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The riveting, brilliant new novel by the critically-acclaimed author of Sugar Run
“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
When Alex and Elana move from small-town Virginia to El Paso, they are just a young married couple, each the other’s best friend, intent on a new beginning. Born in Mexico 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 Mexican professional wrestling, “lucha libre,” for his graduate work in sociology. Though Elana has enrolled at the local university as well, she feels disillusioned by academia and struggles to find her place in their new home. She also 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 is able to face who they really are. Spanning their journey from Virginia to Texas to Mexico, Mesha Maren's thrilling and fiercely intelligent 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 America and Mexico as it does about our own natures and desires, Perpetual West is an utterly 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.
To learn more, click here to read the Maximum Shelf review of Perpetual West and interview with author Mesha Maren, from Shelf Awareness.
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.
“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
“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
“As with her debut novel, Sugar Run, Mesha Maren continues to expand the understanding of what it means to be a southern novelist. 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
“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.”
“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
“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