A Novel


By Mesha Maren

Formats and Prices




$36.00 CAD

From “a highest-order storyteller of Southern noir” (Electric Literature), a queer coming-of-age novel about addiction, belonging, and loving a place that doesn’t always love you back.

When sixteen-year-old Shae meets Cam, who is new to their small town in West Virginia, she thinks she has found someone who is everything she has ever wanted in a companion. The two become fast friends, and then more. And when Shae ends up pregnant, Cam begins a different transition—trying on clothes that Shae can no longer fit into and using female pronouns. Shae tries to be fully supportive as Cam becomes the person she wants and needs to be.

After a traumatic C-section and the birth of their daughter, Eva, Shae is given opioids to manage the intense pain. During the first year of Eva’s life, Shae’s dependence shifts from pain management to addiction, and her days begin to revolve around getting more pills. In the heart of West Virginia, opioids are dispensed as freely as candy, and Shae is just one of many to fall victim to addiction. Meanwhile, as Cam continues to transition, she embraces new relationships and faces the reality of being a trans woman in rural America.

Shae is as much about these two young women as it is about the home they both love despite its limitations. Following the acclaimed Sugar Run and Perpetual West, this is Mesha Maren’s most intense and intimate novel yet.

  • Named a Best/Most Anticipated Book of the Season by Literary Hub, Electric LiteratureBook Riot, Bitter Southerner, Deep South, and LGBTQ Reads
  • “Maren brilliantly gives voice to a New South, introducing us to two unforgettable characters whose journeys echo the struggles of queer people across the country. This book is essential for the new queer canon emerging from Southern writers. I can’t wait to put this in the hands of so many people who need it and will no doubt see themselves in this beautiful narrative.”
    Garrard Conley, author of Boy Erased and All the World Beside
  • “An expansive, quietly devastating novel that fearlessly explores queer love, motherhood and the siren call of addiction."
    Jenny Offill, author of Weather
  • “Mesha Maren paints a vivid, unforgettable portrait of two young women—one cis and one trans—living in West Virginia and trying to break free from the confinements of gender, class, and sexuality. Mesha Maren is a visionary storyteller and her prose is incandescent. The sentences shimmer with precision, elegance, and grit. It’s the kind of book that gets under your skin. I couldn't put it down. Shae is a beautiful, big-hearted novel about love, desire, and daring to be one’s self. I will be thinking about the characters for a long time.”
    Carter Sickels, author of The Prettiest Star
  • "[Shae] had me gripping the seat of my chair… Maren has crafted her title character so vividly that we’re not just along for the ride: we are hungry for Shae to find what will make her whole—because we recognize some essential part of Shae in ourselves… Mesha Maren’s work never flinches… a revelation… she’s created one of the most humane portrayals of addiction that I’ve encountered... painful and beautiful and honest… It’s unforgettable.”
    Jonathan Corcoran, Salvation South
  • "Shae’s voice, rendered masterfully by Maren, is at once lyrical, surreal, even hallucinatory, and nevertheless utterly persuasive as the words of a high school dropout from rural West Virginia. The skillful modulation of this extraordinary and extraordinarily endearing voice makes Shae a book that once begun must be finished, perhaps in a single sitting... Maren does not flinch from the harsh consequences of addiction, but she rescues Shae from becoming a lurid cautionary tale by emphasizing the interior life of the narrator with grace, lyricism, and sensitivity."
  • "Shae is a brilliant addition to [Maren's] impressive list of publications. In Shae, Maren depicts her own hometown in West Virginia as a site of young queer love and heartbreak. The novel is a triumph of careful attention to craft, place, and empathy, and it is populated by characters you’ll want to know more about."
    Southern Review of Books
  • “Maren is an astute and indispensable chronicler of Appalachian queerness.” 
    Electric Literature
  • “Harrowing...heartrending...there is much to savor here. An alternately tender and challenging trip down the rabbit hole with an unforgettable young woman."
    Kirkus Reviews
  • “The softer moments of this story are where Maren’s poetic intuition and love for the craft truly shine… The book is saturated with glistening prose and residual imagery... From beginning to end, the novel captures the rawness of the land, its inherent beauty, its people, the way a place can shadow over who a person becomes… What I really love about Maren’s novels – and her short stories, too – is that the characters are vulnerable, raw, real… Maren has developed her own corner of queer rural literature, adding to the conversation surrounding addiction new perspectives with nuance and grace. The Appalachian literary world is lucky to have Mesha Maren and we’ll gladly claim her as our own.”
    Leo Coffey, Reckon Review
  • “Mesha Maren’s third novel Shae is an aching Appalachian coming-of-age story about a relationship between two teenagers who navigate a raw and courageous journey through the crossroads of identity and addiction. As much an homage to her home state of West Virginia as a nod to those who have struggled to survive small-town limitations, Maren delivers a profoundly intimate study on alienation and how the catastrophic impact of pain and dependency ripples through communities.”
    Leah Tyler, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  • “Shae reminds us in the most essential ways that becoming our truest self is a lifelong pursuit, first practiced on the wobbly legs of adolescence... Maren explores identity and addiction with remarkable depth in this bingeable queer love story.”
    Bitter Southerner
  • “What a gorgeous gut punch of a book! Maren has outdone herself with her third novel; I was in love from the first page. Maren’s prose will break your heart even while you stop to soak in its beauty. Do not miss this book.”
    Andi Richardson, Fountain Bookstore, Electric Literature
  • “Emotionally taut. Maren beautifully evokes both the natural beauty of Appalachia and Shae’s plaintive longing for Cam… Maren continues to show a knack for portraying the complexities and contradictions of an often-misunderstood part of America.”
    Publishers Weekly
  • “In stark, reflective prose, Maren (Perpetual West, 2022) lets Shae’s voice guide the narrative. Readers will connect with Maren’s sensitively told story of love, dependence, and the opioid epidemic.”
  • "Heart-wrenching."
    Poets & Writers
  • “Some books simmer for a while; some boil from the get-go. Mesha Maren’s Shae boils. Her book grabs us instantly. [Her] portrayal of an addict living in a constant fugue state chasing her next fix is all encompassing and powerful. Compelling.
    Pittsburgh Gazette
  • “Poignant … Shae is hard to put down. It may be a powerful coming-of-age exploration, but it’s a story for everyone."
    Indy Week
  • “Full of heart and the ache that comes from growing up far too fast, Shae is a novel that will linger in your mind long after you’ve finished it.”
    Book Riot

On Sale
May 21, 2024
Page Count
224 pages
Algonquin Books

Mesha Maren

About the Author

Mesha Maren is the author of the novels Sugar Run and Perpetual West (Algonquin Books). Her short stories and essays can be read in Tin HouseThe Oxford American, The Guardian, CrazyhorseTriquarterly, The Southern Review, Ecotone, Sou’westerHobart, Forty Stories: New Writing from Harper Perennial, and elsewhere. She was the recipient of the 2015 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize, a 2014 Elizabeth George Foundation grant, an Appalachian Writing Fellowship from Lincoln Memorial University, and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Ucross Foundation. She was the 2018-2019 Kenan Visiting Writer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is an Associate Professor of the Practice of English at Duke University.

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