The Second Home
June 2020 Indie Next List
— Nancy Baenen, Arcadia Books, Spring Green, WI
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"A novel of family and place and belonging." —Rebecca Makkai, Pulitzer Prize finalist
"Tender and suspenseful." —Chloe Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author
Some places never leave you...
After a disastrous summer spent at her family’s home on Cape Cod when she is seventeen, Ann Gordon is very happy to never visit Wellfleet again. If only she’d stayed in Wisconsin, she might never have met Anthony Shaw, and she would have held onto the future she’d so carefully planned for herself. Instead, Ann ends up harboring a devastating secret that strains her relationship with her parents, sends her sister Poppy to every corner of the world chasing waves (and her next fling), and leaves her adopted brother Michael estranged from the family.
Now, fifteen years later, her parents have died, and Ann and Poppy are left to decide the fate of the beach house that’s been in the Gordon family for generations. For Ann, the once-beloved house is forever tainted with bad memories. And while Poppy loves the old saltbox on Drummer Cove, owning a house means settling, and she’s not sure she’s ready to stay in one place.
Just when the sisters decide to sell, Michael re-enters their lives with a legitimate claim to a third of the estate. He wants the house. But more than that, he wants to set the record straight about what happened that long-ago summer that changed all of their lives forever. As the siblings reunite after years apart, their old secrets and lies, longings and losses, are pulled to the surface. Is the house the one thing that can still bring them together––or will it tear them apart, once and for all?
Told through the shifting perspectives of Ann, Poppy, and Michael, this assured and affecting debut captures the ache of nostalgia for summers past and the powerful draw of the places we return to again and again. It is about second homes, second families, and second chances. Tender and compassionate, incisive and heartbreaking, The Second Home is the story of a family you'll quickly fall in love with, and won't soon forget.
Praise For The Second Home: A Novel…
Praise for The Second Home:
One of Good Morning America's "25 Novels You'll Want to Read this Summer"
"Christina Clancy writes with warmth, wit, and wisdom about fantastically human characters. A novel of family and place and belonging for fans of Ann Packer and J. Courtney Sullivan." —Rebecca Makkai, Pulitzer Prize finalist for The Great Believers
"I gobbled The Second Home in a matter of days, fully invested in the history, hurt, and hopes of this very human family. Christina Clancy writes with empathy and rich detail: to read about the Gordons is to smell the pine and oak of Wellfleet, to tread the well-worn rooms of their eccentric summer home, and to learn all sides of the explosive rift that sent them hurtling in different directions. Tender and suspenseful, Clancy's debut explores the nature of home as well as the nature of family itself—given and chosen." —Chloe Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Immortalists
"A sure-footed ode to the strength of family, the depth of loss, and the power of forgiveness." —J. Ryan Stradal, New York Times best-selling author, Kitchens of the Great Midwest
"The Second Home shows us how families are knit together and how they unravel; how a place—a geography, a house—can act as the repository for our best and most important memories. And that even the most damaged past can be reclaimed, a hard-won wisdom that shines through on every page." —Jean Thompson, New York Times bestselling author of The Year We Left Home
"Clancy imagines her complicated characters with such empathy and precision that every questionable choice, every mistake, feels like the only option. The Second Home is a big, sprawling, smart, beautiful story about love and betrayal, home and family, and the foundations of forgiveness." —Lauren Fox, author of Days of Awe, Friends Like Us, and Still Life With Husband
"Christina Clancy writes with an arresting vividness and a nuanced understanding of her characters, who are buffeted by a storm of conflicting desires. A poignant but also very entertaining novel—full of startling detail, humor, and above all, an abiding sympathy for its beautifully drawn characters." —Christine Sneed, author of Little Known Facts
"This deeply moving and heartfelt book explores what makes a home - and how homes make us. It's deftly plotted, sensuously told, and incredibly smart about the secrets that pull families apart and the love that knits them back together." —Liam Callanan, author of Paris by the Book.
"Every Wellfleet sand dune, every breeze and beach and pond, came alive for me in this beautiful, heartbreaking debut about a Milwaukee family’s complicated history with their summer home. Christina Clancy’s characters are so real and flawed, so caught between the darkness and the light, that they step right off the page, and you won’t rest until you know what becomes of them." —Meg Mitchell Moore, author of The Admissions and The Islanders
"From the first pages of The Second Home, it’s abundantly clear that Christina Clancy has an abiding love for outer Cape Cod, which she conjures in all its bluster and beauty. But as this compelling novel progresses, it also becomes obvious that Clancy has a keen awareness of how secrets can tear apart even the closest of families. Drawn in by the exquisitely-rendered setting, I was riveted by this stirring, family drama." —Karen Dukess, author of The Last Book Party
"Warm, absorbing and thought-provoking.." —Shelf Awareness
"A riveting family saga that fans of J. Courtney Sullivan, Cristina Alger, and Maria de los Santos will devour, Clancy's debut novel is a delight. With nostalgia as thick as the scent of coconut-scented sunscreen, The Second Home explores the consequences of emotional decisions and the strength needed to set things right." —Booklist (starred review)
"Transporting...Clancy's beach-ready debut is sure to be a favorite with book clubs." —Publisher's Weekly
"Witty and compassionate, this is the page-turning saga, unfolding in several voices, of two sisters, their estranged adopted brother and the dispute that arises 15 years after their parents' death." —Naples Daily News
"With its fond descriptions of Cape Cod’s land and seascapes and an evocation of a historic house layered with love and secrets, Clancy’s debut clearly has its eye firmly set on the summer-read market." —Kirkus
St. Martin's Press, 9781250239341, 352pp.
Publication Date: June 2, 2020
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. “Cape Cod felt like a hazy dream the rest of the year, a place suspended forever in beach days filled with sunshine and warmth.” Do you have a place from your younger years that inhabits your memory in this way? How does the youthful memory compare to the reality?
2. “She felt her parents’ radiant energy in everything she saw as she paced the house to stay warm: the chipped wine glass left in the sink, the sloppily folded beach towels and stained pillowcases, in her mother’s cookbooks, her father’s telescope, even in the bulb digger where they’d always hidden the skeleton key that unlocked the back door.” Imagine walking into a house—what would “tell” of your own parents, what would signal that they were the most recent inhabitants? When you are gone, what objects might reflect your presence?
3. “It smelled like rotten eggs at low tide, but that was a smell she loved in the same primal way that she’d loved the smell of Noah’s sweet bald head when he was a baby…every molecule in her body seemed to change.” What senses are activated by a special place or person? What powers can smell have?
4. How do each of the Gordon children explore and deal with the loss of their parents? Did you consider any of their reactions healthy or unique?
5. Young Michael’s background is very different from that of Ann and Poppy. What intense experiences has he already had before joining the Gordon family? What misconceptions did outsiders hold about what Michael might bring into their lives?
6. “She loved Michael, so why did she feel so selfish? She wanted to tell Michael that the house was theirs, and summer was her time with her father.” Can you track Poppy’s emotions in this adolescent outburst? What is she wrestling with here? How do Ann’s complicated feelings toward Michael manifest over the course of the novel?
7. What role does family—the ones we’re born into and the ones we create—serve? What are some assumptions we might make about families like the Shaws?
8. “He signed quickly, before he could change his mind. And just like that, he became a nobody.” What does this mean, for Michael to become a “nobody”? Did you feel empathy for Michael’s choice? Which adults could have handled the situation differently?
9. “Just look at us. One of your kids is missing, the other is a burn out, and I’m a teenage mom. Great job, you guys!” What did you make of the Gordon family? Are their secrets and struggles commonplace?
10. The Shaw family is, on its surface, quite different from the Gordons. Do they share any similarities? Did you feel sympathy for Maureen? What about for the Shaw boys?
11. Discuss the role and impact of secrets in this novel. Are they inherently destructive, or are some secrets worth keeping? Why do Ann and Michael hold on to their secrets, and why is Connie’s illness not openly shared with Poppy?
12. How is Anthony able to manipulate both Ann and Michael? What kind of power does he hold over each of them?
13. “She felt like a part of her drowned in that pond.” As a reader, what was it like to read Ann’s rape scene and the unraveling that followed? Why does Ann blame herself for what happened that night, and everything that came after?
14. “Poppy was the victim of collateral damage.” Discuss Poppy’s trajectory from unsupervised teen with risky behaviors to globe-traveling yoga teacher and commitment- phobe, to mother. What makes Poppy resist responsibility and returning home? What changes for her?
15. In what ways do children and grandchildren change the dynamics of a family?
16. How does Ann’s confrontation of Anthony affect her? Discuss the emotion and drama of this scene, and the impact on you as a reader. Did this meeting play out as you expected?
17. Explore what Wellfleet means to each of the main characters in the novel—what did it represent for Connie and Ed, for Michael and, ultimately, for the sisters? Why are they drawn to it? What are they nostalgic for?
18. “We should have figured this out. Should have assumed the best about each other, not the worst.” Why is Ann so late to forgive or welcome Michael back into her life? In what specific ways did they each feel betrayed?
19. “Is that what houses really were, containers for families? And once the containers were gone, the people inside were just set loose in the world, particles.” A theme throughout the novel is that houses hold our histories. How does this play out on the page, and has it proven true in your life?
20. “It was still theirs, still in the family, still vulnerable to the elements, still requiring upkeep. It was an anchor, yes, but one that held her in place.” How is a house an “anchor” and what does that mean for these characters moving forward?