Synopses & Reviews
"Stunning . . . A forceful addition to the literature of the U.S.-Mexican border and its ongoing history of tragedy and joy."
— Jennifer Clement, The New York Times Book Review
"Suspenseful, seductive . . . A thrill ride from cover to cover."
— Oprah Daily, "The 50 Most Anticipated Books of 2022"
The riveting new novel by the 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.
"A sweeping and lyrical narrative voice….Immersing readers in areas of Mexico not often seen and peppered with academic inquiries, Perpetual West is nothing short of haunting." Booklist (Starred Review)
"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
"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
"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
"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
Watch the Powell’s virtual event with Mesha Maren and Gabriel Bump!
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.