Published by: Scribner
Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop
Set in the seaside town of Gloucester, Massachusetts, fifty-nine-year-old Kathleen Levine, a longtime resident, is graceful, maternal, and steady, a devoted children’s librarian, a convert to Judaism, the mother of two grown sons. But when she is diagnosed with breast cancer — which killed her sister fifteen years earlier — her life is thrown into turmoil. Frightened, lonesome for a friend to talk to, burdened by secrets, she meets Joyce Tabachnik and a friendship is born. Forty-two-year-old Joyce, restless and funny, a freelance writer with literary aspirations, has just bought a small house in Gloucester, where she hopes to write as well as vacation with her family. Like Kathleen, Joyce is at a fragile juncture in her life. With her twelve-year-old daughter becoming increasingly testy and distant, she’s also feeling a lack of connection to her husband.
A mutual appreciation of books, a shared sense of humor, and the beauty of the natural world bring the two women together for long walks along Good Harbor beach. Slowly, they begin to share their personal histories and to realize how much they can learn from each other. Ultimately they wrestle with some startling secrets, and help each other to confront scars left by old emotional wounds.
“Immensely moving and delicately told … Anita Diamant has the rare ability to tell a story with charm and sensitivity yet never to slither over into the mawkish or sentimental. Her apparently ordinary characters are so subtly drawn that they live on in the mind long after the final page has closed. You want to know them better, and meet them again. It takes a singular talent to make that happen… I was entranced by every word.”
— Daily Mail
“A heart-warming tale of female friendship and the importance of sharing long-hidden secrets and facing the future.”
— Family Circle
“Graceful and entertaining.”
— The Toronto Sun
“If you’re missing a close friend or a friendship, Good Harbor strikes a chord.”
Reading Group Guide
1. Joyce and Kathleen become fast friends despite a seventeen-year age difference. What common traits, experiences, and challenges serve as the foundation of their friendship? How do their different perspectives on life help each other as wives, as parents, as friends, as women growing older?
2. Kathleen thinks that talking with men “just isn’t the same.” Do you agree? Is there an inherent difference in the way men and women communicate? What do Kathleen and Joyce derive from their conversations with each other that they don’t get from their husbands?
3. How significant is the setting of this novel? How do Cape Ann and the beach at Good Harbor serve as “characters” or catalysts throughout the book?
4. Religion is an important theme for many characters in Good Harbor. How do Kathleen, Pat, Joyce, Hal, Rabbi Hertz, and Theresa Lupo, for example, approach their religion? How does religion help them define themselves? How does it bring them together?
5. Kathleen learns some surprising things about her son Hal in Good Harbor. How do these revelations affect their relationship? What does Kathleen learn about herself? About Hal?
6. Recall Kathleen’s discomfort at friends offering their “cancer stories” when they learn of her diagnosis. Why do these sympathetic gestures make Kathleen feel worse rather than better? How does her sister Pat’s death make Kathleen’s diagnosis even more difficult to face?
7. What is the cause of Joyce’s “funk” in the beginning of the novel? How does her house become both the outlet for her frustrations and a source of satisfaction?
8. Why does Joyce struggle between her desire to write a serious novel and her pleasure in writing about her romance heroine Magnolia? Why is she uncomfortable talking about her literary aspirations and accomplishments? What finally allows Joyce to get over her writer’s block?
9. Kathleen says there are “lots of things she never said to Buddy” and believes this is “the secret of their marital happiness.” Is she correct in that assessment? For Joyce and Frank, the lack of communication creates a deep rift in their relationship. What are some of the other silences and secrets in Good Harbor? What effect, both positive and negative, do they have on the characters’ lives?
10. Kathleen and Buddy and Joyce and Frank experience different kinds of grieving over their children — the first couple grieves a death, the second grieves the inevitable passage of their children into adulthood. How do these very different kinds of losses, and the couples’ inability to talk about them, affect their marriages?
11. At the end of Good Harbor, Kathleen and Joyce have arrived at a new understanding of themselves, their families, and each other. Discuss the journey each woman makes to the new place in her life. What resources did they draw upon to get there? How do you imagine their futures?
12. If you have read Diamant’s first bestselling novel, The Red Tent, compare and contrast it with Good Harbor. How does ancient womanhood differ from modern womanhood? What do Diamant’s female characters have in common across the centuries?
Learn more at Simon & Schuster.