1. In The Summer Kitchen, Sandra seems to regret having given up some of the dreams she held as a young woman. At forty-nine, she feels that she hasn’t achieved all she wanted to. Do you think we all feel this, in some sense? What is your greatest achievement? Your greatest regret?
2. Even though, at first, Cass resents Kiki and Opal being in the apartment, she takes Opal under her wing and becomes a parental figure, to the best of her ability. Why do you think she does this?
3. When Sandra sees the children in the Dumpster, she initially fails to recognize their needs, and when she does recognize them she tries to convince herself to leave them to social agencies. Why does she react this way? What barriers prevent us from recognizing the needs of the people around us, or from doing something bold to address them? Do you think one person can make a difference?
4. In a family riddled with substance abuse, Poppy and Aunt Ruth provided an island of safety and security for Sandra. If not for them, what sort of life might Sandra have led? Do you think people are shaped more by inborn personality or by environment? How has your history shaped you as a person?
5. As the relationship between Cass and Sandra develops, Cass recognizes that she was fortunate to have had a mother who “loved her more than anything.” Even though her upbringing lacked the financial comforts of Sandra’s, what gifts has Cass been given that Sandra lacks? How do these gifts help Cass survive in a difficult situation?