1. Quinnipeague is a fictional island, but based very closely on the many islands that dot Maine’s coast and are popular with summer visitors. Have you been to a seasonal island or beach community on vacation? How was Quinnipeague similar to these places you’ve visited? What characteristics make Quinnipeague unique? What interesting dynamics play out in the story because of the seasonal nature of Quinnipeague? What differences did you find between the characters who are “locals” and those that are “summer people?”
2. One of the main plotlines is Sweet Salt Air revolve around Charlotte’s and Nicole’s efforts to write a cookbook. What is the significance of food—how it’s prepared, served, and appreciated—in Sweet Salt Air? What makes the island’s food special to the two women? Do they view food, and the process of collecting recipes and the stories behind them, differently?
3. Talk about the characters’ lives off the island of Quinnipeague—Charlotte, who lives in Brooklyn but travels constantly, and Nicole who is firmly rooted to her home in Philadelphia. What does each woman’s lifestyle reveal about her personality? Do their lifestyle choices seem in keeping with what the novel reveals about them?
4. Both Charlotte and Nicole are keeping secrets at the start of the novel that they have no intention of revealing. And yet, they both ultimately do. Do you understand why each woman kept her secret from the other? Do you think one was more justified in keeping her secret? What did you think of each woman’s reaction to the truth? Have you ever kept a big secret from a friend, only to reveal it later?
5. If you were Nicole, could you forgive Charlotte for what she did? Do you think there are some things in friendship that are unforgiveable? Do you think Charlotte has forgiven herself? If yes, what happened on the island that allowed her to forgive herself? If not, what do you think she still needs to do?
6. Nicole and Julian face challenges, but every marriage is tested at one time or another. What do you think is the hardest test? Illness? Infidelity? Money? Are we stronger for the suffering? In what ways?
7. Cecily Cole is a presence throughout the book, despite her death several years earlier. How do the locals see Cecily and her garden? How does Cecily’s spirit affect each character in the novel? How do Leo’s descriptions of Cecily as a mother affect your view of her? Do you believe in the kind of lingering legacy that the women discover in the herbs and food of Quinnipeague?
8. Discuss the role of Salt to the story in Sweet Salt Air? Do you and your friends have the same taste in books? How do Charlotte’s and Nicole’s differing reactions to the book reflect their natures? How did you enjoy the experience of hearing about a book you could not read? Were you surprised when you learned who had written Salt?
9. Nicole is upset over Angie’s relationship with Tom. Do you feel that she’s justified? Have you ever witnessed a parent’s romantic involvement with a non-parent of yours? What emotions were involved for you? For your parent?
10. Leo has a “bad boy” edge. Does this make him more attractive to Charlotte? Do you think a little rebellion is attractive? Leo has committed some crimes in his life, crimes for which he’s served time in jail. What is your sense of how Leo’s time in jail affected him? Has he changed? Does doing bad things make us bad people? And what about Charlotte, who’s committed no crimes, and yet, she’s done some terrible things? Would you characterize Charlotte as “bad”?
11. If you could ask the author anything about Sweet Salt Air—clarification of a plot point, a detail about a particular character, scenes from the cutting-room floor—what would it be? (You may choose to contact Barbara Delinsky, via her website or Facebook, and ask her!)
(Questions issued by publisher.)
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