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Review: Sugar Run by Mesha Maren

Sugar Run by Mesha Maren (1/8/19 from Algonquin)

Back Cover:
In 1989, Jodi McCarty is seventeen years old when she’s sentenced to life in prison for manslaughter. She’s released eighteen years later and finds herself at a Greyhound bus stop, reeling from the shock of unexpected freedom. Not yet able to return to her lost home in the Appalachian mountains, she goes searching for someone she left behind, but on the way, she meets and falls in love with Miranda, a troubled young mother. Together, they try to make a fresh start, but is that even possible in a town that refuses to change? Set within the charged insularity of rural West Virginia, Sugar Run is a searing and gritty debut about making a run for another life.

My Review:
You know how I kept bitching about the repackaged and mass-produced mediocre stories that publishers are throwing mega marketing dollars at in hopes that some of it sticks and people will say they love it "because everyone else does"? Well...I just finished Sugar Run and *BOOM*...finally, a book with a backbone! In the vein of Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone or Laura McHugh's Weight of Blood (read my review of Weight of Blood in The Glory Tree Herald here), Sugar Run is rural-noir at its gritty best. Full of characters scrambling to survive at the edges of society and its expectations, Sugar Run is pushed forward with a dual storyline: the first following seventeen-year-old Jodi and her girlfriend Paula through a downward spiral of drug-fueled poker binges in 1988 and the 2nd following Jodi's release from prison in 2007. Sugar Run is a glimpse into the shadows of rural Appalachia's underbelly, from the steady encroachment of a fracking operation (and its numerous seedy satellite industries) onto land that has been family-owned for generations to the daily minutiae of that land's poverty-stricken inhabitants. Mesha Maren's prose alternates between razor sharp statements that cut to the bone and descriptions that will sit heavy on your heart and mind. 

This is a definite 5 star read from me! If you are ready for a book that is a detour from the mainstream monotony and you want to actually feel something--Sugar Run is for you!


Judy Krueger said...

So glad to hear this is not an example of "mainstream mediocity." Thanks for your review.

Carmen said...

That's a powerful endorsement. And you're right, it does sound a bit like Winter's Bone.

Rhiannon Johnson said...

I'm so tired of the same formula over and over again. I'm taking a break from the current avalanche of mystery/thrillers for a while. I am looking for more like Sugar Run (and Winter's Bone) so if you come across any...let me know!

Catherine Gilmore said...

I'm 3/4 of the way through this and think your review is a perfect summation. It's reminding me of another book about life after prison, but I'm having senior brain and can't grab the title.

Rhiannon Johnson said...

Catherine I'm intreated to know the title of the book if you think of it!