By Holly Robinson
New American LibraryApril 2014

Trade Paperback400 pages, $15.00, ISBN: 9780451241023
Subject: Family / Loss / Secrets

  1. Elaine chooses to live with her mother during her last year of life, while Ava steers clear of her mother's mental health issues and concentrates on her own family. Did these women make the right choices?
  2. Why is it so much easier for Ava to acknowledge that Gigi is their sister than it is for Elaine, and how do their attitudes toward their father's second family help determine the events in the novel?
  3. Gigi and Elaine both have unsatisfactory sexual encounters in Beach Plum Island. What propels them into these relationships? Do you think their behavior is realistic or not?
  4. Ava tells Simon that we each “carry landscapes inside us.” What does she mean by this? If you had to describe a landscape to represent your own life, what would that landscape look like?
  5. At one point, Ava says to Gigi, “Nobody outside a marriage can really know what's happening on the inside of it.” How is this true for the married couples in this book? In your own life?
  6. Ava compares raising a child to making a piece of art. Do you think parenting is more of an art or a science?
  7. Do you agree with Elaine's assessment early in the novel that Ava has “no idea what it was like to live in the real world?” Or is Elaine deluding herself by thinking she's more worldly than her sister?
  8. Ava and Elaine both fall in love with men who they think are “wrong” for them. Why do they think that, and what makes these relationships work, contrary to their own expectations?
  9. What role do sibling relationships play in this novel? How have your own sibling relationships helped shape your life?
  10. At some point, Elaine thinks, “Why are we here? Why do one thing and not another? Why love one person and not someone else, or anyone at all, if everyone's story ends the same way?” Do you think she answers these questions by the end of Beach Plum Island? Have you answered them in your own life?
  11. Many women gave Peter up when he was a child: Suzanne, Marie, and Finley. What were the societal and cultural reasons each woman did what she did? How might things have gone differently if Peter had been born now instead of in the nineteen seventies?