if he can only see in tunnels and splotches? . . . If it’s a person parading around who looks like your husband but who’s acting like an agitated stranger you wouldn’t want to sit next to on a bus? If it means taking care of a person who is not a person you know? Even then?” (page 14). How does each woman in the Dunne family deal with this existential question? What final moments with Brian lighten, if however briefly, the pain of losing him?

5. Discuss the relationship between Liz and Evy. While they each have their own lives—jobs, friends, romances, and ways of coping—how do they come together to support each other and their family over the course of the summer?

6. “Coexisting with a stranger was not possible without imagining escape” (pages 22 to 23), thinks Margot as she dreams about selling off E&E Rentals and starting fresh. Why do you think she is so eager to move away? What do you think of her choice to hide this decision from her daughters? Why do they feel differently about the prospect of leaving Seaside?

7. “Distraction is medicine,” thinks Liz on page 48. Have you found this to be true? How does the girls’ way of finding distraction and escape in Seaside differ from Margot’s? What moments of humor and levity from the book help balance the heaviness of the plot?

8. As Evy and Liz chase after their own “firsts,” they worry: “Is it okay if I do this even though we’re in this shitty holding pattern? Is it okay that this is all happening at the same time, am I a horrible person for wanting these things right now?” (page 175). What would you say to a friend or sibling in this situation?

9. “There were so many ways to break someone’s heart and leave them when they needed you,” muses Margot. Discuss previous betrayals in their marriage. Do you think that kind of “emotional affair” is “no better or worse” than a physical one (page 169)? How did they come to a place of forgiveness?

10. Why doesn’t Liz tell Gabe about Brian’s state? Discuss the rocky ending of their relationship. How do you think she’ll remember him? How do you feel about your first love?

11. Discuss the idea of anticipatory grief—what the author describes as “loss-before-loss” (page 289). How do each of the Dunnes begin processing their grief while still caring for the person they will lose? What role does memory and nostalgia play in this process?

12. Part III opens with a shift into the second person point of view. How did this shift impact your experience reading that chapter?

13. The tension between Margot and her daughters reaches a tipping point while she is in Galesta. How do they address their conflict? Do any parts of their mother-daughter dynamic remind you of your relationship with your own mother?

14. Discuss the idea of double lives in the novel—Liz hiding the truth about her father from Gabe, Evy creating a fake identity online, Margot hiding a major secret from her daughters, and each of them saving face in their professional lives despite what’s happening at home. Do you think we are different people in different situations?

15. How do the glimpses of Brian’s perspective shape your opinion of his character?

16. How will being from Seaside shape the course of Liz and Evy’s lives? How has where you’re from shaped your life?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Do some online window shopping for vacation rentals on the Jersey Shore. See if you can find any family-run businesses that remind you of E&E Rentals.

2. Make a playlist of songs and artists mentioned in The Shore for your book club meeting. Are any of them nostalgic favorites of yours? What memories do you associate with them?

3. Look up and discuss the poems mentioned in the book: “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop and “The Raincoat” by Ada Limón. How do they resonate with the themes of The Shore?

4. Read The Fortnight in September by R. C. Sherriff, a 1931 novel about a family’s annual vacation in a seaside town, where they stay in a family-run rental. What parallel themes or echoes do you notice between this book and The Shore? What ideas about families, growing up, endings, and life in a seaside tourist town resonate over time?

About The Author

Photograph by Rebecca Sanabria

Katie Runde grew up on the Jersey Shore, where her family ran various boardwalk businesses. She holds an MFA from Warren Wilson College and lives in Iowa City with her husband and two daughters. The Shore is her first novel.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Scribner (May 24, 2022)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982180195

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Raves and Reviews

"Runde is an expert at the fastball to the heart. . . . The Shore is never sentimental; it is absorbing, lucid and true. Anyone who has lost someone by inches will recognize the struggle to push through despair and affirm the dogged endurance of love." —New York Times Book Review

“A deeply felt family saga in one summer season of love, loss, and emotional awakening.” —Entertainment Weekly

“A novel about how a family contends with hardship and the ways we often flee from the people who know us best, The Shore is an emotional and authentic read.” —Shondaland

"An emotional family drama [that's] both devastating and a little bit hilarious, and Runde pulls it off beautifully, with endearing characters and deep insights." —Glamour

"One of the best beach reads of all time . . . touching and gripping and life-affirming." —TODAY.com

"An engrossing escape. . . . Runde weaves poetry and poignant questions into her debut novel. It’s an empathy-fueled exploration of caretaking and coming-of-age struggles." —NJ Monthly

“Filled with lovable characters and heart-wrenching moments . . . a powerful story of a family coming together to find comfort in the midst of crisis.” —Woman's World

"Heartfelt and bittersweetly funny." The New York Times Book Review, Editors' Choice

“A love story and valentine to the workers who keep the Jersey shore going.” —Newark Star-Ledger 

"The Shore is not read but breathed, as life-affirming, natural and beautifully flawed as the world and emotions it embodies. Runde is a powerful, masterfully restrained writer, a keen interpreter of the human psyche . . . perfect for readers who enjoy—and have had their hearts broken and repaired by—Mary Beth Keane, Cara Wall and Ann Napolitano.” —BookReporter

“A comforting debut on family and finding resilience in the face of sorrow.” —Booklist

“Runde’s debut is a heartbreaking family journey; a summer read that is at once sad, hopeful, frustrating, and ultimately uplifting.” —Library Journal

"Vivid. . . . Runde’s evocative descriptions conjure the salty humidity of the Jersey Shore. . . . this transportive work successfully captures the dissonance and resilience of family.” —Publishers Weekly

“A heartfelt family drama saturated with a sense of place and the passage of time." BookPage

"Runde’s sympathetic portrait of a family in crisis is not without humor and insight. . . . this family story is sweet, sad, and surprising." —Kirkus Reviews

"Locals and longtimers are forced to reckon with their families, choices, and secrets." —The Millions

"The Shore is a sharp and affecting novel, a wholly original exploration of what it means to love and lose set against a fabulously vibrant backdrop. Runde's writing is both deeply felt and deeply funny—often in the same breath." —Claire Lombardo, author of The Most Fun We Ever Had  

"An intimate, tender story about love and loss and moving on. The beautifully flawed, funny, complex Dunne family will stay with you long after the book is finished."Tracey Lange, author of We Are the Brennans

"The Shore was a joy to read. I loved the Dunnes from page one, and Katie Runde has so much to say about love and grief and growing up and the way we sometimes manage to learn who we are when we’re in the midst of losing the person we love most." —Rachel Beanland, author of Florence Adler Swims Forever

"How can a novel be simultaneously a delicious page turner that transports the reader to warm seaside days while also being a deft, deep meditation on illness, grief, and loss? The Shore is both, and I wept over this tender family story of mother, father, daughters, interwoven with fine renderings of a summer town, a summer economy, and the people who make it go and who still call it home when the tourists leave. This is a lovely, expansive look at the hard work of caregiving, saying goodbye, and keeping on." —Lydia Kiesling, author of The Golden State

"A stunning anatomy of the varieties of sorrow and consolation, with a brilliant understanding of the ways different generations find unexpected common ground. Like Olive Kitteridge before it, The Shore takes a place bursting with colorful characters and its own idiosyncratic anthropology and makes it intimately familiar. Runde perfectly captures the fraught expressions of feeling between parents and children on the raucous eve of their independence, and she nails the way everyday longings, fears and joys don’t always scurry from life’s stage when the monster of grief descends from the rafters. The reader, under the spell of Runde’s superb storytelling, never wants to leave this family behind." —Matthew Thomas, author of We Are Not Ourselves

"Runde’s gift is a poetry of things: coffee cups and casseroles rush in to break your heart, expressing the truths about the anguish of love and loss that would melt like cotton candy into cliche if you tried to say them directly. The Shore is about the ugly, hard parts of loving someone, about the vacation town once the vacation is over, the awkwardness of growing up and the un-fun wisdom you learn to hold onto instead of push away. Tender, heartfelt and infinitely readable." —Rufi Thorpe, author of The Knockout Queen

"The Shore is everything I crave in a novel: characters who become like family, gorgeous prose, and a setting so vivid, you can almost smell the ocean and hear the boardwalk games. Katie Runde is a gifted writer and shows us how to bear the unimaginable in these pages. Readers will hate to leave Seaside behind." —Ethan Joella, author of A Little Hope

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