Perpetual West - book cover
Literature & Fiction
  • Publisher : Algonquin Books
  • Published : 25 Jan 2022
  • Pages : 384
  • ISBN-10 : 1643750941
  • ISBN-13 : 9781643750941
  • Language : English

Perpetual West

​"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.

Editorial Reviews

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

"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. Imme...

Readers Top Reviews

If I had to describe this novel in one word (or maybe two) it would be self-aware. Maren in self-aware in her position of writing about Mexico from an outsider's pov and while Alex and Elana are aware about who they are they can't seem to reconcile it with what they do. Maren's power is in her characterisation. She writes from multiple pov's (Alex, Alana, Mateo) and manages to bring the reader into the inner life and dilemma's of all of them. You are routing for all the characters despite their flaws and despite knowing that they can't all have they want with hurting another. The plot almost seemed like just a way to introduce to these characters and I'm not mad at that. If you love a character drive novel then this is a perfect one for you.
Sharon Velezkathleen
I just finished Perpetual West by Mesha Maren. This one had the feel of a really dark noir with a somber cast of characters. The writing is picturesque and you feel transported to the setting. The story alternates between two POV's. I preferred Alex, the husband's POV because it felt more fully fleshed out and I enjoyed the lucha culture contained in his storyline. This one is very, slow paced and stays that way throughout so you really get the sense of dread and uncertainty that dominates this whole story. If you're looking for a story that is deeply contemplative, has beautiful prose and you have no expectations of happy endings then this one will work for you. Essentially this was a story with dark themes about: 🏜 Borders: ● how people wall themselves up in relationships to protect themselves, their secrets and their trauma ● how physical land borders are perceived based on the observer and the power hierarchy ● the ways that borders are used to determine who is allowed entry and who is "the other" 🏜 Life in El Paso, the physical environment and how it has its own culture 🏜 Transracial adoption: ● how it doesn't sever the tie to homeland and search for identity ● how your culture lives in you innately ● how language is important to reconnecting with your roots ● erasure of culture that occurs 🏜 Lucha libre as a metaphor for power and corruption and the dark side of the industry 🏜 How the U.S. is complicit in creating the border crisis and the rise of criminal enterprises like cartels 🏜 How people perceive others based on their own cultural lens 🏜 Complicated queer love story 🏜 Disordered Eating 🏜 Religious mission trips and white saviorism

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