READERS GUIDEAfter the publication of her New York Times bestselling debut, Garden Spells, Sarah Addison Allen returns with the captivating tale of a powerful family in small-town North Carolina, where a lifetime of secrecy is about to unravel–and a sweet dream is about to come true. At twenty-seven years old, Josey Cirrini spends her days caring for her widowed, embittered mother. Except for a secret crush on the mailman, Josey has little excitement in her life, consoling herself with a closet full of hidden desserts and paperback romance novels. But Della Lee Baker is about to change all that, with revelations about Josey’s legendary father as well as her mother, who was a stunning belle in her younger days. Once Della Lee has worked her tough-talking magic, the Cirrini women will be forever transformed.
The questions and discussion topics that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Sarah Addison Allen’s The Sugar Queen. We hope they will enrich your experience of this enchanting novel.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. What keeps Josey from leaving home? What makes Adam stay in Bald Slope? In what ways do they feel the same about North Carolina and its landscape?
2. What has Josey hungered for throughout her life? What transformed her from a difficult child into a woman who hides her cravings?
3. Why does Margaret want to prevent the arrival of unexpected visitors? What fears are captured in her peppermint-oil ritual?
4. What are Julian’s motivations in his pursuit of Chloe? How did your opinion of him shift throughout the novel?
5. In her conversation with Livia’s granddaughter (chapter six), Josey suggests that Amelia might want to have a life of her own. Amelia immediately dismisses that idea. What enables Josey to free herself, rather than becoming like Amelia? Could Josey have done it without Della Lee?
6. How does money influence Josey’s outlook on life? How did her father use it, through lavish parties and an eye-catching house, to get what he wanted? What was he not able to buy, no matter how wealthy he was?
7. Josey lives in a world of rules, from a neighborhood that bans snowmen to a mother who bans a snug red sweater. What is the purpose of these rules? What stifling rules in your life–at work, with your family, or in your community–do you sometimes dream of breaking?
8. Discuss Chloe’s relationship to the world of books. What is the significance of the magical way they appear in her life, and the equally magical way she finds a house to call her own? How do books become a home for her?
9. What is Nova Berry’s role in Bald Slope? How do her remedies–such as stinging nettle tea–compare to Josey’s sweets?
10. How did Margaret’s past shape her future? Who ultimately is to blame for standing in the way of her love for Rawley? How have notions of love and motherhood changed for Josey’s generation?
11. How did you react when Della Lee’s situation was revealed in the end? Have you ever been guided by the wisdom of someone like her?
12. Would you have forgiven Jake? How did you feel about him after you learned the identity of his lover?
13. How are Adam and Josey able to heal each other as their attraction grows? What does it take to propel Josey’s crush beyond the realm of fantasy? When are they able to trust each other enough to have a real-world relationship?
14. What were your thoughts as Josey tore up the attorney’s note aboard the ship? What do you believe it said? Are secrets ever useful in a family, or do they always result in pain?
15. What themes appear in both this novel and Sarah Addison Allen’s debut, Garden Spells? What forms of mystical hope appear in both books?