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Sugar Run: A Novel
by Mesha Maren

Published: 2019-10-08
Paperback : 336 pages
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“A heady admixture of explosive plot and taut, burnished prose . . . Mesha Maren writes like a force of nature.” —Lauren Groff, author of Florida

In 1989, Jodi McCarty is seventeen years old when she’s sentenced to life in prison. When she’s released eighteen years later, she ...
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Introduction

“A heady admixture of explosive plot and taut, burnished prose . . . Mesha Maren writes like a force of nature.” —Lauren Groff, author of Florida

In 1989, Jodi McCarty is seventeen years old when she’s sentenced to life in prison. When she’s released eighteen years later, she finds herself at a Greyhound bus stop, reeling from the shock of unexpected freedom but determined to chart a better course for herself. Not yet able to return to her lost home in the Appalachian Mountains, she heads south in search of someone she left behind, as a way of finally making amends. There, she meets and falls in love with Miranda, a troubled young mother living in a motel room with her children. Together they head toward what they hope will be a fresh start. But what do you do with your past—and with a town and a family that refuses to forget, or to change?

Set within the charged insularity of rural West Virginia, Mesha Maren’s Sugar Run is a searing and gritty debut about making a break for another life, the use and treachery of makeshift families, and how, no matter the distance we think we’ve traveled from the mistakes we’ve made, too often we find ourselves standing in precisely the place we began.

Editorial Review

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Excerpt

At the Greyhound station in Dahlonega the van driver shooed Jodi and the redhead out into the parking lot. The rain had slowed to a thin, sifting mist.
Jodi tilted her head back and pivoted left, then right, trying to find east, but the yellow-gray dawn seemed to come from every direction. The redhead started toward the station, where a flannel-shirted man hunched under the tin overhang, smoking a cigar. Jodi followed. She couldn’t think past this moment or else her mind washed all white again but the redhead seemed to have her feet set resolutely on a path pointed forward. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. Have you ever loved a place so much that you were willing to do anything to get back there? Why do you think Jodi is so obsessed with her grandmother’s land? How do her dreams and expectations compare to what it is actually like to return?

2. What do you think is the difference between being “of” a place and being “from” a place? Lynn is a transplant to West Virginia and she clearly considers it home, but she knows that she is not accepted there. What do you think of her relationship to West Virginia and its possible destruction through fracking as compared to Jodi’s or Farren’s?

3. Jodi and Miranda never talk openly about their relationship or their sexual identities. How important do you think it is to articulate an attraction or relationship like that?

4. Jodi is selfless in many ways, and often puts herself in precarious situations to help Ricky, Miranda, and others. Can you relate to this? Why or why not?

5. A number of the characters in Sugar Run keep secrets from one another. Why is this? What is it that secrets allow us to have?

6. The book examines family and community from a number of angles: blood family, chosen family, and community bonds. What are your thoughts on the effects of family and spontaneous communities, both in the book and in your own experience?

7. As with many formerly incarcerated individuals, Jodi struggles to find a job after prison, which makes her more vulnerable to making bad decisions. How might communities help formerly incarcerated people better reintegrate into society?

8. In what ways do sibling relationships affect the novel?

9. What is your definition of loyalty? What role does loyalty play in Sugar Run?

10. Jodi struggles to talk openly to anyone in West Virginia about her sexuality. What do you think might have happened had she revealed her sexual orientation to her family and town community?

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