This reading group guide for Summer of Two Wishes includes discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Julia London. 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.
Questions for Discussion
1. Macy, the heroine of Summer of Two Wishes, is caught in an extraordinary situation—she is married to two men whom she loves. How is her love for Wyatt different from her love for Finn? What initially attracted her to Finn? What drew her to Wyatt? Which male character do you find most attractive?
2. Do you agree with Macy’s approach to resolving her dilemma?
3. Wyatt finds himself in a nearly impossible position when his wife’s first husband “returns from the dead.” Do you think he reacts reasonably? Doeshe deal with Finn fairly? What aspects of his behavior toward Macy do you approve or disapprove of?
4. Finn’s love for Macy helps him through some dark times in Afghanistan. How is that love challenged once he returns to the United States?
5. Sam and Macy refer to each other as best friends. Is Sam forthcoming about her belief that Macy’s treatment of Finn “had turned something sour inside Samantha”? (116) How are Sam’s and Macy’s ways of coping with grief similar? How are they different? Can you empathize with Sam’s reaction to her friend’s extraordinary dilemma?
6. Both Macy and Finn have mothers with strong personalities. How is Jillian’s style of parenting different from that of Karen Lockhart? Is Jillian’s reliance on the law similar to or different from Karen’s belief in the power of religion? Do these women’s children share their values?
7. Macy’s aunt, Laru Friedenberg, is a powerful force in Macy’s life. Why is Laru considered a free spirit in Cedar Springs? How does her philosophy of life influence Macy?
8. Throughout Summer of Two Wishes, the citizens of Cedar Springs treat Finn as a hero. Does Finn regard himself as one? Does his self-image change during the course of the novel? How does the media attention affect his sense of self? Do you think Finn is a hero?
9. Do you think that Macy should forgive Samantha at the end of the novel? Why or why not?
10. What are Macy’s two wishes at the beginning of the novel? Have her wishes changed by the end of the novel? Do you believe that her most heartfelt two wishes have come true? Do you agree with the choice she makes between the two men she loves? Why or why not?
11. If you could have two wishes come true, what would they be?
Enhance Your Book Club
For your book club meeting, why not prepare a meal of regional favorites the folks in Cedar Springs, Texas, might enjoy? A great bookclub dinner menu:
Chicken Enchiladas Perdernales River Chili Grilled Gulf Shrimp Guacamole Salsa Home grown tomatoes Texas Sheet Cake Sangria
Julia London’s favorite recipes for all of the above can be found on her website, ww.julialondon.com, as well as some great links to Texas cooking.
You might play soulful country music to create the right mood during your book club meeting. Here are some of the author’s personal favorites, who all call Texas home: Patty Griffith, Lyle Lovett, Marcia Ball, Shawn Colvin, Sara Hickman, Jimmy Dale Gilmore—and, of course, Willie Nelson.
If you would like to learn more about veterans’ organizations, Julia London recommends the United States Department of Veterans Affairs’ clearinghouse list of the many organizations for veterans at www1.va.gov/VSO/ some. She also recommends www.americanwidowproject.org.
If you want to help care for neglected and abused animals, Julia London recommends contacting the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals at www.aspca.org and the Humane Society of the United States at www.hsus.org.
Find more links at www.julialondon.com.
A Conversation with Julia London:
What inspired you to write such an intensely emotional contemporary novel as Summer of Two Wishes?
The war in Iraq became personal for me when my nephew joined the Marine Corps and went to Iraq. He joined because he thought it was the right thing to do after 9/11. In addition, our local paper dedicates an issue to soldiers in the area who lost their lives in Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s very sobering to see the faces of so many young men and women who gave their lives for our country, and it was hard not to imagine my nephew’s face among them. Thankfully, his tour ended and he’s gone on to other things. But I wondered what it would be like for people who did lose loved ones, and how desperately they must want them back. I began to think . . . what if one of those lost soldiers did come back? How would that soldier react to the way life had gone on without him? Could time be reversed?
How did the experience of writing Summer of Two Wishesdiffer from writing a historical romance such as the next novel in your Scandalous series, A Courtesan’s Scandal?
Summer of Two Wishes is quite different in setting and tone. The historical romance novels I write are emotional love stories set two hundred years ago in societies I sometimes portray a bit whimsically. I adore writing historical romance because it is so much fun. Writing a book like Summer of Two Wishes was, in some respects, more difficult.
One might think that the difficulty of writing a historical novel is the research involved. That’s not really true—the research is fairly straightforward, and the interpretation of history is all mine. It is more difficult to convince a reader to suspend disbelief in a contemporary novel. The readers know that I know—and sometimes a whole lot more. The novel has to ring true on many different levels. A Courtesan’s Scandal is historically accurate, but it’s a flight of fancy. Summer of Two Wishes is a story that could, conceivably, happen today, so it must pass a different sort of test in the reading experience.
What aspect of writing a novel set in modern times did you find most enjoyable?
I especially enjoyed the dialogue. The characters in Summer of Two Wishes sound like my friends and family; I can relate to them immediately.
In Summer of Two Wishesyou created two strong, dynamic yet very different male characters—Finn Lockhart and Wyatt Clark—who are complex and seem so real. How did you gain such insight into the male psyche?
This question makes me laugh because I don’t think I have any particular insight into the male psyche, and I think my husband would agree. However, I have studied men in their natural habitat over the years and through various relationships, both familial and romantic, so I guess I’ve picked up a thing or two.
You live in Texas, where Summer of Two Wishesis set. Why did you choose this setting for the novel? You write about the town of Cedar Springs as if it’s a real place. Is it modeled after a specific town? Have you ever lived in a small town?
I chose this setting because I am a fifth-generation Texan; I grew up on a ranch in West Texas, and I still live in Texas. The setting is very familiar and comfortable to me. Cedar Springs is not a real town, but it is modeled on several small towns around Austin, where I live now, such as Marble Falls, Fredericksburg, and Georgetown.
How did you manage to endow the canine character Milo with so much personality? Do you have a dog?
I am definitely a dog person—I have always had dogs and I am sure I always will, because there is nothing in life quite as sure and steady as a dog’s affection. I do not have a dog presently; I dedicated the book to my two labs, who I lost in the last year. Hugo and Maude were my faithful companions for fourteen years, and I am still mourning their loss. But recently I saw a couple of happy dogs with a rescue organization, and they’ve been in my thoughts. I wouldn’t be surprised if we have a new dog in the next year.
Macy loves two men at once—do you think that is really possible?
I do think it is possible, but I think it is unlikely a woman would love two men like Macy loved Wyatt and Finn. Or perhaps I should say I’m not sure my own heart would work that way. I think one would be in my heart and the other I would love more like an old flame. I hope I never have to find out, because one man is more than plenty for me!
You present six different marital or romantic relationships in Summer of Two Wishes. What are the essential ingredients of a happy love relationship between a man and a woman?
Romantic love goes through so many cycles over the long run, doesn’t it? A very wise woman once told me that a person can put up with a lot in a marriage or relationship if she feels as if she is heard and appreciated. I think that is true.
Finn’s return from the dead could be considered a miracle. Do you believe in miracles? In wishes coming true—even if their fulfillment leads to more wishes?
Miracles are those things I only see once they’re behind me. I believe in miracles, but I never recognize them without years of hindsight to aid me. I definitely believe in wishes coming true. There is a reason the phrase “be careful what you wish for” is in our vernacular.
Will you write another contemporary novel? What are you writing now?
Definitely! I hope to write many more contemporary novels. There are so many life issues in twenty-first-century America and so many people I’ve met that inspire me. I am currently writing another book set in Cedar Springs, so I hope you will come back and visit the town again.