“A heady admixture of explosive plot and taut, burnished prose . . . Mesha Maren writes like a force of nature.” —Lauren Groff, author of Florida
In 1989, Jodi McCarty is seventeen years old when she’s sentenced to life in prison. When she’s released eighteen years later, she finds herself at a Greyhound bus stop, reeling from the shock of unexpected freedom but determined to chart a better course for herself. Not yet able to return to her lost home in the Appalachian Mountains, she heads south in search of someone she left behind, as a way of finally making amends. There, she meets and falls in love with Miranda, a troubled young mother living in a motel room with her children. Together they head toward what they hope will be a fresh start. But what do you do with your past—and with a town and a family that refuses to forget, or to change?
Set within the charged insularity of rural West Virginia, Mesha Maren’s Sugar Run is a searing and gritty debut about making a break for another life, the use and treachery of makeshift families, and how, no matter the distance we think we’ve traveled from the mistakes we’ve made, too often we find ourselves standing in precisely the place we began.
One of Southern Living's Best New Books of Winter 2019
“Just plain grittily gorgeous . . . you will feel every word.”
—Library Journal, starred review
“Maren’s impressive debut is replete with luminous prose that complements her cast of flawed characters.”
“In her debut, Sugar Run, novelist Mesha Maren plumbs the human dimensions of the economic and opioid addiction crises of rural West Virginia. And she does so with the kind of attentiveness and sensitivity that invites favorable comparison with the work of writers like Chris Offutt and Tony Earley.”
“Darkly engrossing . . . The novel's noir tone and taut suspense are enriched by Maren's often lovely prose, especially in descriptions of the natural world . . . This impressive first novel combines beautifully crafted language and a steamy Southern noir plot to fine effect.”
“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.”
“Strong and insightful . . . Maren puts stories to lives that are ordinarily overlooked, exploring damaged souls and damaged land, the need for that redemptive sense of connection to places and people. Maren writes prose that moves us ever deeper into her world without strain, but with sureness and vivid details.”
—Daniel Woodrell, author of Winter's Bone
“Sugar Run is a joyride—an intoxicating, headlong exploration of the hazards of freedom and the deadly consequence of desire. Maren's blistering prose will take your breath away.”
—C. Morgan Babst, author of The Floating World
“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 . . . 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, author of Mind of Winter
“With Sugar Run, Mesha Maren announces herself as a wholly original voice in contemporary fiction. Full of diamond-sharp sentences and perfect pacing, the novel runs wild like a mountain flash flood.”
—Scott McClanahan, author of Crapalachia
“Gorgeous sentences . . . Maren is a writer to watch.”
—Chris Offutt, author of Country Dark
Mesha Maren’s short stories and essays have appeared in Tin House, the Oxford American, Southern Culture, Hobart, Forty Stories: New Writing from Harper Perennial, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the 2015 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize, a 2014 Elizabeth George Foundation grant, an Appalachian Writing Fellowship from Lincoln Memorial University, and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Ucross Foundation. She is the 2018-2019 Kenan Visiting Writer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and also serves as a National Endowment of the Arts Writing Fellow at the Beckley Federal Correctional Institution.