7 reviews

Beach Trip: A Novel
by Cathy Holton

Published: 2010-06-22
Paperback : 432 pages
17 members reading this now
11 clubs reading this now
4 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 3 of 7 members
Mel, Sara, Annie, and Lola have traveled diverse paths since their years together at a small Southern liberal arts college during the early 1980s. Mel, a mystery writer living in New York, is grappling with the aftermath of two failed marriages and a stalled writing career. Sara, an ...
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Mel, Sara, Annie, and Lola have traveled diverse paths since their years together at a small Southern liberal arts college during the early 1980s. Mel, a mystery writer living in New York, is grappling with the aftermath of two failed marriages and a stalled writing career. Sara, an Atlanta attorney, struggles with her own slowly unraveling marriage. Annie, a successful Nashville businesswoman married to her childhood sweetheart, can’t seem to leave behind the regrets of her youth. And sweet-tempered Lola whiles away her hours—and her husband’s money—on little pills that keep her happy.

Now the friends, all in their forties, converge on Lola’s lavish North Carolina beach house in an attempt to relive the carefree days of their college years. But as the week wears on and each woman’s hidden story is gradually revealed, these four friends learn that they must inevitably confront their shared past, and a secret that threatens to change their bond, and their lives, forever.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


Spring, 1982

Lola was engaged to Briggs Furman, so her roommates were stunned the night she came home and told them she was in love with a boy named Lonnie. They sat around in various poses of disbelief and concern, watching Lola and Lonnie, who stood, arms entwined, in the middle of the living room. Lola had leaves in her hair. This was six weeks before they were all set to graduate from college and go their separate ways into the wide world, and no one had suspected Lola of a secret love affair. Least of all Briggs. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. Beach Trip's major theme concerns the effect of time and life changes on friendship. Do you think lifelong friendship is possible? Did Holton effectively explore this theme with her own characters? Did their relationships feel realistic to you? Is the theme of lifelong friendship relevant to your own life? Have you ever lost a friend due to a monumental change in one of your lives? What do you think are the qualities necessary for enduring friendship?

2. The novel is prefaced with the quote “In youth we learn; in age we understand.” How does this apply to the book? Was there redemption in this novel for any of the characters? Does Holton's use of multiple voices and flashbacks work well in the telling of this story?

3. Which of the four main characters do you most identify with and why? Were Lola, Mel, Sara and Annie well developed, and were their problems and decisions realistic? The male characters in the novel were secondary. Did they seem believable? How were they important to the story?

4. In her youth, Mel realizes that “Life wasn't about perfection. It wasn't neat and tidy. It was about loss and longing.” How does this help explain her relationship to her childhood, her relationship with J.T. Radford, Lola, Annie and, especially, Sara? Mel's character comes across as being overbearing and self-centered, but do you feel she genuinely cared for Sara, Lola and Annie? Do you think Mel's decision to help Maureen and Briggs thwart Lola's elopement was realistic? Do you think she thought she was doing the right thing for Lola? Was it telling that Lola's final letter was addressed to Mel, and not Annie or Sara?

5. If Mel had made a different decision regarding J.T. Radford, how might her life have been different? How might her friendship with the other three have been affected? Have you ever regretted a decision you made and wondered what your life might have been like if you'd decided differently?

6. Sara spends a lot of time worrying about her children. She seems to feel that her family's happiness rests entirely on her shoulders. Can you identify with this? Do you think her feelings of responsibility and guilt are rooted in the fact that she experienced a relatively happy childhood herself, that she grew up in a time when roles for women were more narrowly defined (and in some ways, more easy to achieve)? Do you think that, as modern women, we've been raised to expect we can have it all - career, family, self-fulfillment? Who do you think had it easier, our mothers or us?

7. Lola, Sara, and Annie had somewhat different mothering styles. Do you think each was a good mother? Do you think Mel's decision not to have children was a valid one? If you have children, how has motherhood enriched your life? How has it made it more difficult?

8. At the beginning of the novel, Annie comes across as being the most rigid and uptight of the group and yet by the end, she's the character who has perhaps changed the most. Was her transformation believable? How does her relationship with her husband, Mitchell, sustain her through this process? Is unconditional love often a catalyst for personal transformation? Why? Do you think Mitchell would love her less if he knew about Professor Ballard? How does Agnes Grace help to bring closure to Annie's story?

9. As a girl, Lola is forced by her mother to play with the tyrannical Charlotte Hampton. How does the scene where Lola finally locks her tormentor in the crawl space foreshadow the end of the novel? Do you know of marriages like Lola's? Why do you think women stay in these situations? Given Briggs' obsessive and relentless nature, the violence of his reaction to Lonnie, and to Lola the first time she tries to leave him with their infant son, Henry, do you think Lola could have done anything other than what she did at the end of the novel? Were you surprised by the ending or did you see it coming?

10. Did you think the story was funny, disturbing, sad or moving? What made you choose the book? Did it live up to your expectations and would you suggest it to others?

Suggested by Members

9. If you were to go on a trip with some old friends, what would you write on your piece of paper that went in the box?
4. Lola showed her belly button ring to the surprise of the other three women. Have you ever done something out of character/surprising? (Belly button ring, tattoo, elope, etc…)
6. Why do you think that the four friends were able to maintain their friendship across time, despite the very different paths they each chose, and the secrets they kept from each other?
by RGDanning (see profile) 05/26/10

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

I wanted to write a novel about four women whose lives intersect at two very important times in their lives; the first, when they’re young and idealistic and have their whole lives in front of them, and the second, when they’re older, standing on the cusp of middle age, and have been whittled down some by fate and circumstance.

I knew the novel would have an element of dark humor. And I knew there would be a surprising revelation at the end, a revelation that threatened the tenuous bond the women had shared over the years and yet helped to explain that bond, too.

I received an email not long ago from a woman who had read Beach Trip and who wanted to tell me about her group of friends. There are five of them, they met in kindergarten, and they’ve been getting together annually (more or less) for the last seventy-three years. Imagine that - seventy-three years of friendship! I like to believe that Annie, Sara, Mel and Lola will be similarly blessed.

I like to believe that I will be, too.


Cathy Holton


Book Club Recommendations

by litimberlake (see profile) 07/29/10
The book describes how to make them. Very yummy!
Serve espresso martinis and wear flip flops
by RGDanning (see profile) 05/26/10

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "Beach Trip"by Shawna D. (see profile) 10/12/10

This book was very slow moving. I had to force myself to read it. On the other note it did have some interesting parts. It took the author awhile to get to the point.

  "moms thoughts"by Jennifer C. (see profile) 10/04/10

by linds l. (see profile) 04/27/24

by Elizabeth G. (see profile) 12/09/17

  "Beach Trip"by Kate A. (see profile) 07/15/11

The book was very slow and really didn't come together until the very end. Wish it had more depth.

  "Kinda fun...but not for book club"by brenda e. (see profile) 08/24/10

I read this as a preview for book club. Was sorta slow, I enjoyed it, but don't recommend it for book club.

  "The Beach Trip"by Sandi B. (see profile) 07/31/10

We picked this book for summer reading because we thought it was a fairly easy read for that time of year. I read it early on for our meeting and wish I would have waited till right before as it has several... (read more)

  "Just Fun"by LYNN T. (see profile) 07/29/10

Cute and easy read. Fun. I really enjoyed it and would recommend. Kinda chic lit.

  "Beach Trip"by Cindy M. (see profile) 07/01/10

This book was very slow hard to get into. It took a while to get through because it was boring and I found it hard to relate to the characters.

  "Chick book"by Rose D. (see profile) 05/26/10

This is a fun book if you are looking for a break from some more serious novels. Half our group do not normally read "beach books" but the discussion ended up being one of our funnest meetings.

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