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The Second Home: A Novel
by Christina Clancy

Published: 2021-06-08T00:0
Paperback : 400 pages
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Compassionate, incisive and heartbreaking, Christina Clancy's The Second Home is the story of a family you'll quickly fall in love with and won't soon forget. Told through the shifting perspectives of three estranged siblings, this assured and affecting debut captures the ache of nostalgia for ...
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Introduction

Compassionate, incisive and heartbreaking, Christina Clancy's The Second Home is the story of a family you'll quickly fall in love with and won't soon forget. Told through the shifting perspectives of three estranged siblings, this assured and affecting debut captures the ache of nostalgia for summers past and the powerful draw of the places we return to again and again. It is about second homes, second families, and second chances.

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Discussion Questions

1. “Cape Cod felt like a hazy dream the rest of the year, a place
suspended forever in beach days filled with sunshine and
warmth.” (1) Do you have a place from your younger years
that inhabits your memory in this way? How does the
youthful memory compare to the reality?

2. “Upon returning to their home in Wellfleet, Ann felt her
parents’ radiant energy in everything she saw as she paced
the house to stay warm: the chipped wine glass left in
the sink, the sloppily folded beach towels and stained
pillowcases, in her mother’s cookbooks, her father’s
telescope, even in the bulb digger where they’d always
hidden the skeleton key that unlocked the back door.” (1)
Imagine walking into a house—what would “tell” of your
own parents, what would signal that they were the most
recent inhabitants? When you are gone, what objects might
reflect your presence?

3. “It smelled like rotten eggs at low tide, but that was a smell
she loved in the same primal way that she’d loved the smell
of Noah’s sweet bald head when he was a baby…every
molecule in her body seemed to change.” (3) What senses
are activated by a special place or person? What powers can
smell have?

4. How do each of the Gordon children explore and deal with
the loss of their parents? Did you consider any of their
reactions healthy or unique?

5. Michael’s background is very different from that of Ann
and Poppy. What intense experiences has he already had
before joining the Gordon family? What misconceptions
did outsiders hold about what Michael might bring into
their lives?

6. “She loved Michael, so why did she feel so selfish? She
wanted to tell Michael that the house was theirs, and
summer was her time with her father.” (45) Can you track
Poppy’s emotions in this adolescent outburst? What is she
wrestling with here? How do Ann’s complicated feelings
toward Michael manifest over the course of the novel?

7. What role does family—the ones we’re born into and the
ones we create—serve? What are some assumptions we
might make about families like the Shaws?

8. “He signed quickly, before he could change his mind. And
just like that, he became a nobody.” (138) What does this
mean, for Michael to become a “nobody”? Did you feel
empathy for Michael’s choice? Which adults could have
handled the situation differently?

9. “Just look at us. One of your kids is missing, the other is
a burn out, and I’m a teenage mom. Great job, you guys!”
(153) What did you make of the Gordon family? Are their
secrets and struggles commonplace?

10. The Shaw family is, on its surface, quite different from
the Gordons. Do they share any similarities? Did you feel
sympathy for Maureen? What about for the Shaw boys?

11. Discuss the role and impact of secrets in this novel. Are they
inherently destructive, or are some secrets worth keeping?
Why do Ann and Michael hold on to their secrets, and why
is Connie’s illness not openly shared with Poppy?

12. How is Anthony able to manipulate both Ann and Michael?
What kind of power does he hold over each of them?

13. “She felt like a part of her drowned in that pond.” (110) As
a reader, what was it like to read Ann’s rape scene and the
unraveling that followed? Why does Ann blame herself for
what happened that night, and everything that came after?

14. “Poppy was the victim of collateral damage.” (267) Discuss
Poppy’s trajectory from unsupervised teen with risky
behaviors to globe-traveling yoga teacher and commitmentphobe, to mother. What makes Poppy resist responsibility
and returning home? What changes for her?

15. In what ways do children and grandchildren change the
dynamics of a family?

16. How does Ann’s confrontation of Anthony affect her?
Discuss the emotion and drama of this scene, and the
impact on you as a reader. Did this meeting play out as you
expected?

17. Explore what Wellfleet means to each of the main
characters in the novel—what did it represent for Connie
and Ed, for Michael and, ultimately, for the sisters? Why are
they drawn to it? What are they nostalgic for?


18. “We should have figured this out. Should have assumed the
best about each other, not the worst.” (330) Why is Ann
so late to forgive or welcome Michael back into her life? In
what specific ways did they each feel betrayed?

19. “Is that what houses really were, containers for families? And
once the containers were gone, the people inside were just
set loose in the world, particles.” (239) A theme throughout
the novel is that houses hold our histories. How does this
play out on the page, and has it proven true in your life?

20. “It was still theirs, still in the family, still vulnerable to the
elements, still requiring upkeep. It was an anchor, yes,
but one that held her in place.” (337) How is a house
an “anchor” and what does that mean for these characters
moving forward?

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