Book review: Sugar Run — by Mesha Maren

(Algonquin Books)
Take a chance on an unfamiliar author and be rewarded with a fresh perspective, original language and a bold plot. Jodi has just been released from Jaxton, a medium security prison in the hills of Appalachia, where she has spent more than half of her life, having been incarcerated at the age of 17, and now stepping foot outside 18 years later. She wants to finish what she started all those years ago, the task which put her in prison in the first place, to uphold promises made. But when Jodi meets the waif-like ethereal Miranda, intense emotions are stirred up and Jodi’s straightforward plan to make right the wrongs she committed and start a new life get pushed back, then revised, and then go so wild and so wrong. Raw, unsentimental language saturates this atmospheric novel and realistically depicts the texture and tenor of a former convict’s first days of freedom. Set within the crippling circumstances of rural West Virginia, Mesha Maren’s debut may be bleak, but it is so honest in its depiction of the families we are born into as well as those we create,  and how we make the same mistakes we’ve made before, even when we think we’re not.
— Reviewed by Jenny Lyons of The Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury.
10 Exceptional First Novels
My Sister, the Serial Killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Golden Child, by Claire Adam
Little Culinary Triumphs, by Pascale Pujol
The Far Field, by Madhuri Vijay
The Incendiaries, by R.O. Kwon
There There, by Tommy Orange
The Au Pair, by Emma Rous
Asymmetry, by Lisa Halliday
The Mothers, by Brit Bennett
We Need New Names, by NoViolet Bulawayo

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