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. Introduction
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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 heart.org 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!