Sugar Run
by Maren, Mesha

"Jodi McCarty is seventeen when she's sentenced to life in prison for manslaughter. She's released eighteen years later and finds herself reeling from the shock of unexpected freedom. 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 will meet and fall in love with Miranda, a troubled young mother living in a motel room with her children. Together they head toward what they hope will bea new home and fresh start-but what do you do with a town and a family that refuses to change?"-

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.

Jodi emerges from a Georgia prison in 2007, having spent half of her 35 years there. Scrapping her way home to West Virginia, where she must immediately appear for a parole hearing, she crosses paths with Miranda, an alluring and carefree-seeming younger woman who's nonetheless just as reticent as Jodi about sharing the circumstances that brought her, penniless and alone, to the same roadside motel. Before long, Jodi, Miranda, Miranda's three young sons, and a man connected to Jodi's life-altering, teenage crime are headed to the abandoned mountaintop log cabin where Jodi grew up-despite the fact that the land no longer belongs to her family, and the new threat of fracking is rising on all sides. A secondary narrative takes places in 1989, as Jodi falls in love with the woman who will be her undoing. 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. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

In Maren's darkly engrossing debut novel, two women yearning for freedom fall in love, but the secrets of the past and betrayals in the present threaten to crush them. Jodi McCarty and Miranda Matheson have one thing in common from the get-go: They both made lousy choices in love as teenagers. Jodi paid for hers with an 18-year prison sentence, which ends as the novel begins. Miranda, still in her 20s, has just fled her unhappy marriage to a washed-up country music star. The two women meet in a bar in a tiny Georgia town, and Jodi is immediately smitten with pretty, charismatic Miranda. For her part, Miranda recognizes someone who can help her—and whom she can manipulate. She needs help spiriting her three young sons away from her husband, while Jodi needs Miranda's car to rescue the brother of her lost first love from an abusive home (although that brother is much changed from the kid she remembers). Soon the whole bunch of them are heading for an isolated West Virgini a farm that Jodi inherited from her grandmother, the one place in the world she feels at home. Maren draws them, and the reader, into a world of shifting allegiances, small-town bigotry, draining poverty, pervasive substance abuse, and secrets as destructive as the blasts used in fracking on the property down the road from the farm. The author skillfully handles a dual plot, alternating chapters set in the near-present and 20 years before. The novel's noir tone and taut suspense are enriched by Maren's often lovely prose, especially in descriptions of the natural world, and sharp observations, like this one of Jodi's first love: "There is a velocity to her that pulls you close. Her life lived like the coil before the strike." This impressive first novel combines beautifully crafted language and a steamy Southern noir plot to fine effect. Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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