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Sweet Mary

Sweet Mary

A Novel

  • reading group guide
Dulce Maria “Mary” Guevara is a woman with nothing left to lose. Wrongly accused of being a cocaine queen, she has lost her job, her reputation, and—worst of all—custody of her son. Even after the charges are dropped, suspicion lingers. Desperate to get it all back, she takes what she considers the only path open to her: she goes on the hunt for the real drug queen. Unfortunately, the one person she is sure will be able to help her is the one person she wants least to see again: Joe Pratts, her ex-fiancé, a man whose connections to the drug world once ended their relationship.

Trying not to fall again for Joe is just the beginning of Mary’s challenges. The drug queen she is targeting is safely ensconced in the suburbs, hiding behind the façade of domestic tranquility. And taking her down means doing something that strikes Mary a little too close to home: she would have to leave the drug queen’s young daughter without a mother.

Sweet Mary is a gripping, heart-rending story with a noir soul and plenty of surprising twists—an assured debut from a writer with tremendous experience and talent.
Choose a format:
  • Atria Books | 
  • 256 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416542971 | 
  • June 2010
List Price $16.99
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Reading Group Guide

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.


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 see more

About the Author

Liz Balmaseda
Photo Credit: Dario Acosta

Liz Balmaseda

Liz Balmaseda (born January 17, 1959, Puerto Padre, Cuba) is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a writer for The Palm Beach Post and a former columnist for The Miami Herald. She was awarded her first Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1993 for her writings on the plight of Haitian refugees and the Cuban-American population. She shared a second Pulitzer for breaking-news reporting in 2001, for the coverage of the federal raid to seize refugee Elián González.




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