Some adolescent mistakes are minor slip-ups that are quickly forgotten. In Mesha Maren’s debut novel, Sugar Run, however, one lapse in judgement becomes a life-defining moment that changes absolutely everything.
At 17, Jodi McCarty received a life sentence for shooting her girlfriend, Paula. After serving 18 years, she’s released at 35 and desperate to turn her life around.
Fresh out of jail, she meets Miranda Matheson in a small Georgia bar. Miranda is a young woman who has made a different set of mistakes. An addict, she has three children and a failing marriage to a has-been country singer.
The five flee in Miranda’s car to the West Virginia farm Jodi inherited from her grandmother, stopping along the way to pick up Paula’s younger brother. Throughout the book, flashbacks reveal more about Jodi’s childhood, her relationship with Paula and the events that led to the shooting.
When they arrive at the farm, Jodi’s hopes for a happy, peaceful life are slashed, as fracking threatens to encroach on the land and her new community is riddled with small-town bigotry and substance abuse. (It’s worth mentioning—and commending—that queerness, while obviously a facet of Jodi’s life, is only one part of her complex story.)
Sugar Run is a vaguely noir-ish Southern novel that humanizes a part of the country that’s often stereotyped and oversimplified. And thanks to Maren's sometimes wary but unflinching compassion for her protagonist, you'll feel for Jodi not only for the entirety of the book, but also long after you finish reading.