“Suspenseful, seductive . . . A thrill ride from cover to cover.”
—Oprah Daily, “The 50 Most Anticipated Books of 2022”
The riveting new novel by the critically-acclaimed author of Sugar Run, Perpetual West is a brilliant and evocative story of borders—between countries, between lovers, and between facets of the self.
When Alex and Elana move from smalltown Virginia to El Paso, they are just a young married couple, intent on a new beginning. Mexican by birth but adopted by white American Pentecostal parents, Alex is hungry to learn about the place where he was born. He spends every free moment across the border in Juárez—perfecting his Spanish, hanging with a collective of young activists, and studying lucha libre (Mexican wrestling) for his graduate work in sociology. Meanwhile Elana, busy fighting her own demons, feels disillusioned by academia and has stopped going to class. And though they are best friends, Elana has no idea that Alex has fallen in love with Mateo, a lucha libre fighter.
When Alex goes missing and Elana can’t determine whether he left of his own accord or was kidnapped, it’s clear that neither of them has been honest about who they are. Spanning their journey from Virginia to Texas to Mexico, Mesha Maren’s thrilling follow-up to Sugar Run takes us from missionaries to wrestling matches to a luxurious cartel compound, and deep into the psychic choices that shape our identities. A sweeping novel that tells us as much about our perceptions of the United States and Mexico as it does about our own natures and desires, Perpetual West is a fiercely intelligent and engaging look at the false divide between high and low culture, and a suspenseful story of how harrowing events can bring our true selves to the surface.
About the Author
Mesha Maren is the author of Sugar Run. Her work has appeared in the Oxford American, the Guardian, Tin House, the Southern Review, and elsewhere. She was the recipient of the Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize, an Elizabeth George Foundation grant and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Ucross Foundation. She is an assistant professor at Duke University and also serves as a NEA Writing Fellow at the federal prison camp in Alderson, West Virginia.
A Most-Anticipated Book of 2022: Oprah Daily, Electric Literature, Literary Hub, LGBTQ Reads
A February 2022 Indie Next Pick
“The author of the acclaimed Sugar Run returns with a suspenseful, seductive novel that unearths the unsettling secrets in a marriage. Elana searches for her missing husband, Alex, in an odyssey that carries her from West Virginia to Mexico, probing deeper themes, from fluidity of desire to the rigidity of racism to familial bonds. Maren’s prose is both exacting and luxurious, a thrill ride from cover to cover.”
—Oprah Daily, “The 50 Most Anticipated Books of 2022”
“Perpetual West is an ambitious novel rendered in striking, sensual prose. Maren creates a vivid, precise, and complex sense of place; she shows us how cultural and physical geography shape who we are, what we do, and how the world understands us.”
—Dana Spiotta, author of Wayward
“Mesha Maren has followed up Sugar Run, her extraordinary debut, with another, perhaps more extraordinary, success. Perpetual West maintains the best parts of Maren: drama, knockout sentences, violence, and complicated love; a successful blend of noir, high literary styling, and cultural criticism. It is, however, a bigger book, balancing several big ideas at once. There's colonialism, wrestling, kidnapping, sexual identity. This is a brave book, one only Mesha Maren could have pulled off.”
—Gabriel Bump, author of Everywhere You Don’t Belong
“A highest-order storyteller of Southern noir.”
—Electric Literature, “The Most Anticipated LGBTQ+ Books of 2022”
“Like a love child of Kate Chopin and Alice Walker raised by Cormac McCarthy, Maren with Perpetual West takes us through a luscious queer odyssey from Virginia to Mexico daring us to ask ourselves what makes us who we are. Is it where we come from? Or where we’re going?”
—Jeremy O. Harris, author of Slave Play
“Maren employs a sweeping and lyrical narrative voice reminiscent of Sharon Harrigan, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Paulette Jiles and isn't afraid to let readers sit with the discomfort of addiction, deception, and loss. Immersing readers in areas of Mexico not often seen and peppered with academic inquiries, Perpetual West is nothing short of haunting.”
—Booklist, starred review
“Exhilarating . . . Maren masterfully crafts flawed yet deeply empathetic protagonists . . . Enhancing her dynamic cast is Maren’s remarkable ability to create a sense of place with just a few phrases and sentences . . . An immersive experience . . . A chimerical storyteller, Maren writes with candor and grit.”
—Terry Hong, Shelf Awareness
“A complex novel full of suspense in the tradition of Under the Volcano. Maren takes our modern mythos of the border and weaves a story that is entirely her own.”
—Fernando A. Flores, author of Tears of the Trufflepig
“Meticulously observed . . . [Maren] does an expert job of showing Elana and Alex’s separate arcs, and their story dramatizes border life in a nonclichéd fashion . . . An admirable . . . vehicle for examining the gulf between the two countries’ cultures and people.”
“Perpetual West is a remarkable story of all the borders we cross to finally become our true selves. In this vivid and stunning novel about falling in love, finding your way, and fighting for what you want, Mesha Maren masterfully redefines the American dream and what it means to belong.”
—Crissy Van Meter, author of Creatures
“The truly dangerous borders Maren’s characters have to cross are within themselves . . . Perpetual West recalls no other novel so much as The Sheltering Sky, as its innocents cast aside their masks and surrender to more elemental truths.”
—Stewart O’Nan, author of A Prayer for Dying