This review is spoiler-free and from both of us!
There is a dog in this book, so that’s our excuse for featuring a very confused Indy in this.
I’m thankful I had the opportunity to hear Mesha Maren discuss her book, because I feel like I really understood her vision. In Sugar Run, Jodi, the main character, is just released from prison, where she served eighteen years. She enters into a relationship with a young mother named Miranda, and their lives become tangled together. It’s a story of hope and hopelessness.
I love Maren’s lyrical writing style. Her writing has such a hard realness to it. She writes lush descriptions as she paints life in West Virginia. As Maren discussed in her talk, her book is hard to categorize. It’s a noir, crime, Southern Literature, and LGBTQ novel. But this is one of the great things about it: it’s a collage of genres, and it works.
This is a dark book that deals with vices to the max. It deals with crime, murder, sex, and lots of drugs. All of the characters are flawed, and make really bad decisions, yet I cared about them. The first half of the book is more character driven, while the second half is more plot heavy. The chapters alternate between the present (written in past tense) and the past (written in present tense) which I thought worked really well.
VERDICT: 4 out of 5 books
Like Alexis, I’m so happy we had the opportunity to meet Maren at the Fountain Bookstore here in Richmond. Hearing an author discuss her book and writing process always enriches my understanding of it as a reader. The way Maren described her characters before I’d read about them made me more invested as a reader.
Maren’s writing is exactly what I love about literary fiction, even though, as Alexis said, this is a blend of genres. It is so dark and violent, but it is beautifully and breathtakingly written and full of nature imagery. The characters are well drawn out and real.
The violence in the lives of all the characters contrast so starkly with Jodi’s obsession with the rural landscape of her homeland. Her love of West Virginia mirrors themes of stability and nostalgia in Jodi’s life. It also offers commentary on the ways humans inflict violence on the earth, as the horrors of fracking is something frequently discussed.
The ending of books is something I’m constantly disappointed by, and, happily, this was not the case with Sugar Run! I thought the conclusion of both the interwoven timelines is so well done, and, most importantly, believable. Maren’s pacing is perfection.
During her talk, Maren touched a bit on the book she’s writing next, and you can bet I’ll be picking that up when that comes out!
VERDICT: 4 out of 5 books