This reading group guide for
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THE SUMMER OF SONGBIRDS 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
Nearly thirty years ago, in the wake of a personal tragedy, June Moore bought Camp Holly Springs and turned it into a thriving summer haven for girls. But now, June is in danger of losing the place she has sacrificed everything for and begins to realize how much she has used the camp to avoid facing difficulties in her life.
June’s niece, Daphne, met her two best friends, Lanier and Mary Stuart, during a fateful summer at camp. They’ve all helped each other through hard things, from heartbreak and loss to substance abuse and unplanned pregnancy, and the three are inseparable even in their thirties. But when attorney Daphne is confronted with a relationship from her past—and a confidential issue at work becomes personal—she is faced with an impossible choice.
Lanier, meanwhile, is struggling with tough decisions of her own. After a run-in with an old flame, she is torn between the commitment she made to her fiancé and the one she made to her first love. And when a big secret comes to light, she finds herself at odds with her best friend . . . and risks losing the person she loves most.
But in spite of their personal problems, nothing is more important to these songbirds than Camp Holly Springs. When the women learn their childhood oasis is in danger of closing, they band together to save it, sending them on a journey that promises to open the next chapters in their lives. Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. What can we learn about Daphne, Lanier, and Mary Stuart through the “hard things” they ask of each other?
2. The novel is told from three points of view: Daphne, June, and Lanier. Why do you think the author chose these three characters? How would the story have changed if different characters' perspectives were included?
3. Discuss June’s choice not to seek custody of Daphne when Daphne was younger. Do you agree with this choice? Why or why not?
4. Daphne goes back and forth in her opinion on whether people can change. On page 242 she says, “I haven’t changed. Maybe I can’t. Maybe no one can.” Do you think people can change? Do you agree with Daphne that she doesn’t change throughout the novel?
5. If you were in Daphne’s situation, would you have shown up to Lanier’s wedding invitation sendoff after what happened at family camp? Do you think Daphne’s decision to tell Lanier about Bryce was the right one?
6. On page 250, Lanier tells Huff that she lied and facilitated his breakup with Daphne seven years ago because she was trying to protect him. What do you think of this decision: was it justified, or was Lanier out of line? Take a few minutes to discuss both sides of the argument.
7. The power of friendship is an important theme throughout the novel. What can we learn from the songbirds’ friendships and how loyal they are to each other through every stage of their lives?
8. Daphne is open about how her mother’s addiction and her father’s aloof behavior have informed her personality and how she approaches relationships. What examples of these effects can we see throughout the novel? In what ways can we see Daphne’s growth by the end?
9. Many of the characters keep secrets from each other. Paula and John kept Melanie’s relapse a secret, Lanier kept secrets from both Huff and Daphne about why their relationship ended the first time, Daphne and Lanier share a secret about the accident at Daphne’s father’s house, and more. How do these secrets inform the characters’ relationships and how they handle the events of the novel?
10. On page 263, June says to Daphne, “I don’t trust myself enough to take risks, so I stay at camp all year instead of interacting with friends in town.” Why do you think June is afraid of taking risks? What risks does she end up taking in the novel?
11. On page 184, Daphne says to Huff, “There’s something about the river that washes everything away. All the bad stuff. All the pain. All the fear.” Later, on page 335, she walks onto Huff’s porch and says that she believes the river “carries our secrets, our scars, our greatest joys, and our biggest hopes.” Discuss the significance of the river at Camp Holly Springs and throughout the novel. What does it mean to each character?
12. Lanier struggles to reconcile Daphne and Huff’s adult relationship with Daphne’s history of substance abuse. When is it important to keep a friend’s past in mind, and in what situations should you put it behind you?
13. Discuss the idea that summer is a time of renewal, a time when “anything could happen” (page 342). Why do the songbirds feel this way? Do you agree? Enhance Your Book Club
1. In the acknowledgments on page 356, author Kristy Woodson Harvey shares that the inspiration for Camp Holly Springs came from the time she spent at Camp Seafarer’s family camp in North Carolina; she reminisces about how special a place like sleepaway camp can be for the many generations of people that pass through it. Does anyone in your book club have a place that feels as significant to them as Camp Holly Springs is to the songbirds? Try to host your book club meeting there! Go around and share what makes these places special to each of you.
2. The songbirds and June each go out of their comfort zones at some point while working to save camp. What is one way that you can step out of your comfort zone? Discuss with the group and strategize the next steps for making it happen.
3. Daphne, Lanier, and Mary Stuart look forward to sending their daughters to Camp Holly Springs. Daphne’s mother (and aunt, of course) went before her as well. What are some of your traditions that have passed through generations of your family, and how do they strengthen the relationships of the people that share them?
4. Take your group to do a camp-inspired activity: sailing, swimming, archery, land sports, camping, or anything else reminiscent of summer and camp!