A deliciously funny, remarkably poignant “beach read to end all beach reads” (Entertainment Weekly) about the power of friendship, the lure of frenemies, and the importance of making peace with yourself through all of life’s ups and downs—from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Good in Bed and Best Friends Forever.
Six years after the fight that ended their friendship, Daphne Berg is shocked when Drue Cavanaugh walks back into her life, looking as lovely and successful as ever, with a massive favor to ask. Daphne hasn’t spoken one word to Drue in all this time—she doesn’t even hate-follow her ex-best friend on social media—so when Drue asks if she will be her maid-of-honor at the society wedding of the summer, Daphne is rightfully speechless.
Drue was always the one who had everything—except the ability to hold onto friends. Meanwhile, Daphne’s no longer the same self-effacing sidekick she was back in high school. She’s built a life that she loves, including a growing career as a plus-size Instagram influencer. Letting glamorous, seductive Drue back into her life is risky, but it comes with an invitation to spend a weekend in a waterfront Cape Cod mansion. When Drue begs and pleads and dangles the prospect of cute single guys, Daphne finds herself powerless as ever to resist her friend’s siren song.
A sparkling, “insightful page-turner” (Real Simple) about the complexities of female relationships, the pitfalls of living out loud and online, and the resilience of the human heart, Big Summer is a witty, moving story about family, friendship, and figuring out what matters most.
Reading Group Guide
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This reading group guide for Big Summerincludes 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.
The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the “nothing short of brilliant” (People) Mrs. Everything returns with an unforgettable novel about friendship and forgiveness set during a disastrous wedding on picturesque Cape Cod.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. How did the novel’s prologue frame your reading experience? How did you imagine that these characters would later fit into the narrative? Were you surprised to discover Nick’s secret? What did you learn about his mother from this scene that informed your reading of the rest of the book?
2. Daphne and Drue have always had a complicated, manipulative relationship that has left Daphne feeling hurt and betrayed. In the end, what do you think was a bigger factor in Daphne attending Drue’s wedding? Was it her general curiosity, the photo opportunities, or her willingness to forgive? Do you think you would have made the same decision in her position?
3. One rule of appearance that Daphne outlines at the beginning of Big Summer is to give the impression that “I care, but not too much” (p. 11). How is this related in particular to being a woman, especially a somehow marginalized one, on social media and even out in the world?
4. Aditya says of Drue, “‘I used to think, sometimes, that there were two Drues. Two people inside of one. There was the girl who was happy with me, volunteering and going to Red Sox games and sitting in the bleachers, or staying in and cooking. . . . Then there was the other Drue. The woman she was raised to be’” (p. 325). Is it possible that both of these personalities were real? Or do you think that one was more authentic than the other? And why was Aditya the character who experiences both versions?
5. Many characters in this novel are living with big secrets. For example: Nick has changed his name to escape his mother’s legacy, Leela Thakoon has also taken on a new identity, and Drue faked her entire wedding for the media attention. Is there a pattern to their motivations, or some secrets you find more justifiable than others?
6. One major theme in Big Summer is nature vs. nurture. Does being born into a pedigreed family automatically guarantee a certain personality, or are we more affected by the behavior of those around us? How do Mr. Cavanaugh’s different extramarital children exemplify this? And how does this affect people’s ability to change?
7. Big Summer explores various characters’ relationships to food. Daphne’s father teaches her to eat adventurously, Daphne’s grandmother views food as a tool to control her weight, and Drue, in a departure from her usual upscale choices, makes sure her wedding guests have chicken fingers and fries to come home to after a night of partying. What makes food so intimate, and what does it mean to Daphne to “ask your body what it wants” (p. 36)?
8. Social media has changed Daphne’s life. It’s not only her main source of income but where she’s found a community of women who make her feel seen. At the same time, she acknowledges, “‘Even if things don’t get better, you can always make them look good on the Internet’” (p. 60), which we see in action as Drue curates a pristine, if inaccurate, online presence. How has social media affected how all of us live our lives? Is there a way to be truly authentic online? (You might remember that Nick asks, “‘How are [kids] going to learn to have real relationships when most of their interactions are online?’” [p. 297])
9. One big theme of the book is forgiveness. Even Darshi, who was most skeptical of Daphne’s willingness to defend Drue, ultimately says, “‘No matter how bad Drue was, everyone deserves justice’” (p. 349). Do you agree? Are there other characters in the novel whose ultimate transformation supports your argument?
10. Daphne is a proud fat woman. Even so, like all people, she experiences moments of doubt that manifest in the taunting echoes of fat jokes she hears in her head (what she calls “my traitorous mind” [p. 135]). What does this say about how we internalize societal messages, even if we love ourselves? And how does this inform Daphne’s answer to the recurring question “How can I be brave?”
11. Midway through the novel, Daphne calls Drue “the luckiest girl I knew” (p. 155). However, in the scenes that follow it dawns on Daphne that Drue might have thought the same of her as a child. In the end, what does it mean to Daphne to be “lucky”?
12. Jennifer Weiner chose two iconic settings for Big Summer: Cape Cod and New York City. Both places are known for their glitz—Cape Cod as the beachy getaway for many a Kennedy, and New York City as a cultural hub. What was the effect of choosing these locations, either on each character’s upbringings or the assumptions they make about one another, especially as relates to socioeconomic class?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Big Summer is filled with descriptions of food and references to New York City restaurants. Daphne even posts on social media about her Sunday meals with her dad. Make your own list of restaurants to visit in your city of choice, eat there with friends or family, and write about your experiences.
2. Anyone who’s ever graduated from high school can relate to the experience of “getting to know someone as an adult.” Is there a friend you wished you’d stayed in touch with? If you feel comfortable doing so, reach out to them.
3. Try to go a week—or, if it’s more realistic, a day—without social media, either viewing or posting. What do you miss the most? Do you notice any change in how you perceive yourself and others?
4. Visit Jennifer Weiner’s website at www.jenniferweiner.com to learn more about her and her books, and follow her on Twitter @jenniferweiner.
Jennifer Weiner is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of twenty-one books, including The Summer Place, That Summer, Big Summer, Mrs. Everything, In Her Shoes, Good in Bed, and a memoir in essays, Hungry Heart. She has appeared on many national television programs, including Today and Good Morning America, and her work has been published in TheWall Street Journal and TheNew York Times, among other newspapers and magazines. Jennifer lives with her family in Philadelphia. Visit her online at JenniferWeiner.com.
“Sexy and satisfying. . . Observant, self-aware, and very funny, Big Summer will delight Jennifer Weiner’s many fans and could be just the absorbing take-me-away read so many of us need right now.” —USA Today
“It's the beach read to end all beach reads.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Part dissection of female friendships, part murder mystery, part social-media tutorial, part love story and—the best of them all—part portrait of an overweight, under-confident striver. Daphne is an endearing creation: funny, plucky, willing to acknowledge certain critical lapses in judgment and eminently worthy of the love that she is certain will never come her way.” —The Wall Street Journal
“It’s deliciously fun: frothy entertainment with surprising depth.Big Summer is big fun, and then some. It's empowering and surprising—a reminder to put down the phone and enjoy each moment for what it is, rather than what it could look like on Instagram.” —The Washington Post
"Clever and empowering." —People
“Everything you’d hope to find in a beach read: complicated female friendships, unhappy rich people, a hardworking heroine with an eye for fashion, and an Instagram-worthy setting for an over-the-top wedding on Cape Cod.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Big Summer is the perfect beach read, but one that's filled with thoughtful ideas about how we live our lives online and the nature of friendship. Get ready for another big-hearted novel by Jennifer Weiner.” —PopSugar
“Weiner’s story of female friendships (after Mrs. Everything) mixes a splash of romance, a dash of humor, and a pinch of mystery to create a deliciously bloody poolside cocktail. Weiner’s surprising tale is hard to put down.” —Publishers Weekly
"If you love Jennifer Weiner, you’ll love this one. And if you’re a newbie, start here." —Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“Jennifer Weiner writes tremendously enjoyable books that hit me in the same pleasure center as romantic comedies do, so I’m very excited for her latest novel, set in the midst of a ‘lavish society wedding’ on Cape Cod. Friendship, weddings, and rich people being weird? Obviously I am in.” —Literary Hub
“The perfect beach read . . . A funny and tender examination of female friendship in all of its messy glory.”—PopSugar
“Big Summer is a big, fun summer read. Weiner made her mark chronicling the relationships of young women, and her return to that arena will garner lots of attention.” —Booklist
“A new story perfect for summer… Weiner's lighthearted, moving tale takes readers on a journey that explores the complexities of female friendship.” —The Hollywood Reporter
“Weiner is beloved for her rich, heartfelt stories—and her new book is no exception.” —Women’s World
“This tender novel explores the boundaries of female friendship, not to mention the beautiful mansions and charming dunes of Cape Cod.” —Good Housekeeping
“Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner will make you rethink your old friendships, big time. This summer-lovin’ novel tells the story of two friends who have lost touch, but get reconnected when one is about to get married. The twists and turns to come can be so #relatable, and really tug at your heartstrings. It’s worth the read.” —Elite Daily