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Perpetual West Hardcover – Jan. 25 2022
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—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.
From the Publisher
A Most-Anticipated Book of 2022: Oprah Daily, Electric Literature, Literary Hub, LGBTQ Reads, Business Insider, The Millions, and more
A February 2022 Indie Next Pick
"Stunning . . . A forceful addition to the literature of the U.S.-Mexican border and its ongoing history of tragedy and joy. This is the terrain of Cormac McCarthy, Pat Mora, Roberto Bolaño, Cristina Rivera Garza and the Mexican poet Jorge Humberto Chávez. Maren’s original descriptions of Ciudad Juárez and El Paso richly add to this literary heritage.”
—Jennifer Clement, The New York Times Book Review
“A gifted stylist and a morally serious observer of human frailty, Mesha Maren’s intentions are bold, her mastery of language and narrative tension consistently remarkable and occasionally stunning. Simultaneously deep and thrilling, pleasurable and provocative, Perpetual West is a fine next step in the career of a promising talent, as well as a fearless record of a West the world can no longer afford to ignore.”
—Ed Tarkington, Chatper16.org
“This gorgeous, expansive second novel from Mesha Maren revolves around young married couple, Alex and Elana, two academics who move from their small town in Virginia to El Paso, Texas. There, Alex connects to his Mexican roots...as well as a lucha libre fighter named Mateo, with whom he secretly falls in love before mysteriously disappearing. This one will keep you guessing (but that's what makes it so fun).”
“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
“Maren’s prose is both exacting and luxurious, a thrill ride from cover to cover.”
—Oprah Daily, “50 Most Anticipated Books of 2022”
“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)
“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
“Stunning… This one will have you on the edge of your seat, but that just adds to the fun.”
—Women’s Fitness Magazine
“[Perpetual West] takes the shape and pace of a thriller. Yet it’s a character-driven book filled with political and cultural ideas and debates about life along the border, ranging from NAFTA to the colonialist stereotypes perpetuated by writers like Graham Greene and D.H. Lawrence.”
—Orange County Register
“Fiction often tells a more nuanced truth than straightforward reporting, and that’s what writer Mesha Maren does in her new novel, Perpetual West.”
“A highest-order storyteller of Southern noir.”
—Electric Literature, “The Most Anticipated LGBTQ+ Books of 2022”
“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.”
“With its corrupt world of maquiladoras and drug cartels, Mesha Maren’s Juarez may seem familiar, but the truly dangerous borders her characters have to cross are within themselves. Disorienting and hallucinatory, 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
About the Author
- Publisher : Algonquin Books (Jan. 25 2022)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 384 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1643750941
- ISBN-13 : 978-1643750941
- Item weight : 522 g
- Dimensions : 16.38 x 3.81 x 23.75 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,096,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #5,005 in Cultural Heritage Historical Fiction
- #65,258 in LGBTQ2S+ Fiction (Books)
- #69,586 in Literary Fiction (Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from other countries
This book does deal with some important themes -- finding one's roots when one grows up in a different area than the family's, settling into a new marriage (and, yes, there's homosexual infidelity). But couldn't these themes have been handled in another way?
Librarians, especially those in the U.S., are facing problems because of books like this. The general public does not want these kinds of things in libraries, but the American Library Association promotes freedom of information and freedom to read. Librarians cannot possibly read every possible item they're considering for selection, and if they don't know about such content, they can't prepare for people who want to censor. Have plenty of "Request for Reconsideration" forms ready and be prepared to explain your library's procedures for reconsideration.
Most of this story takes place in Mexico south of El Paso, Texas. Elana and Alex who are from Virginia and West Virginia have been married less than a year and live in El Paso. Alex likes to cross into Mexico frequently to discover who he should be or maybe would have been. His biological mother was from Mexico. He was adopted by an intensely religious West Virginia couple. Alex is hiding a side of himself that Elana doesn't know. Alex disappears and Elana searches.
What I like is that we know what is happening to Alex while we see Elana search and grow from a shadow into a person who values herself.
This book shows a violent and terrifying side of Mexico that keeps me from adding it to my plastic or metal bucket lists.
I don’t want to give any spoilers, so I’m deliberately going to be vague.
Eland and Alex were young newlyweds who moved from W. Virginia to El Paso, Texas to peruse their studies. They spent much of their time in Juarez, Mexico.
When Elena took a brief trip back to W. Va to welcome her brother home from rehab, Alex decide to change his thesis to write about lucho libre, a violent form of wrestling popularized in Mexico, more specifically, about Matteo, known as El Vengador in wrestling circles.
Alex has an affair with Mateo and the two of them wind up being entangled with a Mexican cartel that controls wrestling. Alap and Mateo get kidnapped by Neto, the head of that cartel, and Elena spends a month or so trying to find her husband, unaware of his betrayal both with another person, and his sexual orientation.
There are so many questions unanswered by the end of the book. I felt as if the writer didn’t know how to finish her story.