INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Named a Notable Work of Fiction by The Washington Post
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Big Summer comes another “ideal beach read, full of secrets and complicated female friendships” (Cosmopolitan).
Daisy Shoemaker can’t sleep. With a thriving cooking business, full schedule of volunteer work, and a beautiful home in the Philadelphia suburbs, she should be content. But her teenage daughter can be a handful, her husband can be distant, her work can feel trivial, and she has lots of acquaintances, but no real friends. Still, Daisy knows she’s got it good. So why is she up all night?
While Daisy tries to identify the root of her dissatisfaction, she’s also receiving misdirected emails meant for a woman named Diana Starling, whose email address is just one punctuation mark away from her own. While Daisy’s driving carpools, Diana is chairing meetings. While Daisy’s making dinner, Diana’s making plans to reorganize corporations. Diana’s glamorous, sophisticated, single-lady life is miles away from Daisy’s simpler existence. When an apology leads to an invitation, the two women meet and become friends. But, as they get closer, we learn that their connection was not completely accidental. Who IS this other woman, and what does she want with Daisy?
From the manicured Main Line of Philadelphia to the wild landscape of the Outer Cape, written with Jennifer Weiner’s signature wit and sharp observations, That Summer is a “compelling, nuanced novel” (Maureen Corrigan, The Washington Post) about surviving our pasts, confronting our futures, and the sustaining bonds of friendship.
Reading Group Guide
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This reading group guide for That 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.
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Big Summer comes another timely and deliciously twisty novel of intrigue, secrets, and the transformative power of female friendship.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Daisy and Diana are originally framed as opposites—Daisy as the timid housewife and Diana as the woman about town. However, the two end up having more in common than they could have ever imagined. Compare and contrast these characters and what they learn from each other.
2. From That Summer’s onset, Weiner draws a connection between appearance, status, and perception; Diana even calls her executive get-up “drag” (p. 96). What are some other ways that characters signal their status? Across the book, do you think clothes are used more as a form of personal expression or as performance? In particular, you might think about Beatrice’s style and how it differs from her mom’s or Diana’s.
3. Our two main characters first meet as the result of a name mix-up. What is the importance of other names in this novel? In what ways do they serve as protective shields, or possibly burdens?
4. Various characters struggle with society’s suffocatingly narrow definition of success. In high school, Beatrice observes that “all the kids bragged about how little sleep they’d gotten and how much coffee they’d consumed” (p. 44). Daisy creates her own dichotomy of better/worse life outcomes (“Instead of a college graduate, she’d become a mom” [p. 32]). Does this novel argue that success should be equated with happiness? Which character is ultimately presented as the most “successful”?
5. Diana still thinks about what her life would have been like if she’d never been raped; “sometimes, the sorrow of the road not taken would overwhelm her” (p. 240). How are other characters haunted by the past, and how do they struggle to retain control of their lives and decisions? Does the novel ultimately offer hope for how to move forward?
6. How is social class portrayed in this novel? What is the effect of having characters in relationships with people of different backgrounds? What is meant to be our takeaway about the concept of an “institution”?
7. Age is a major theme in That Summer: Diana was robbed of her youthful innocence, while Daisy was slotted into a maternal role usually inhabited by older women. Hal’s horrific actions are mostly dismissed under the guise of his “manly needs” (p. 28), and Beatrice’s actions are rejected due to teen stereotypes (“‘Teenage girls. They get emotional. As I’m sure you know’” [p. 41]). How do gender and age intersect here? What is Beatrice’s role in the novel, given that she is almost the same age that Diana was when she was raped?
8. Why do you think the author chose to set the novel on Cape Cod? What are some other important locations that inform or reflect these characters? Consider their homes, as well. How does Weiner evoke the power of both nostalgia and trauma in her descriptions? Is there a home you would want to live in?
9. Diana has had decades to imagine what she will do upon seeing her attacker. After she meets Brad she concludes, “‘I think that this is what I needed. Just to see him, and have him see me’” (p. 301). What exactly does this mean? Did your feelings about Diana’s quest change after Brad’s death?
10. Diana describes a “world where being born female meant spending years of your life at risk, and the rest of it invisible, existing as prey or barely existing at all” (p. 375). Do you think that Beatrice’s short-lived flirtation with Cade is proof that this principle still holds true, or is this a more generational concept? How do the women in the novel defy this idea? How does Michael fit into this viewpoint?
11. What is the effect of the novel’s different points of view? What do we learn about Beatrice and Daisy in being able to see the two from each other’s perspectives? How about Daisy and Diana? What did you think about Hal’s final section, and did it change your opinion of him?
12. That Summer asks complex questions about who needs to be held responsible for assaults, and what it means to be a bystander. According to the book, what actions are considered irredeemable, and how has the Internet affected the answer to this question? Do you agree with Katrina, Teddy’s high school girlfriend, when she says, “‘I guess anyone’s capable of anything, right?’” (p. 289) How does this idea play into your idea of how severely actions should be punished, or whether they should be forgiven? Does the novel offer a definitive conclusion about who should be punished? How do the characters of Brad, Danny, and Daisy further complicate this question?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. That Summer is filled with mouthwatering food descriptions. Visit www.jenniferweiner.com/bookclubs to download Daisy’s Summer Cookbook and cook your favorite meal yourself!
2. If your group hasn’t already read Jennifer Weiner’s novel Big Summer, consider reading it together and comparing its themes of complicated and enduring friendship with those of That Summer. What similarities do you notice between the women in these two novels? What ideas and feelings does Jennifer Weiner explore in both?
3. Consider donating to or volunteering with RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, the nation’s largest anti–sexual violence organization.
4. Beatrice loves making her beloved mouse crafts; Diana decoupages shells. Together with your book club, create a craft featured in the novel, garnering inspiration from creations on Etsy and Pinterest.
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.
“Your ideal beach read, full of secrets and complicated female friendships.”
“The summer wouldn't be complete without an aptly-titled novel from Jennifer Weiner.”
– Marie Claire
“Weiner, the undisputed boss of the beach read, is back with another stunner.”
– New York Times
“Weiner has made a major literary career out of writing engrossing popular novels that take women seriously. One of Weiner’s signature strengths as a writer is her ability to realistically depict how people change in body and soul…Weiner writes incisively, yet with restraint… That Summer is a compelling, nuanced novel about the long, terrible aftermath of sexual assault and the things that can be stolen from women that can never be fully restored. But, because it’s a Jennifer Weiner novel, it’s no polemic. It’s empowering in its own way. Weiner seems to steadfastly believe in the saving grace of humor, the ability of time to open up possibilities and the strength of female friendship. Me, too."
– Maureen Corrigan, The Washington Post
"Weiner's storytelling skill is such that she paints an uncompromising, complicated portrait of the insidious dangers of the patriarchy that is also a lot of fun to read. Weiner's latest is a summer banger with a ripped-from-the headlines plot, which is sure to garner lots of attention."
– Booklist (starred)
"Fun and flirty."
“Jennifer Weiner's beachy books are basically a staple of the season, and this is no exception. This twisty novel about female friendship will make the hours fly by.”
– Good Housekeeping
"A page-turner. Reflective of the #MeToo movement and the importance of accountability, it’s a thought-provoking and timely book."
– Seattle Book Review
"Like many of Weiner’s works, the novel explores themes of femininity and motherhood, but it’s the book’s tackling of the #MeToo movement through more than one complicit character that sets it apart."
“This one will solve all your ‘I can’t get into any book right now’ problems.”
"Weiner follows up Big Summer with another emotionally charged drama, this one centered on a #MeToo reckoning. Weiner's writing is infused with evocative depictions... [and her] legions of fans will applaud this emotionally affecting and often surprising story."
– Publishers Weekly
"Fans will enjoy references to the murder plot of Weiner's previous novel, Big Summer (2020), and sprinklings of Weiner's signature descriptions of food and cooking."
– Kirkus Reviews
“Weiner’s ability to take a complex, painful situation and spin it into an engaging, thoughtful story about women’s inner lives is showcased throughout this novel. The beautiful beachside settings and aspirational lifestyles that women’s fiction readers gravitate toward are on full display, but the depth of the story is what shines. A likely summer blockbuster, this will have readers looking forward to the third volume in trilogy.”