Lea Wait

Discussion Guide: Shadows of a Down East Summer
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Authorís Note:

Shadows of a Down East Summer, fifth in the Shadows series, takes place in August, a few months after the events in Shadows at the Spring Show left Maggie unsure about adoption, and unsure about her future. A quiet vacation in Maine, a year after Shadows on the Coast of Maine, sounds like what she needs to feel refreshed and ready for her fall semester. This summer she'll be staying with Will at his Aunt Nettie's home in Waymouth – although in separate bedrooms!

I had great fun writing this book; it's my “something in the past that changed a family – perhaps a town – forever” book. Since it's a mystery, that something resulted in someone's being murdered today. Family myths, and how much they influence the families who believe in them, have always fascinated me. In Shadows of a Down East Summer I was able to play with that idea.

The Southgate Inn, scene of some of the 1890 action, is still on Prouts Neck, but has been modified considerably and reincarnated as the Black Point Inn. Its picture on this page was taken when Anna May and Jessie knew it. The Checkley Inn was even closer to Winslow Homer's home, and it was at the Checkley's beach where he saw the moonlit dancers who inspired his painting A Summer Night, which Anna May and Jessie posed for.

Note: The recipe for Aunt Nettie's Blueberry Cake with Lemon sauce is here.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

Do many families have legends, stories, and myths which are important to the family's image of itself?

How would destruction of those beliefs effect members of the family? Do you think those stories are more or less powerful to young people today than they were to their parents' generation?

Neither Anna May nor Jessie told what happened to them on Prouts Neck. They dealt with it in their own ways. Why? How often do you think that happened in the past? Which girl was most successful in hiding her secret? Today we are much more open about such circumstances … would girls in their situation today ever consider their solutions?

Do you think Anna May really loved Luke, or was she just jealous of Jessie?

What did you think of Maggie's reaction when Will said he might move to Maine to take care of Aunt Nettie? Was she being selfish or realistic?

On the other hand, Maggie has wanted to be a parent, and Will doesn't want to do that. Either caring for a child or for an elderly relative would make major changes in their lives – individually or together. What do their feelings about these issues have to say about Maggie and Will as individuals? About the future of their relationship?

What did you think of the Thompsons' house, and the relationships between Betsy Thompson, her husband, her step-son, and their summer guest, Kevin Bradman? Were all their various relationships realistic?

A number of critics have said that setting, or place, is actually a major character in Lea Wait's books. Is that true of Shadows of a Down East Summer? Could this book have been set in any place other than Maine? Did you learn anything new about Maine while reading it?

Southgate Inn, Circa 1890

Checkley Inn


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