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Book Club Questions for Save What’s Left by Elizabeth Castellano (+ Free Printable PDF)

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Book club questions for Save What’s Left by Elizabeth Castellano explore the themes of love, self-discovery, and the unexpected turns life takes us on.

In this reading guide, we delve into the world of Kathleen Deane, a woman whose journey towards finding herself unfolds in the charming beach community of Whitbey. But don’t be fooled by the picturesque setting and quaint cottages; this book takes a refreshing twist on the typical beach read.

Personally, what I loved about Save What’s Left is its relatability. Kathleen’s story resonated with me on so many levels. As she navigates the complexities of her marriage and embarks on a new chapter in life, I found myself cheering for her every step of the way.

To read my full review for this book, click here.

About the story

Save What’s Left follows Kathleen Deane, who, after her husband leaves her, decides to start fresh in the beach town of Whitbey. But life there isn’t exactly what she expected, with grumpy neighbors and town politics to deal with.

As Kathleen fights against a monstrous house being built next door, she discovers the true cost of a picturesque view. This candid and irreverent tale is all about forgiveness, resilience, and second chances.

“Save What’s Left” is not your typical beach read—it’s the “un-beach read.” It takes you behind the scenes of life in a beach town, showing you the real price behind those pretty views. You’ll join Kathleen on her candid and irreverent journey, learning about the importance of forgiveness, resilience, and finding new beginnings.

About the Author

Elizabeth Castellano is a 33-year-old debut author hailing from a small North Fork hometown. Growing up in this close-knit community, she developed a keen eye for observing the quirks and dynamics of her surroundings.

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Castellano’s debut novel, “Save What’s Left,” serves as a love letter to her beloved hometown, offering an outrageous comedy of errors that cleverly explores the challenges of unprecedented development. With her sharp wit and insightful storytelling, Castellano presents a fresh perspective on beach town life, defying genre conventions and capturing the absurdities of human behavior.

Currently, she is working on her second book, set in Ireland, and continues to inspire readers with her unique storytelling style.

Book Club Questions for Save What’s Left

Scroll down below for the printable PDF of the book club questions for Save What’s Left by Elizabeth Castellano.

  • What resonated with you the most while reading Save What’s Left? Reflect on the depth and significance of the book’s title, exploring its evolution from a simple slogan to a profound existential exploration. Discuss the aspects of Kathleen’s journey that captivated you and consider how you personally related to her fish-out-of-water experience.
  • Kathleen undergoes a major life change when her husband leaves and she decides to start over in a beach town. Have you ever experienced a significant life change that prompted you to reevaluate your priorities and make a fresh start? How did that experience shape your perspective on life and personal growth?
  • Kathleen remarks that small rural towns like Whitbey are often perceived as peaceful and quaint, but her own reality proves to be quite different. Why do you think she decides to stay in Whitbey despite her initial reservations? Compare Kathleen’s experience with those of longtime local Rosemary, recent transplant Josie, and even her estranged husband Tom. How does each character’s perspective shed light on the allure and challenges of small-town living?
  • The Sugar Cube emerges as a central focal point in Save What’s Left, standing in stark contrast to Kathleen’s modest oyster shack. Analyze how this architectural wonder takes on a character of its own in the novel. Additionally, for a fun twist, imagine yourself having to choose between the two beach homes—Kathleen’s cozy cottage or the modern marvel of the Sugar Cube—and explain your preference and the reasons behind it.
  • In Save What’s Left, Kathleen’s estranged husband occupies her driveway and later moves to the water, while Josie and Dan renew their wedding vows following a scandalous infidelity. Delve into the concept of a “normal” marriage and family within the context of the novel. Discuss the book’s exploration of love, betrayal, and forgiveness, and examine what it reveals about the complexities and dynamics of these relationships.
  • Kathleen ponders whether people ever stop asking about one’s occupation and if that question persists throughout life. Explore how Save What’s Left tackles the themes of aging, retirement, and the pursuit of the American Dream. Consider the risks and rewards of following one’s heart and uncovering personal passions. Is there ever a point when it becomes too late to discover one’s true identity or purpose?
  • Examine the narrative structure of Save What’s Left. Did you enjoy the epistolary elements, such as Kathleen’s letters to Supervisor White? Identify other storytelling techniques employed in the book, such as foreshadowing and gripping chapter endings. Share any notable moments that left you pleasantly surprised or craving more.
  • Discuss the role of community and belonging in the book. How does Kathleen navigate her sense of identity and find a sense of belonging in the small beach town? What lessons can be drawn from her experiences in terms of the importance of community support and connection?
  • Kathleen humorously expresses her desire to wake up with amnesia, forgetting why she is in Whitbey. However, she also admits to loving the town or, at the very least, loving to hate it. Can both of these sentiments coexist? Reflect on these intimate asides and their effect on your connection with Kathleen. Which of her remarks stood out to you the most and why?
  • In Save What’s Left, there are multiple perspectives and layers to the story. Discuss the characters you found yourself rooting for and the reasons behind your support. Additionally, delve into Kathleen’s newspaper article and its implications regarding the nature of “fake news” on a neighborhood level.
  • If you had the chance to ask the young, first-time author one question about Save What’s Left—whether it’s related to the writing process, the portrayal of mature characters, or the intricacies of the plot—what would you ask? Take this opportunity to delve into your curiosities about the book’s creation and execution.
  • Envision the future for Kathleen in Whitbey beyond the final chapter of the book. Extend this exercise to other characters such as Tom, Rosemary, Josie, Hattie, and newcomer Cindy Schwartz. Share your thoughts on their potential paths and the possibilities that lie ahead for each of them within the confines of Whitbey’s community.

Selected Reviews for Save What’s Left

“Castellano turns the beach-read genre on its head in her clever debut. . . . Kathleen’s character and worldview are impeccably drawn, thanks to Castellano’s idiosyncratic and assured voice. This witty send-up is a winner.” Publishers Weekly

“The novel walks the line between funny and outright wacky, and Kathleen’s battles will resonate with any homeowner.” the Star Tribune

“Irreverent and unexpectedly tender, this story takes neighborhood feuding to new heights and finds beauty and reinvention in unlikely places. A wickedly funny debut.” Oprah Daily

Additional Recommendations

Hope you enjoyed the book club discussion questions and reading guide for Save What’s Left by Elizabeth Castellano!

Here are some more of my book club recommendations:

Little Monsters by Adrienne Brodeur
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Set in the fraught summer of 2016, and drawing on the biblical tale of Cain and Abel, Little Monsters is an absorbing, sharply observed family story by a writer who knows Cape Cod inside and out—its Edenic lushness and its snakes.

Ken and Abby Gardner lost their mother when they were small and they have been haunted by her absence ever since. Their father, Adam, a brilliant oceanographer, raised them mostly on his own in his remote home on Cape Cod, where the attachment between Ken and Abby deepened into something complicated—and as adults their relationship is strained.

Now, years later, the siblings’ lives are still deeply entwined. Ken is a successful businessman with political ambitions and a picture-perfect family and Abby is a talented visual artist who depends on her brother’s goodwill, in part because he owns the studio where she lives and works.

As the novel opens, Adam is approaching his seventieth birthday, staring down his mortality and fading relevance. He has always managed his bipolar disorder with medication, but he’s determined to make one last scientific breakthrough and so he has secretly stopped taking his pills, which he knows will infuriate his children.

Meanwhile, Abby and Ken are both harboring secrets of their own, and there is a new person on the periphery of the family—Steph, who doesn’t make her connection known. As Adam grows more attuned to the frequencies of the deep sea and less so to the people around him, Ken and Abby each plan the elaborate gifts they will present to their father on his birthday, jostling for primacy in this small family unit.

Bad Summer People by Adrienne Brodeur
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None of them would claim to be a particularly good person. But who among them is actually capable of murder?

Jen Weinstein and Lauren Parker rule the town of Salcombe, Fire Island every summer. They hold sway on the beach and the tennis court, and are adept at manipulating people to get what they want. Their husbands, Sam and Jason, have summered together on the island since childhood, despite lifelong grudges and numerous secrets.

Their one single friend, Rachel Woolf, is looking to meet her match, whether he’s the tennis pro―or someone else’s husband. But even with plenty to gossip about, this season starts out as quietly as any other.

Until a body is discovered, face down, off the side of the boardwalk.

Stylish, subversive, and darkly comedic, this is a story of what’s lurking under the surface of picture-perfect lives in a place where everyone has something to hide.

The Beach at Summerly by Beatriz Williams
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A ravishing summer read from New York Times bestseller Beatriz Williams, sweeping readers back to a mid-century New England rich with secrets and Cold War intrigue.

June 1946. As the residents of Winthrop Island prepare for the first summer season after the sacrifice of war, a glamorous new figure moves into the guest cottage at Summerly, the idyllic seaside estate of the wealthy Peabody family.

To Emilia Winthrop, daughter of Summerly’s year-round caretaker and a descendant of the island’s settlers, Olive Rainsford opens a window into a world of shining possibility. While Emilia spent the war years caring for her incapacitated mother, Olive traveled the world, married fascinating men, and involved herself in political causes. She’s also the beloved aunt of the two surviving Peabody sons, Amory and Shep, with whom Emilia has a tangled romantic history.

As the summer wears on, Emilia develops a deep rapport with Olive, who urges her to leave the island for a life of adventure, while romance blossoms with the sturdy and honorable Shep. But the heady promise of Peabody patronage is blown apart by the arrival of Sumner Fox, an FBI agent who demands Emilia’s help to capture a Soviet agent who’s transmitting vital intelligence on the West’s atomic weapon program from somewhere inside the Summerly estate.

April 1954. Eight years later, Summerly is boarded up and Emilia has rebuilt her shattered life as a professor at Wellesley College, when shocking news arrives from Washington—the traitor she helped convict is about to be swapped for an American spy imprisoned in the Soviet Union, but with a mysterious condition only Emilia can fulfill. A reluctant Emilia is summoned to CIA headquarters, where she’s forced to confront the harrowing consequences of her actions that fateful summer, and a choice that could destroy the Peabody family—and Emilia’s chance for redemption—all over again.

Happy reading! ❤️