Annal: 1988 National Book Award for Fiction

Results of the National Book Award in the year 1988.

Book:Paris Trout

Paris Trout

Pete Dexter

In Paris Trout, Pete Dexter tells the mesmerizing story of a shocking crime that eats away at the social fabric of a small town, exposing the hypocrisies of its ways and shattering the lives of its citizens.

The crime is the murder of a fourteen-year-old black girl and the killer is Paris Trout, a respected white citizen of Cotton Point, Georgia, and a man without guilt. His crime haunts the men and women of this town. Harry Seagraves, a prominent citizen and Trout’s defense attorney, has nightmares about it. Trout’s wife, Hanna, bears the abuse of his paranoia, which grows as the town reacts to the crime and puts Trout on trial. As he becomes more obsessed with his cause and his vendettas against those who have betrayed him, Trout moves closer and closer to the edge of sanity, finally exploding with more violence and rage.

Book:Breathing Lessons

Breathing Lessons

Anne Tyler

Breathing Lessons is the wonderfully moving and surprising story of Ira and Maggie Moran. She’s impetuous, harum-scarum, easy-going; he’s competent, patient, seemingly infallible. They’ve been married for 28 years. Now, as they drive from their home in Baltimore to the funeral of Maggie’s best friend’s husband, Anne Tyler shows us all there is to know about a marriage—the expectations, the disappointments, the way children can create storms in a family, the way a wife and husband can fall in love all over again, the way nothing really changes.

Book:Libra

Libra

Don DeLillo

In this powerful, eerily convincing fictional speculation on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Don Delillo chronicles Lee Harvey Oswald’s odyssey from troubled teenager to a man of precarious stability who imagines himself an agent of history. When “history” presents itself in the form of two disgruntled CIA operatives who decide that an unsuccessful attempt on the life of the president will galvanize the nation against communism, the scales are irrevocably tipped.

A gripping, masterful blend of fact and fiction, alive with meticulously portrayed characters both real and created, Libra is a grave, haunting, and brilliant examination of an event that has become an indelible part of the American psyche.

Book:Vanished (Mary McGarry Morris)

Vanished

Mary McGarry Morris

Aubrey Wallace is the kind of man no one notices. Dotty Johnson is the kind of woman no one can ignore. One afternoon, they both disappear from the small Vermont town where they live. The next day, two hundred miles away, a toddler is snatched from her Massachusetts home.

For the next five years, Aubrey, Dotty, and the kidnapped child—bound together by strange love and desperate need—are trapped in a nomadic existence governed by their constant fear of discovery. Canny, the little girl, becomes Aubrey’s entire existence. But Dotty wants out. She is tired of being saddled with this fearful little man. When she meets Jiggy Huller, a brutal ex-convict, the wheels of Canny’s return to her natural parents are wrenched fatally into motion.

Book:Wheat That Springeth Green

Wheat That Springeth Green

J.F. Powers

Wheat That Springeth Green, J. F. Powers’s beautifully realized final work, is a comic foray into the commercialized wilderness of modern American life. Its hero, Joe Hackett, is a high-school track-star who sets out to be a saint. But seminary life and priestly apprenticeship soon damp his ardor, and by the time he has been given a parish of his own he has traded in his hairshirt for the consolations of baseball and beer. Meanwhile Joe’s higher-ups are pressing for an increase in profits from the collection plate, while suburban Inglenook’s biggest business wants to launch its new line of missiles with a blessing, and not so far away, in Vietnam, a war is going on. Joe wants to duck and cover, but in the end, almost in spite of himself, he is condemned to do something right.

A virtuoso of the American language, J.F. Powers had a perfect ear for the telling cliche and a unfailing eye for the kitsch, whether material or moral, that clutters up our lives. This funny and very moving novel about the making and the remaking of a priest in a world of discount marts and financial drives is one of his finest achievements.

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