This reading group guide for The Lake Season 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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Iris and Leah Standish have never quite seen eye to eye. As sisters growing up on Hampstead Lake, Iris would carefully dip her toe in the water as Leah dove in headfirst. In high school, Iris focused quietly on her studies as Leah threw herself into the social scene. Twenty years later, Iris has a big house in the suburbs with her lawyer husband and three children as Leah bounds back from her cross-country adventures with a successful and charming fiancée on her arm. But behind Iris’ picture perfect life is a crumbling marriage, and Leah’s bright plans for her fairy-tale wedding are threaded with doubt, and a dark secret.
It only takes one hot, New England summer to unravel everything that Iris and Leah think they know about each other. For despite their incongruent paths, the Standish sisters both find themselves back in their childhood home, dangerously close to losing everything. The Lake Season
is a stunning testament to the intricate and sometimes tenuous bonds of sisterhood and family. Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. What does Leah’s postcard—“Please Come”—say about the current state of her and Iris’s relationship? Why does Iris say yes to such an enigmatic missive?
2. Iris finds solace in her friendship with Trish, who tells her to “embrace the dirt,” in both the garden and her life. What do you think she means by this? Does Iris follow her advice?
3. Not only does Iris have to navigate her sisterhood with Leah, she also has to foster one between her daughters, Sadie and Lily. What complications echo between the two relationships? How are our identities formed by our siblings? And how much can a parent really intervene?
4. Leah scoffs at Iris’s notion that a life can be reduced to chapters. Who do you think is right here? Why?
5. At the dress fitting, Iris catches a troubling glimpse of Leah staring blankly in the mirror and smearing ChapStick on her lips. Discuss Leah’s undercurrent of mental illness throughout the narrative. Why do you think Millie and Leah feel the need to be so secretive? Especially when it comes to Iris?
6. Iris’s high school crush, Cooper Woods, is an unexpected source of comfort. He also teaches her about “sistering,” a woodworking trick in which a new beam is installed to support an old beam. How does this tie into the themes that resonate throughout the novel?
7. Why do you think Leah panics when she senses that Cooper and Iris are developing romantic feelings for each other? How does it reconfigure the social order of their relationship? Discuss the jealousies at play.
8. At the Hampstead Brewery, Trish suggests that Iris “stayed away long enough to make
it hard to come back.” Do you agree with Trish? Is Iris partially responsible for her family’s emotional distance? What are the consequences implicit in returning home?
9. As Cooper and Iris get closer, Iris realizes she can’t move forward until she figures out what she wants. Leah also has great difficulty facing herself, as evidenced by her nervous breakdown and near drowning. Why do you think this is such a difficult task? How do we get stuck in the trenches of adulthood?
10. When Leah finally opens up about her relationship with Kurt in Yellowstone, Iris is taken aback to hear that Leah considers her to be the stronger sister. Cooper and Trish echo this sentiment. Why can’t Iris see herself this way? How do our self-perceptions differ from those around us?
11. Discuss Iris’s official transition from literary agent to cookbook author. How does this signal a definitive shift in her life approach? What is different about the two roles?
12. Stephen is heartbroken to hear that Leah has lied to him about her pregnancy and subsequent medical condition. Discuss the role that trust plays throughout the narrative. Where and when is it most essential, especially for Iris and Leah?
13. As Iris prepares to begin a new phase of her life, her father reminds her that there is “more than one road leading home.” How does this affect her decision to follow Cooper, instead of Paul? Tips to Enhance Your Book Club
1. Hampstead Lake figures prominently in the narrative as a source of peace and comfort. Take a relaxing group trip to your local watering hole, whether it’s the beach, lake, or local pool.
2. Despite their differences, Leah and Iris are both big believers in the curative powers of a good martini. Host a martini night and open up about your own best sibling stories—the good and the bad! In honor of Trish and Iris’s new farm-to-table cookbook, patronize your local farmer’s market and cook up a fresh dish to go with those drinks.
3. Check out another incredible sister story from Emily Bestler Books, Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper
. Or rent the feature film, starring Cameron Diaz.