Annal: 1996 National Book Award for Fiction

Results of the National Book Award in the year 1996.

Book:Ship Fever and Other Stories

Ship Fever and Other Stories

Andrea Barrett

The elegant short fictions gathered hereabout the love of science and the science of love are often set against the backdrop of the nineteenth century. Interweaving historical and fictional characters, they encompass both past and present as they negotiate the complex territory of ambition, failure, achievement, and shattered dreams. In “Ship Fever,” the title novella, a young Canadian doctor finds himself at the center of one of history’s most tragic epidemics. In “The English Pupil,” Linnaeus, in old age, watches as the world he organized within his head slowly drifts beyond his reach. And in “The Littoral Zone,” two marine biologists wonder whether their life-altering affair finally was worth it. In the tradition of Alice Munro and William Trevor, these exquisitely rendered fictions encompass whole lives in a brief space. As they move between interior and exterior journeys, “science is transformed from hard and known fact into malleable, strange and thrilling fictional material” (Boston Globe).

Book:Atticus

Atticus: A Novel

Ron Hansen

Ron Hansen’s deeply affecting new novel opens in winter on the high plains of Colorado, where rancher Atticus Cody receives an unexpected visit from his wayward young son. An artist and wanderer, Scott has recently settled into a life of heavy drinking and recklessness among expatriates and Mexicans in the little town of Resurreccion on the Caribbean coast. Weeks later, Atticus himself goes down to Mexico to recover the body of his son, thinking he has committed suicide. Puzzled by what he finds in Resurreccion, he begins to suspect that Scott has been murdered.

Atticus is the story of a father’s fierce love for his son, a love so steadfast and powerful that it bends the impersonal forces of destiny to its own will. As Atticus uncovers the story of his son’s death, fitting together the pieces of the mosaic that was Scott’s life in Mexico and encountering a group of disturbing characters along the way he suffers a father’s…[more]

Book:The Giant's House

The Giant's House

Elizabeth McCracken

Named one of the 20 Best Young American Novelists by Granta magazine, Elizabeth McCracken is a writer of fabulous gifts. The Giant’s House, her first novel, is an unforgettably tender and quirky novel about the strength of choosing to love in a world that offers no promises, and no guarantees.

The year is 1950, and in a small town on Cape Cod twenty-six-year-old librarian Peggy Cort feels like love and life have stood her up. Until the day James Carlson Sweatt—the “over-tall” eleven-year-old boy who’s talk of the town-walks into her library and changes her life forever. Two misfits whose lonely paths cross at the circulation desk, Peggy and James are odd candidates for friendship, but nevertheless they find their lives entwined in ways that neither one could have predicted. And as James grows—six foot five at age twelve, then seven feet, then eight—so does Peggy’s heart and their most singular romance.

Book:Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer

Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer

Steven Millhauser

Young Martin Dressler begins his career as an industrious helper in his father’s cigar store. In the course of his restless young manhood, he makes a swift and eventful rise to the top, accompanied by two sisters—one a dreamlike shadow, the other a worldly business partner. As the eponymous Martin’s vision becomes bolder and bolder he walks a haunted line between fantasy and reality, madness and ambition, art and industry, a sense of doom builds piece-by-hypnotic piece until this mesmerizing journey into the heart of an American dreamer reaches its bitter-sweet conclusion.

Book:The River Beyond the World

The River Beyond the World

Janet Peery

Luisa Cantu is a girl from a Sierra Madre mountain village. After being impregnated in a fertility ritual of ancient ofigin, she leaves Mexico to work in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas as a housemaid for Mrs. Eddie Hatch, a woman with a strong will and a narrow worldview. Their complex relationship-by turns mystical and pragmnatic, serious and comic-reveals the many ways human beings can wound one another, the nautre of love and sacrifice, and the possibility of forgiveness.

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