Results of the National Book Award in the year 1983.
Stories are as good in themselves and as influential on the aspirations of others as any since Hemingway’s. The breadth of Welty’s offering is finally most visible not in the variety of types—farce, satire, horror, lyric, pastoral, mystery—but in the clarity and solidity and absolute honesty of a lifetime’s vision.
Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused and raped by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate, and continuing over the course of her marriage to “Mister,” a brutal man who terrorizes her. Celie eventually learns that her abusive husband has been keeping her sister’s letters from her and the rage she feels, combined with an example of love and independence provided by her close friend Shug, pushes her finally toward an awakening of her creative and loving self.
The legends say something happened in Chaneysville. The Chaneysville Incident is the powerful story of one man’s obsession with discovering what that something was—a quest that takes the brilliant and bitter young black historian John Washington back through the secrets and buried evil of his heritage. Returning home to care for and then bury his father’s closest friend and his own guardian, Old Jack Crawley, he comes upon the scant records of his family’s proud and tragic history, which he drives himself to reconstruct and accept. This is the story of John’s relationship with his family, the town, and the woman he loves; and also between the past and the present, between oppression and guilt, hate and violence, love and acceptance.
Raised by five intensely religious women and a charismatic, controversial priest, sheltered from the secular world, Felicitas Maria Taylor is intelligent, charming, and desperate for a taste of ordinary happiness. More freedom than she has ever imagined awaits her at Columbia University in the 1960s. There, Felicitas falls in love with the worst man for her—with shattering results. Now she must turn again to the company of the women who love her as she struggles to embrace the future without betraying the past.
Pearl Tull is nearing the end of her life but not her memory. Ever since 1944 when her husband left her, she has raised her three very different children on her own. Now grown, they have gathered together—with anger, with hope, and with a beautiful, harsh, and dazzling story to tell….
A modern classic, Housekeeping is the story of Ruth and her younger sister, Lucille, who grow up haphazardly, first under the care of their competent grandmother, then of two comically bumbling great-aunts, and finally of Sylvie, their eccentric and remote aunt. The family house is in the small Far West town of Fingerbone set on a glacial lake, the same lake where their grandfather died in a spectacular train wreck, and their mother drove off a cliff to her death. It is a town “chastened by an outsized landscape and extravagant weather, and chastened again by an awareness that the whole of human history had occurred elsewhere.” Ruth and Lucille’s struggle toward adulthood beautifully illuminates the price of loss and survival, and the dangerous and deep undertow of transience.
Abominating the cops, crooks, scavengers and funny-bunnies of the twentieth century, he abandons civilization and takes the family to live in the Honduran jungle. There his tortured, quixotic genius keeps them alive, his hoarse tirades harrying them through a diseased and dirty Eden towards unimaginable darkness and terror.
At the death of Leonard Strickland, beloved Southern gentleman, husband and father, his family is faced with the unknown. Nell always relied on the husband of her youth for security and friendship. Fiercely independent Cate and perfect Lydia have spent their lives vying for the love and approval their father generously gave. And as each woman begins to view her life, her past, and the possibilities of the future with new eyes, each belatedly discovers that life and death are impossible to plan, and that the past that has kept them apart can bring them closer to themselves and one another….
“These stories will last,” said Raymond Carver of Shiloh and Other Stories when it was first published, and almost two decades later this stunning fiction debut and winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award has become a modern American classic. In “Shiloh”, Bobbie Ann Mason introduces us to her western Kentucky people and the lives they forge for themselves amid the ups and downs of contemporary American life, and she poignantly captures the growing pains of the New South in the lives of her characters as they come to terms with feminism, R-rated movies, and video games.
“Bobbie Ann Mason is one of those rare writers who, by concentrating their attention on a few square miles of native turf, are able to open up new and surprisingly wide worlds for the delighted reader,” said Robert Towers in The New York Review of Books.