cover image Sugar Run

Sugar Run

Mesha Maren. Algonquin, $26.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-61620-621-5

Maren’s impressive debut is replete with luminous prose that complements her cast of flawed characters. Jailed in 1989 at 17 for shooting her girlfriend, Paula, Jodi McCarty is 35 when she begins her life as an adult on the outside. Jodi is temporarily thrown off course after her release when she meets Miranda, an unmoored addict living in a motel. Jodi falls for Miranda, and they become romantically involved and take Miranda’s three children to West Virginia, away from Miranda’s soon-to-be-ex-husband. But Jodi’s ultimate goal is to find Paula’s younger brother, Ricky, and convince him to move with her to her home in West Virginia. When she locates Ricky, now a grown man, he agrees to accompany them. Throughout the course of the novel, Maren reveals Jodi’s relationship with Paula (as well as more details about her murder) and how they traveled across the country, gambling and doing drugs. After reaching the mountain cabin and trying to keep Miranda stable, Jodi realizes her beautiful retreat is an overgrown property owned by someone living in another state and fracking is getting closer. Maren astutely captures Jodi’s desperation in trying to unite a family despite her past. (Jan.)