Sugar Run by Mesha Maren, 3.5 Stars

One of the most exciting things I can come across in a magazine is a landmine of book recommendations! December is usually a great month for this, as many publications run a recap of their faves throughout the year.

But apparently January is just as good of a time as they preview books coming out this year. And if you are a huge reader or blogger, finding out what to request on Netgalley or put on hold at the library is like striking gold!

I must have written down 8 titles alone just from Entertainment Weekly recently. Follow the link for their favorite Winter Chillers! Such a find when you love the suspense genre.

Sugar Run was one of the books on that list. What reviewers seemed to like so much is how different the story was. With comparisons to stories like Winter’s Bone, I had to check it out.

From the Publisher:

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:

When we meet Jodi, she is just getting out of prison. She should be trying to keep her head down and stay out of trouble, but immediately, she’s on a Greyhound heading to see the little brother of her former girlfriend who they had always promised to save from his abusive father.

She meets Miranda, estranged wife of Lee Golden, a somewhat musical legend turned has-been in the Appalachian mountains. It’s clear at this point that Jodi is not a conventional woman, nor will she ever be. She is trying hard to at least avoid heading back to prison. But early on, we can see how vulnerable she is. She craves love. She needs love. And she allows herself to go into it blindly.

Miranda is truly the worst type of mate for someone like Jodi. She’s flippant, loves to party and is always finding a way to bend the truth ever so slightly. She’s unreliable. And what Jodi needs is someone she can count on.

As the story goes on, we watch how Jodi tries to return home, to an area unkind to the LBGTQ community. In fact, people seem to mind her sexual preference more than the fact that she is a convicted murderer. But she also doesn’t have much luck finding legal employment.

Lee Golden’s presence is woven through the book. In the 1980’s before Jodi commits her crime and goes to prison, he is a God. Later, in 2007, he still has his tour bus and travels all around, but now places hole in the wall bars and county fairs. I felt that he was more than just a character. Being Miranda’s estranged husband, he almost seems to represent Jodi’s dreams. So bright 20 year ago, and muted later.

This book was certainly different, and not in a bad way. I think a lot of critics really appreciated a gay female heroine set against the backdrop of the south. And it sounds like a lot of what Jodi experiences the author lived in her youth.

I just didn’t feel close to the characters. And I didn’t love decisions they made. Mostly I wanted them to climb out of the cycle of bad choices and despair and crime they were living in. Do they? You’ll have to read it to find out.

This one is available now:


4 thoughts on “Sugar Run by Mesha Maren, 3.5 Stars

Add yours

    1. I think the story is imagined but in the article I read she said she had encountered the attitudes in the south against the LBGTQ community as a youth. So she created a heroine to reflect that.

      Liked by 1 person

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