The following questions are designed to stimulate a book group discussion after reading “Memory Lake: The Forever Friendships of Summer.”
The working title of Memory Lake was originally Sacrifices of Joy. The author’s publisher changed the title because in their professional view, “Sacrifices are for witches and Joy is for cooking and sex.” What does a ‘sacrifice of joy’ mean to you? Can you identify it as a recurring theme in the novel, and as a tool for overcoming grief and hardship?
Identify pivotal times in your life in which you forced yourself to express joy when you least felt like it. Did this attitude help you to persevere and achieve an accomplishment of which you are particularly proud?
Did you attend summer camp? Discuss your own summer camp experience, if you had one.
If you were homesick, did you attend camp too young? Was the camp you attended flawed in some way?
If you had a favorable camp experience, in what ways was your camp similar or dissimilar to the author’s? As a camper did you see improvement in any of these areas:
- An expanded imagination
- Character development
- Sacred dimensions
- Independence and self-esteem
- Friendships and social skills
- Making a connection to the outdoors
- Leadership training
As an adolescent, were you influenced negatively by peer pressure? Could you have benefited from a summer camp experience? Do you think kids today need to escape negative peer pressure more than kids from earlier generations?
The author believes children benefit greatly by unplugging from their electronic devices and establishing a connection to nature even if they are unable to attend summer camp. What lessons did the characters of Memory Lake learn from their outdoor experiences? Could these same lessons have been learned indoors?
Do you experience a sense of awe and well-being when surrounded by natural beauty? Many believe this sensation can lead to spiritual awareness and an inner confidence. Is there a place of natural beauty that is important to you, where you feel especially connected to a sacred presence?
Discuss the pivotal role Lake Michigan played in the story and in the main characters’ development. To what degree do you think the lake influenced the campers’ overall experience? Were the bonds of friendship more or less important than the setting? Do you think the characters’ camp experiences would have been the same in a different setting?
Have you ever visited the Sleeping Bear Dunes? Check out this National Park Service link to learn more about its natural beauty: https://www.nps.gov/slbe/index.htm
What defines a ‘forever friend’ to you? Have you recently reconnected with individuals who were once your closest friends? Were you able to rekindle the same level of association?
Have the friendships in your life helped or hindered your spiritual growth? Do you think a more spiritual connection to a friend increases the chances of that friendship’s longevity?
Which characters in Memory Lake do you identify with the most, and why?
Did Nanny’s personality resonate with you? Have there been fears and limitations passed on through generations of women in your family? Have you, or your mother been able to break free? If so, how was this accomplished? If you have a daughter, have you tried not to pass on certain traits to her?
Most sleep-away summer camps, whether affiliated with a specific faith or not, imbue sacred elements into the overall camp experience to teach empathy, kindness, cooperation and other positive qualities. Do you think today’s women and girls need an honor code to live by? Discuss how the various camper qualities and the earning of beads helped the campers get along without jealousy or arguing.
If you were able to establish a code for women and girls to live by, what would it be?
After reading Memory Lake, are you more inclined to recommend summer camp to your own children or grandchildren?
Dr. Michael Thompson, a leading child and family psychologist and New York Times best-selling author says, “Camp ushers kids into a thrilling world of emotionally significant experiences that are theirs alone – ones they can only get when away from home. Parents’ first instinct to shelter their offspring above all else – can actually deprive kids of the major developmental milestones and independent learning that occurs through letting them go.” Would you have agreed with this statement before reading Memory Lake? Are you more inclined to agree with this statement now, after having read Memory Lake?
The author would like to hear from you! Please leave a comment pertaining to your book group’s experience in discussing Memory Lake.
Nancy, I probably looked at hundreds of study guides in my time, but yours is a model of the form. The questions are intelligent and thoughtful, and leas the reader to a deeper understanding of the ideas and events of the story. Well done!