This reading group guide for Sweet Mary includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book. Introduction
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Mary Guevara is a successful real estate agent on her way to buying her dream house. She works hard to afford a decent lifestyle for her and her beloved son Max. Then, disaster strikes: after being mistaken for the drug queen Maria Guevara Portilla, she is taken away in handcuffs while her son and neighbors look on. Despite being cleared of the charges, all those around her remain suspicious as tabloids scream that the evidence in her favor was “murky.”
Mary decides that she only has one way to reclaim her life: she must find Maria Guevara and bring her in. Her quest will force her to revisit her past, confront an old flame and lock horns with the scourge of the Florida underworld. With the help of old friends and new allies she meets along the way, Sweet Mary will take Maria Guevara down. In the process, Mary will create an entirely new life for herself and her son. Sweet Mary
is an epic tale of a woman’s struggle to get her identity and her family back. In the end, however, it is Mary herself who will be the most affected and come out a completely different person than she was before. Questions for Discussion
1. Mary claims her life is pock marked by times when she gets thrown back into the “emotional pit of my childhood in Hialeah” (p.28). Why does she choose to try and forget her past? Does she ever really obtain the healthy level of detachment she claims to need to survive?
2. The opening page of Sweet Mary
is a quote from one of the characters in the book: “People run away from who they really are --- they do it all the time” (p. 68). Discuss this quote and its relationship to the following characters: Mary Guevara, Maria Guevara Portilla, Tony and Joe Pratts.
3. When does Mary begin her “quest for justice” (p. 91)? How does her quest change over the course of the book?
4. When we first met her mother, how was she towards Mary? Why? What course of events cause Mary’s mother to be sympathetic towards her? What does Mary say is the reason for this?
5. The author chose to start many of the scenes in the book by “setting the stage,” much like in a movie script. Why do you think she opted to do this? What, if anything, does this contribute to the overall flow of the book?
6. Mary seeks the assistance of her old flame Joe Pratts in getting her connected with the Cardenal drug ring. She claims Joe “had no right to draw conclusions about my life, no right to assume he knew the independent person I had become…” (p.121). Does Mary ever let Joe see the woman she has become? Or does she transform into an entirely different person while she is with him?
7. Mary professes that no one else “could affect me the way Joe Pratts could affect me. That is why I had left him years ago” (p. 134). What does Mary mean by this? Does Joe still have an effect on her? Why did she marry Tony and not him?
8. Discuss Mary and Maria’s confrontation. Do you agree that Mary knew “who I used to be before you [Maria] ruined my life” (p. 187)? When does Mary finally discover who she really is?
9. Mary experiences a number of changes in the book. We learn about the person she was and the person she is; then we get to see the person she starts to become. Which one did you like the most? Why? Do you think the Mary at the end of the book is the person she is meant to be?
10. Why do you think the book is entitled Sweet Mary
? Would you define Mary Guevara as “sweet”? Were you surprised to learn that “Bad Mary” was not as bad as she was made out to be? Enhancing Your Book Club
1. Food plays a tremendous role in Mary’s cultural background and upbringing. Experiment one night with some of the tasty foods from the book and bring some to share with your book club!
2. Make your own Dulce Maria special for book club night!
-Fresh key limes
-Superfine granulated sugarSqueeze three key limes into a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice. Add four tablespoons of sugar, two shots of vodka, and a half cup of mango juice. Shake well. Serve in sugar-rimmed glasses.
3. Bad Mary has a craft hobby. Have some of your members who are into crafts come and share their works with the book club.