The Summer Girls (Paperback)
Gallery Books, 9781476709000, 387pp.
Publication Date: June 25, 2013
From New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe, the heartwarming first installment in the Lowcountry Summer trilogy, a poignant series following three half-sisters and their grandmother. Three granddaughters. Three months. One summer house. In this enchanting trilogy set on Sullivan's Island, South Carolina, New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe captures the complex relationships between Dora, Carson, and Harper, three half-sisters scattered across the country--and a grandmother determined to help them rediscover their family bonds. For years, Carson Muir has drifted, never really settling, certain only that a life without the ocean is a life half lived. Adrift and penniless in California, Carson is the first to return to Sea Breeze, wondering where things went wrong...until the sea she loves brings her a minor miracle. Her astonishing bond with a dolphin helps Carson renew her relationships with her sisters and face the haunting memories of her ill-fated father. As the rhythms of the island open her heart, Carson begins to imagine the next steps toward her future. In this heartwarming novel, three sisters discover the true treasures Sea Breeze offers as surprising truths are revealed, mistakes forgiven, and precious connections made that will endure long beyond one summer.
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
- Dora’s initial reaction to Mamaw’s plan to bring the summer girls together for the season is to call it “blackmail” (p. 173). Do you agree with Dora, or are you sympathetic with Mamaw’s scheme? Why or why not?
- Besides Harper, Carson, and Dora, Mamaw and Lucille have perhaps the most complex and important female relationship in the book. Describe their friendship. How do the two older women serve as role models to the younger three?
- Mamaw plans to give her granddaughters their pearl necklaces early in the book, before we know Dora, Carson, or Harper very well as characters. What could you assume about each of the summer girls based on Mamaw’s choices for them? Were those assumptions accurate?
- Carson is Mamaw’s favorite granddaughter: “It might have been because she’d spent the most time with the motherless girl when she’d come for extended stays after being unceremoniously dumped by her father when he was off on a jaunt. But Carson was also the most like Marietta, passionate about life and not afraid to accept challenges, quick to make up her mind, and a tall beauty with a long history of beaus” (p. 37). Which of the three sisters did you relate to most, and why?
- Dora has not been open with her family concerning Nate’s autism. Do you think this was a decision on Dora’s part, or simply benign silence? What would prompt this? Do you think her hesitancy was ultimately more helpful or harmful for Nate?
- Discuss how Parker’s legacy affected his mother and each of his three daughters. The negative sides of his alcoholism and abandonment are obvious, but can you identify any positive effects of his actions?
- In addition to their individual conflicts with each other, Harper, Carson, and Dora each have a complicated relationship with their grandmother. While they love her, they each feel guilty about being gone from Sea Breeze for most of their adult lives and, at times, resent Mamaw for her meddling. What are Mamaw’s biggest faults in this novel? Why do you think Mamaw has decided to try “tough love” with her granddaughters?
- Blake has to explain to Carson why befriending wild dolphins is dangerous not only to the dolphins themselves, but also to humans. Do you agree that Blake’s anger with Carson over Delphine’s life-threatening injuries is justified? Who do you think is most to blame?
- Forgiveness is a major theme in this novel. Consider Carson’s history with her father and her mother and all the years of secrets, silence, and enabling. Carson has confrontations with Blake (over Delphine), Brian (over her theft), and Dora (over what Dora reveals about her mother’s death). How do all of these scenes lead to her growth as a character?
- Carson and her grandmother are the two characters who were closest to Parker. How did Parker’s actions impact Mamaw and Carson’s relationship with each other, even after his death?
- Throughout the novel, Carson is fearful of attachments— to a place, to a job, and especially to a man. Why do you think she suffers from an inability to commit? What role does Delphine play in helping her to connect again with her sisters? To Blake? To herself? What is Carson’s challenge at the end of the book?
- The Summer Girls is the first book in Mary Alice Monroe’s trilogy about Sullivan’s Island. Predict what the next two books will have in store for Dora and Harper, Carson, Blake, and Delphine?