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Book Club Questions for The Many Lives of Mama Love by Lara Love Hardin

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the many lives of mama love discussion guide

Book club questions for The Many Lives of Mama Love by Lara Love Hardin explore the themes of redemption, forgiveness, addiction, resilience, social structure, and the complexities of navigating life after incarceration.

This book is full of truths about life—our fears, dreams, mistakes, successes, and the real us. The author shares her story, which feels like our own, but with different experiences. Whether it’s being in jail physically or mentally, the author’s tale is compelling and honest, without being preachy. It’s the best book I’ve read in years!

People usually don’t like stories about addicts because they seem never-ending with pain. But Lara Love’s story starts in a tough place and ends with overcoming challenges, finding joy, and discovering beauty. You’ll learn about the flaws in the justice system and be amazed at how someone can come out stronger. This book made me laugh, cry, and I couldn’t stop reading it.

Let me know your thoughts about the novel! Feel free to comment below.

The Many Lives of Mama Love by Lara Love Hardin

In this blog post you will find the discussion questions for The Many Lives of Mama Love by Lara Love Hardin.

Book club questions may also spark conversations about the intersecting dynamics of privilege, addiction, and social class, shedding light on the challenges faced by individuals navigating these intersecting spheres in their pursuit of healing and reconciliation. They may examine how qualities such as compassion and empathy are both sought after and expressed throughout Lara’s journey, as well as the broader societal implications they raise.

Have a wonderful book club discussion! ✨

About the Author | Book Club Questions | Additional Recommendations

About the Story

The Many Lives of Mama Love is a memoir by Lara Love Hardin, and it tells the story of Lara’s dramatic fall from a typical suburban soccer mom into addiction and crime, leading to her incarceration.

In prison, Lara discovers a unique social structure and finds herself offering love and healing to her fellow inmates, earning the nickname “Mama Love.” After her release, she rebuilds her life as a ghostwriter, meeting famous figures like Oprah and the Dalai Lama. But despite her success, Lara struggles with shame and redemption, facing the challenges of life as a felon.

The book is a touching journey of forgiveness and self-discovery, showing that it’s possible to overcome even the darkest of pasts.

Release date: August 1, 2023
Genre: Memoirs
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: ‎Simon & Schuster

About the Author

Lara Love Hardin is a bestselling writer and President of True Literary, a leading literary agency. She holds a Master’s in Creative Writing and has co-authored multiple New York Times bestsellers, including Designing Your Life and The Sun Does Shine, an Oprah Book Club pick.

lara love hardin author

Acknowledged for her literary prowess, Lara received the prestigious Christopher Award in 2019 and garnered nominations for NAACP Image Awards. Specializing in memoirs, she launched her own division within Idea Architects.

Lara’s journey goes beyond professional success – from battling addiction and incarceration to redemption, her life story resonates with readers. Her latest memoir, The Many Lives of Mama Love, is a gripping narrative of resilience and transformation.

Residing in La Selva Beach, California, Lara shares her home with her family and a delightful menagerie of pets. Her life exemplifies the power of storytelling to inspire and uplift others.

Book Club Questions for The Many Lives of Mama Love

Disclaimer: the following discussion questions contain spoilers, so proceed with caution if you haven’t finished the book yet.

  1. What were your initial impressions of Lara Love Hardin’s story? Did you find it relatable despite its unique circumstances?
  2. How did Lara’s experiences in jail reshape your perceptions of the criminal justice system? Did it challenge any preconceived notions you may have had?
  3. Lara describes her experience in jail as a “class system” with its own power dynamics. How does she navigate these dynamics, and what insights does she gain about human behavior in such environments?
  4. Lara Love Hardin mentions that her first addiction was reading, but she later clarifies that her ultimate addiction was to escape. How does the author use various addictions to escape, and what is she trying to escape from? Additionally, do you consider reading and books as a form of escape?
  5. The theme of redemption is central in the memoir. Discuss how Lara navigates the challenges of overcoming addiction, a criminal record, and social ostracism to find redemption in her life. When does she feel she has earned redemption, and how does her journey reflect this?
  6. Lara earns the nickname “Mama Love” in jail by taking care of other women and offering maternal support. How does her role as “Mama Love” impact the jail culture, and what distinguishes her from the woman known as “Daddy”? How does Daddy’s respect for Mama Love influence Lara’s time in jail?
  7. Humor is used throughout the memoir to balance its darker moments. How does humor help convey Lara’s resilience and strength in the face of adversity? Was the use of humor effective in portraying such a complex and challenging journey?
  8. Lara often reflects on the concept of shame and its impact on her life. How does she navigate this emotion, and what role does forgiveness play in her healing process?
  9. Lara’s relationship with her own identity undergoes significant changes throughout the memoir. How does she reconcile her past actions with her present self-image? In what ways does her journey reflect the broader theme of self-discovery and acceptance?
  10. Consider the role of storytelling in Lara’s life, both as a means of self-expression and as a tool for connecting with others. How does her ability to share her story empower her and inspire those around her?
  11. Lara’s encounters with influential figures like Oprah, the Dalai Lama, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu play a significant role in her journey. How do these experiences impact her perspective on forgiveness, redemption, and the pursuit of personal growth?
  12. Consider Lara’s interactions with her fellow inmates, particularly her role as “Mama Love.” How do these relationships contribute to her growth and resilience?
  13. Reflect on the role of empathy and compassion in Lara’s story. How do these qualities shape her interactions with others and her own self-perception?
  14. Lara discusses how she always felt like a better version of herself on the page and enjoyed pretending to be someone else through ghostwriting. How does ghostwriting connect to Lara’s addiction, and how does it shape her perspective on her own life and experiences?
  15. Lara faces numerous challenges navigating the requirements of the justice system after her release from jail. How does her experience shed light on the difficulties faced by female felons in the justice system? Do you believe reforms are necessary, and if so, what changes would you suggest?
  16. Discuss the significance of Lara’s decision to call Child Protective Services on her husband, DJ, for drug use. How does this moment mark a turning point for Lara, and how does it reflect her growth and change throughout the memoir?
  17. Lara’s memoir sheds light on the complexities of identity and reinvention. How does she reconcile her past with her present self, and what lessons can we learn from her journey?
  18. Lara undergoes a remarkable transformation from addiction to successful ghostwriter. What factors do you think contributed most to her ability to turn her life around? How does she maintain her sobriety and focus amidst ongoing challenges?
  19. The memoir touches on themes of motherhood, ambition, guilt, and the pursuit of authenticity. Which of these themes resonated with you the most, and why?
  20. Lara’s encounter with Doug, who emphasizes the importance of forgiveness, redemption, and Ubuntu, has a profound impact on her life. How does this moment influence Lara’s journey towards self-compassion and personal growth? Would you have forgiven Lara if you were in Doug’s shoes?
  21. Reflect on the title of the book, “The Many Lives of Mama Love.” How many lives has Lara lived, and do you believe we all live multiple lives? How did reading this memoir challenge or change your perspective on addiction, motherhood, societal judgment, and second chances?
  22. Discuss the impact of Lara’s story on your own perspective. Did it challenge any assumptions you had about addiction, incarceration, or personal growth?
  23. In what ways does “The Many Lives of Mama Love” inspire hope and resilience? How does Lara’s story exemplify the idea that our lives can be both messy and beautiful at the same time?

Additional Recommendations

Hope you enjoyed the book club discussion questions and reading guide for The Many Lives of Mama Love by Lara Love Hardin. Here are some more of my book club recommendations from this author, with themes related to this book, along with their synopses:

Don’t Forget to Write by Sara Goodman Confino

In 1960, a young woman discovers a freedom she never knew existed in this exhilarating, funny, and emotional novel by the bestselling author of She’s Up to No Good.

When Marilyn Kleinman is caught making out with the rabbi’s son in front of the whole congregation, her parents ship her off to her great-aunt Ada for the summer. If anyone can save their daughter’s reputation, it’s Philadelphia’s strict premier matchmaker. Either that or Marilyn can kiss college goodbye.

To Marilyn’s surprise, Ada’s not the humorless septuagenarian her mother described. Not with that platinum-blonde hair, Hermès scarf, and Cadillac convertible. She’s sharp, straight-talking, takes her job very seriously, and abides by her own rules…mostly. As the summer unfolds, Ada and Marilyn head for the Jersey shore, where Marilyn helps Ada scope out eligible matches―for anyone but Marilyn, that is.

Because if there’s one thing Marilyn’s learned from Ada, it’s that she doesn’t have to settle. With the school year quickly approaching and her father threatening to disinherit her, Marilyn must make her choice for her future: return to the comfortable life she knows or embrace a risky, unknown path on her own.

The Burnout by Sophie Kinsella

Sparks fly in this delightful novel about two burned out professionals who meet at a ramshackle resort on the British seaside—from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Party Crasher.

She can do anything . . . just not everything.

Sasha has had it. She cannot bring herself to respond to another inane, “urgent” (but obviously not at all urgent) email or participate in the corporate employee joyfulness program. She hasn’t seen her friends in months. Sex? Seems like a lot of effort. Even cooking dinner takes far too much planning. Sasha has hit a wall.

Armed with good intentions to drink kale smoothies, try yoga, and find peace, she heads to the seaside resort she loved as a child. But it’s the off season, the hotel is in a dilapidated shambles, and she has to share the beach with the only other occupant: a grumpy guy named Finn, who seems as stressed as Sasha. How can she commune with nature when he’s sitting on her favorite rock, watching her? Nor can they agree on how best to alleviate their burnout (Sasha: manifesting, wild swimming; Finn: drinking whisky, getting pizza delivered to the beach).

When curious messages, seemingly addressed to Sasha and Finn, begin to appear on the beach, the two are forced to talk—about everything. How did they get so burned out? Can either of them remember something they used to love? (Answer: surfing!) And the question they try and fail to ignore: what does the energy between them—flaring even in the face of their bone-deep exhaustion—signify?

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez

A blazing talent debuts with the tale of a status-driven wedding planner grappling with her social ambitions, absent mother, and Puerto Rican roots―all in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

It’s 2017, and Olga and her brother, Pedro “Prieto” Acevedo, are boldfaced names in their hometown of New York. Prieto is a popular congressman representing their gentrifying Latinx neighborhood in Brooklyn, while Olga is the tony wedding planner for Manhattan’s power brokers.

Despite their alluring public lives, behind closed doors things are far less rosy. Sure, Olga can orchestrate the love stories of the 1 percent but she can’t seem to find her own. . . until she meets Matteo, who forces her to confront the effects of long-held family secrets.

Olga and Prieto’s mother, Blanca, a Young Lord turned radical, abandoned her children to advance a militant political cause, leaving them to be raised by their grandmother. Now, with the winds of hurricane season, Blanca has come barreling back into their lives.

Set against the backdrop of New York City in the months surrounding the most devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico’s history, Xochitl Gonzalez’s Olga Dies Dreaming is a story that examines political corruption, familial strife, and the very notion of the American dream―all while asking what it really means to weather a storm.

Happy reading! ❤️