Skip to main content

Sugar Run

Review

Sugar Run

It’s July 2007, and Jodi McCarty has just been granted supervised release from Jaxton Federal Correctional Facility in Georgia after serving an 18-year sentence for manslaughter. She was only 17 when she went to prison, and the circumstances surrounding her former lover Paula’s death are cloudy to both the reader and the people she meets, as she uses “the words dead girlfriend and gun accident” to describe the incident. Jodi hops a Greyhound bus and heads to Chaunceloraine, Georgia, where she hopes to find Patrick “Ricky” Dulett, Paula’s younger brother, whom she hasn’t seen since he was 10 years old. She intends to save Ricky from his abusive father, which she had promised Paula she would do.

While searching for Ricky, Jodi meets 25-year-old Miranda Matheson, the wife of washed-up country music star Lee Golden, who is fighting her for custody of their three boys. Both women are staying at the Rocklodge Motor Inn, and Jodi instantly becomes infatuated with the blonde and apple-scented hot mess, who drinks heavily and is struggling with a pill addiction, despite being annoyed that “she barely knew this woman and already it seemed she was somehow responsible for babysitting her.”

"SUGAR RUN is a complex and edgy novel, with chapters alternating between 1988 and 2007, gradually revealing the truth about Jodi’s tragic relationship with her first love, Paula, while Jodi struggles in the present to rebuild her life..."

Miranda has a car and knows where Jodi can find Ricky, and Jodi agrees to help her get her sons --- Kaleb, Donnie and Ross --- back. Miranda says there should be “a law that nobody could ever take away something you made with your own blood and cells, something you carried inside for nine months.” This is her justification for kidnapping her children, and she and “Aunt Jodi” grab the kids while they are waiting in line to board the school bus home, under the pretense of going for ice cream.

Jodi soon finds Ricky giving guided tours at the Georgia Folk and Country Musicians Museum, and her plan is to take Ricky, Miranda and the boys to her grandmother’s land in West Virginia. Effie, Jodi’s grandmother, who passed away in 1988, is a character who jumps off the page despite not being alive in the novel. When Jodi was 10, Effie showed her three things she valued: “The first was her Smith & Wesson .38 with a smooth wooden handle and LADY SMITH engraved in cursive on the side; the second, a Remington 721; and the third, the mason jar with the remains of Granddaddy McCarty’s right hand,” which was significant because “the bits of bone and fingernail were the result of Granddaddy’s affair with a lady, or two, from town.” Jodi inherited Effie’s house in Render, West Virginia, and apparently her love of firearms and violent jealousy as well.

The hitch is that the land no longer belongs to Jodi. Due to unpaid property taxes, the land was sold while she was in prison, and is also in danger of being destroyed by hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” as many of the surrounding properties have already been devastated by this form of drilling.

In addition to parental child abduction and environmental concerns, Mesha Maren’s debut novel addresses other pertinent social issues, such as homophobia and the lack of job opportunities for former felons. At 35 years old, Jodi has never applied for a job, and the only source of income she can find is to hide drugs for her brother Dennis. “I know about you and Miranda,” Dennis says. “I think it’s sick but I ain’t gonna do nothing to you. Some folks around here, though…wouldn’t handle it so kindly. Might wanna see those boys raised up in a different, more Christian home.”

SUGAR RUN is a complex and edgy novel, with chapters alternating between 1988 and 2007, gradually revealing the truth about Jodi’s tragic relationship with her first love, Paula, while Jodi struggles in the present to rebuild her life and attempt to create a family with Ricky, Miranda and the children. But her newly forged relationships are tenuous, and she will soon learn that Ricky carries dark secrets of his own.

Reviewed by Rachel McConnell on January 11, 2019

Sugar Run
by Mesha Maren

  • Publication Date: January 8, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books
  • ISBN-10: 1616206217
  • ISBN-13: 9781616206215