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Book Club Questions for Meant to Be by Emily Giffin

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Book club questions for Meant to Be by Emily Giffin explore the intricacies of love, family legacies, and the pursuit of identity in the face of societal expectations.

Giffin’s beautifully written novel follows the lives of Joe Kingsley III, the inheritor of a prestigious family name burdened with responsibilities, and Cate Cooper, a young woman who finds solace in the world of modeling but struggles with her sense of self.

As their paths unexpectedly cross, readers are taken on a journey of self-discovery, fame, and the complexities of relationships.

Within the pages of this captivating novel, readers are invited to embark on a thought-provoking journey, exploring the intricacies of the human experience through the lens of Joe and Cate’s lives.

From Joe’s struggle to reconcile his free-spirited nature with the weight of his family’s legacy, to Cate’s journey of self-discovery in the face of external expectations, Meant to Be presents a rich tapestry of themes that are ripe for exploration and contemplation.

I hope you will enjoy the following book club questions and reading guide for Meant to Be by Emily Giffin!✨

The Synopsis

The Kingsley family is American royalty, beloved for their military heroics, political service, and unmatched elegance. In 1967, after Joseph S. Kingsley, Jr. is killed in a tragic accident, his charismatic son inherits the weight of that legacy. But Joe III is a free spirit—and a little bit reckless. Despite his best intentions, he has trouble meeting the expectations of a nation, as well as those of his exacting mother, Dottie.

Meanwhile, no one ever expected anything of Cate Cooper. She, too, grew up fatherless—and after her mother marries an abusive man, she is forced to fend for herself. After being discovered by a model scout at age sixteen, Cate decides that her looks may be her only ticket out of the cycle of disappointment that her mother has always inhabited. Before too long, Cate’s face is in magazines and on billboards. Yet she feels like a fraud, faking it in a world to which she’s never truly belonged.

When Joe and Cate unexpectedly cross paths one afternoon, their connection is instant and intense. But can their relationship survive the glare of the spotlight and the so-called Kingsley curse? In a beautifully written novel that captures a gilded moment in American history, Emily Giffin tells the story of two people searching for belonging and identity, as well as the answer to the question: Are certain love stories meant to be?

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About the Author

Emily Giffin is a celebrated author with a passion for crafting engaging stories about love, relationships, and self-discovery. She holds degrees from Wake Forest University and the University of Virginia School of Law, and she practiced litigation at a prestigious Manhattan firm before following her dreams of becoming a writer. Emily made a bold move and relocated to London to pursue her writing career full-time, where she honed her craft and gained a dedicated following of readers.

With seven New York Times bestselling novels to her name, including Something Borrowed, Love The One You’re With, and Where We Belong. Her stories are known for their authenticity, exploring the complexities of human emotions and relationships with depth and sensitivity.

Emily’s writing style is characterized by engaging prose, realistic dialogue, and relatable characters that readers can easily connect with. She draws on her own experiences and observations of life to create compelling narratives that tackle thought-provoking themes. Her ability to capture the intricacies of human emotions and relationships has earned her a devoted fan base who eagerly anticipates her next release.

Book Club Questions for Meant to Be

I hope you and your book club will enjoy my discussion reading guide for Meant to Be by Emily Giffin.✨

  • The dual perspective of Cate and Joe in Meant to Be adds a layer of complexity to the narrative, giving readers insight into both characters’ inner worlds. How did experiencing the story from two different viewpoints affect your understanding of their actions, motivations, and emotions? Did you feel more connected to one character over the other? How did their individual perspectives enhance or challenge your reading experience?
  • Meant to Be explores various themes such as grief, love, secrecy, and connection. Which of these themes resonated with you the most, and why? How did the author’s portrayal of these themes impact your emotional engagement with the story? Did it evoke any personal memories or experiences? Discuss how the novel delves into these themes and how they intertwine to shape the characters’ journeys throughout the book.
  • The title Meant to Be suggests a sense of destiny or fate. How do you interpret the title in relation to the overall story? Do you think the characters’ lives were predestined, or were they able to shape their own destinies? How does the concept of “meant to be” apply to each of the characters in the novel? Discuss the role of destiny or fate in the characters’ lives and how it influences their choices and actions.
  • Both Joe and Cate come from different backgrounds, with Joe being born into privilege as a part of the Kingsley family, while Cate had to fend for herself and overcome numerous challenges. How do their different upbringings affect their perspectives on life and relationships?
  • Throughout the novel, Joe struggles with meeting the expectations of his family and the public, while Cate grapples with feeling like a fraud in the world of fame and success. How do societal expectations and external pressures impact their choices and actions in the story?
  • Meant to Be is loosely based on the Kennedy family, known for their political legacy and tragic history. How does the portrayal of the Kingsley family in the novel reflect or diverge from the real-life Kennedy family? In what ways does this connection enhance or influence your understanding of the story?
  • The novel touches on themes of identity and belonging, as both Joe and Cate search for their place in the world. How do their struggles with identity shape their relationship and interactions with others? How do they reconcile their individual identities with the expectations placed upon them by society and their families?
  • The story delves into the complexities of relationships and the challenges that arise when two people from different worlds come together. Discuss how Joe and Cate navigate their differences, including their backgrounds, values, and aspirations. How do their differences both strengthen and strain their relationship?
  • Abuse is a significant theme in the novel, with Cate’s mother marrying an abusive man. How does this experience impact Cate’s character development and choices throughout the story? How does it affect her relationship with Joe and her perception of love?
  • The concept of fate and destiny plays a role in the story, with the characters feeling that their meeting was meant to be. Discuss the role of fate in the novel and how it influences the characters’ actions and decisions. Do you believe in fate or do you think that we create our own destinies?
  • The novel explores the idea of living up to family expectations and legacy. How does Joe’s struggle with his family’s expectations and his desire for independence resonate with you? How does Cate’s journey of breaking away from her past and creating her own path relate to this theme?
  • The story is described as a “glorious, satisfying” love story that may be doomed before it even begins. Do you agree or disagree with this assessment? Why or why not? Discuss the challenges and obstacles that Joe and Cate face in their relationship and whether you think their love story is meant to be.
  • Meant to Be is also described as a blend of historical fiction, romance, and contemporary fiction. How does the historical setting and political context of the novel enhance your reading experience? How do the romance and contemporary elements contribute to the overall themes and messages of the story?
  • In Meant to Be, both Cate and Joe carry deep wounds from their past that continue to affect them in the present. Cate realizes that healing these wounds is crucial for finding resolution. Reflect on conflicts in your own life that originated from past wounds. How did you work through them, or how do you plan to work through them? How do you think Cate and Joe can overcome their past wounds and find healing in their relationship?
  • Emily Giffin’s writing in Meant to Be emphasizes the concept of causality, showcasing how certain events and choices can have life-altering effects on individuals. Identify examples of cause and effect in the novel and discuss how you think things would have turned out differently if these instances had not occurred. How do these cause-and-effect relationships shape the characters’ actions and decisions throughout the story?
  • The ending of Meant to Be leaves readers with a sense of closure, but also raises questions about what lies ahead for Cate and Joe. Did you find the ending satisfying or disappointing? Why? How do you envision Cate and Joe’s lives after the story closes? Discuss possible scenarios and outcomes for their future based on the events and character development in the novel.
  • Meant to Be delves into various facets of love and marriage, prompting readers to question their understandings and definitions of these concepts. In what ways did the novel challenge your perceptions of love and marriage? How does it portray love as fluid and malleable, taking on different forms at different moments in time? Discuss the complexities and nuances of love and marriage as depicted in the book, and how they relate to your own experiences and beliefs.
  • The past has a significant impact on the present in Meant to Be. The characters carry emotional baggage from their past experiences, and it affects their relationships and decisions in the present. Explore how the characters try to repress or escape the pain of their histories. What strategies do they use to cope with their past? How does the past continue to haunt them, and how do they confront or avoid it? Discuss the author’s portrayal of the relationship between past and present in the novel and how it affects the characters’ interpersonal dynamics and their paths to healing.
  • Cate and Joe’s romance in Meant to Be is intense and life-changing for both of them. Cate learns to open up again and be vulnerable in order to develop her relationship with Joe. Discuss a time in your own life when you had to be vulnerable to cultivate a new relationship. What challenges did you face? How did you navigate your fears and insecurities? How did being vulnerable affect the development of the relationship? Explore the theme of vulnerability in Meant to Be and how it shapes Cate and Joe’s love story.
  • Meant to Be portrays how human beings are shaped and transformed by their encounters and relationships with others. Discuss the various ways in which characters in the novel are influenced by their parents, their upbringing, or their interactions with others. How do these influences shape their personalities, choices, and behaviors? Explore how certain characters are motivated to differentiate themselves from previous generations and how their relationships with others impact their sense of identity and self. Discuss the author’s portrayal of the complexities of human relationships and how they contribute to the characters’ growth and development throughout the novel.

Selected Reviews for Meant to Be

“This lively page-turner is inspired by the courtship of John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy.”—Elisabeth Egan

Meant To Be is the most golden, heart-crunching, epic love story, which swept me away into another time and another world.”—Sophie Kinsella

“Giffin’s latest charts the course of true love between an American aristocrat and a troubled fashionista. . . . An intriguing meditation on the meaning of ‘meant to be.’”Kirkus Reviews

“The novel strikes a careful balance between simply retelling the true story of JFK Jr. and his wife, Carolyn Bessette, and crafting an entirely new one. Readers who have an abiding interest in the Kennedys will be fascinated . . . Meant to Be is a chic, history-inspired summer read that you will want to take with you to the beach.”Bookreporter

Additional Recommendations

Hope you enjoyed my book club discussion questions and reading guide for Meant to Be by Emily Giffin!

Here are some more of my book club recommendations:

The Lies That Bind by Emily Giffin

It’s 2 A.M. on a Saturday night in the spring of 2001, and twenty-eight-year-old Cecily Gardner sits alone in a dive bar in New York’s East Village, questioning her life. Feeling lonesome and homesick for the Midwest, she wonders if she’ll ever make it as a reporter in the big city—and whether she made a terrible mistake in breaking up with her longtime boyfriend, Matthew. 

As Cecily reaches for the phone to call him, she hears a guy on the barstool next to her say, “Don’t do it—you’ll regret it.” Something tells her to listen, and over the next several hours—and shots of tequila—the two forge an unlikely connection. That should be it, they both decide the next morning, as Cecily reminds herself of the perils of a rebound relationship. Moreover, their timing couldn’t be worse—Grant is preparing to quit his job and move overseas. Yet despite all their obstacles, they can’t seem to say goodbye, and for the first time in her carefully constructed life, Cecily follows her heart instead of her head. 

Then Grant disappears in the chaos of 9/11. Fearing the worst, Cecily spots his face on a missing-person poster, and realizes she is not the only one searching for him. Her investigative reporting instincts kick into action as she vows to discover the truth. But the questions pile up fast: How well did she really know Grant? Did he ever really love her? And is it possible to love a man who wasn’t who heseemed to be? 

The Lies That Bind is a mesmerizing and emotionally resonant exploration of the never-ending search for love and truth—in our relationships, our careers, and deep within our own hearts.

The Summer Place by Jennifer Weiner

When her twenty-two-year-old stepdaughter announces her engagement to her pandemic boyfriend, Sarah Danhauser is shocked. But the wheels are in motion. Headstrong Ruby has already set a date (just three months away!) and spoken to her beloved safta, Sarah’s mother Veronica, about having the wedding at the family’s beach house in Cape Cod. Sarah might be worried, but Veronica is thrilled to be bringing the family together one last time before putting the big house on the market.

But the road to a wedding day usually comes with a few bumps. Ruby has always known exactly what she wants, but as the wedding date approaches, she finds herself grappling with the wounds left by the mother who walked out when she was a baby. Veronica ends up facing unexpected news, thanks to her meddling sister, and must revisit the choices she made long ago, when she was a bestselling novelist with a different life. Sarah’s twin brother, Sam, is recovering from a terrible loss, and confronting big questions about who he is—questions he hopes to resolve during his stay on the Cape. Sarah’s husband, Eli, who’s been inexplicably distant during the pandemic, confronts the consequences of a long ago lapse from his typical good-guy behavior. And Sarah, frustrated by her husband, concerned about her stepdaughter, and worn out by challenges of life during quarantine, faces the alluring reappearance of someone from her past and a life that could have been.

When the wedding day arrives, lovers are revealed as their true selves, misunderstandings take on a life of their own, and secrets come to light. There are confrontations and revelations that will touch each member of the extended family, ensuring that nothing will ever be the same.

From “the undisputed boss of the beach read” (The New York Times), The Summer Place is a testament to family in all its messy glory; a story about what we sacrifice and how we forgive. Enthralling, witty, big-hearted, and sharply observed, this is Jennifer Weiner’s love letter to the Outer Cape and the power of home, the way our lives are enriched by the people we call family, and the endless ways love can surprise us.

Summer Island by Kristin Hannah

Years ago, Nora Bridge walked out on her marriage and left her daughters behind. She has since become a famous radio talk-show host and newspaper columnist beloved for her moral advice. Her youngest daughter, Ruby, is a struggling comedienne who uses her famous mother as fuel for her bitter, cynical humor. When the tabloids unearth a scandalous secret from Nora’s past, their estrangement suddenly becomes dramatic: Nora is injured in an accident and a glossy magazine offers Ruby a fortune to write a tell-all about her mother. Under false pretenses, Ruby returns home to take care of the woman she hasn’t spoken to for almost a decade.

Nora insists they retreat to Summer Island in the San Juans, to the lovely old house on the water where Ruby grew up, a place filled with childhood memories of love and joy and belonging. There Ruby is also reunited with her first love and his brother. Once, the three of them had been best friends, inseparable. Until the summer that Nora had left and everyone’s hearts had been broken. . . .

What began as an expose evolves, as Ruby writes, into an exploration of her family’s past. Nora is not the woman Ruby has hated all these years. Witty, wise, and vulnerable, she is desperate to reconcile with her daughter. As the magazine deadline draws near and Ruby finishes what has begun to seem to her an act of brutal betrayal, she is forced to grow up and at last to look at her mother–and herself–through the eyes of a woman. And she must, finally, allow herself to love.

Summer Island is a beautiful novel, funny, tender, sad, and ultimately triumphant.

Thank you for reading my book club discussion questions and as always, happy reading! ❤️