Synopses & Reviews
It's a fresh start for Delores Walker when she steps off the bus in Tampa to become a minimum-wage mermaid at Weeki Wachee Springs. The author of "The Orange Blossom Special" conjures up a time in America when everything was possible--even mermaids from the Bronx.
About the Author
1. What did the novels opening scene mean to Delores? How did the reality of her grown-up world compare to the memory of that trip?
2. How did the novels two distinct settings—New York versus Florida—reflect two distinct parts of Deloress identity? What did she discover about finding a true home, and her true self?
3. What were your first impressions of the Walkers marriage? What was at the heart of their quarrels? Despite the hardships it caused, did Roys departure strengthen his family?
4. What makes the early 1970s an ideal time period for this storyline? How did the details in Swim to Me match your memories or impressions of this era? How did the novels “soundtrack” of song references affect your reading?
5. How did Gails early life influence her approach to adulthood and mothering? What did Avalon teach her about being a confident woman?
6. Is Thelma a good surrogate mother to the girls she supervises? Is her personal legacy a story of shame or triumph, or both?
7. Discuss the varied personalities of the girls of Weeki Wachee. Who are the most powerful members of Thelmas circle? What do all of them, including Delores, have in common?
8. How does Delores respond to attention from men? Is her role in the weather segment on television very different from the roles she performs at Weeki Wachee? What is the difference between a woman whose sex appeal is exploited and a woman whose beauty is admired?
9. What does Roy discover about himself after he is reunited with Delores? How are they transformed by their jobs in Florida?
10. Delores was worried that Thelma and the others would discover that she had lied about aspects of her family. What did Deloress image of her family, both the fantasy and the reality, say about her hopes and fears? In what ways have you reinvented yourself in your lifetime?
11. Swim to Me is populated by many characters who are pursuing their dreams, ranging from Deloress and Gails career pursuits to Dave Hanrattys vision of an Aqua Zoo. What is the boldest goal you have ever envisioned? How far did you pursue it?
12. How does the novels title echo the dilemmas of trust and learning faced by the characters? What makes the world of water—by turns alluring, tranquil, and perilous—a good metaphor for the process of becoming an adult?
13. What does the future hold for Delores and Westie? What do you predict for their family?
14. How do this novels themes of survival and determination, enhanced by a whimsical spirit, also shape Betsy Carters debut novel, The Orange Blossom Special?
Reading Group Guide
Hailed as “poignant and at times rollickingly hilarious” (Miami Herald
) and “a delightful escape” (New York Magazine
), Swim to Me
has captured readers imaginations coast to coast. A coming-of-age novel for every age, this is the story of Delores Walker, a seventeen-year-old girl from the Bronx who dreams of becoming a mermaid. And not just any mermaid: Delores wants to join the troupe of dazzling, sequined aquatic showgirls at Weeki Wachee Springs, a Florida tourist attraction she visited on a vacation with her parents. Her father has since abandoned the family, leaving Delores, her mother, and her little brother to make it on their own. Then Delores decides to strike out by herself, boarding a bus and heading back to the sunny state where a seemingly glamorous underwater career beckons. Brimming with colorful characters and poignant turns of fate, her new life is a wondrous lesson in magical living.
The questions and discussion topics that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Betsy Carters Swim to Me. We hope they will enrich your experience of this exhilarating novel.