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Sugar Run by Mesha Maren

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Entertainment Weekly is just one of several lists that credited this book as being one of the Most Anticipated Books of 2019. Southern Living and others called it a Best New Books of Winter 2019, and Amazon and others noted it as a Best Book of January 2019. Autostaddle chose Sugar Run to represent West Virginia in “Queer Books Across America.” Not bad for a first novel by an unknown author with a North Carolina publisher. Sugar Run, begins in 2007 as Jodi McCarty, is released from prison in Dahlonega, Georgia, at the age of 35 after serving 18 years for manslaughter. Determined to return to her grandmother’s West Virginia home which she has inherited, along the way she falls in love with Miranda who is living in a motel room and has three young sons.  Chapters alternate between 2007 and 1988 and 1989 to fill in the back story and explain both why Jodi landed in prison and the relationships she formed earlier. "Sugar Run is one of the most riveting novels I’ve read in years. How rare it is to find a writer who brings the reader so deeply into the physical world, letting her fully inhabit a place, a time, a character’s physical being, while also propelling a plot forward with the kind of momentum not often found so perfectly wedded to such beautiful language, such languid and sensual and potent imagery. The atmosphere of Sugar Run will cling to this reader for months, after which she will read it again. This is the debut of a major new voice, one who offers us a reality more vibrant than our reality, but honest, raw, and believable."—Laura Kasischke. “Maren writes beautifully and with keen insight, but what makes this debut truly special is her ability to engender compassion in deeply flawed characters; that’s the power of good fiction.” --Erin Kodicek.  “Maren adroitly incorporates issues surrounding poverty in rural America into her narrative, including drug dealing and addiction; lack of jobs; fracking, which destroys communities and the land’s ecological health; and gun violence, which can change everything in a moment. Maren’s story is engaging and full of damaged and provocative characters who, like all of us, can be misled by our hearts.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “Dread and a lush natural world infuse Maren's noir-tinged debut as she carefully relays soul-crushing realities and myths of poverty and privilege, luck and rehabilitation, and the human needs that can precede criminality through love-starved loner Jodi and her band of fellow hungry souls.”—Booklist. The author, Mesha Meren, was born and raised in rural West Virginia.  She and her partner, Randall O’Wain, a musician in a punk band, now live near Alderson, West Virginia, in the home where she was raised and that her father built by hand. She is on the MFA Fiction Faculty at West Virginia Wesleyan College. I must admit that I find it very ironic that Mesha Maren’s male partner, not her, was a student at the prestigious Iowa Writers Workshop.


 Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Algonquin Books, 2018. 309 pages. Hardback in dust jacket