Annal: 1999 National Book Award for Fiction

Results of the National Book Award in the year 1999.

Book:Waiting

Waiting

Ha Jin

This is the story of Lin Kong, a man living in two worlds, struggling with the conflicting claims of two utterly different women as he moves through the political minefields of a society designed to regulate his every move and stifle the promptings of his innermost heart.

For more than seventeen years, this devoted and ambitious doctor has been in love with an educated, clever, modern woman, Manna Wu. But back in the traditional world of his home village lives the wife his family chose for him when he was young—a humble and touchingly loyal woman, whom he visits in order to ask, again and again, for a divorce. In a culture in which the ancient ties of tradition and family still hold sway and where adultery discovered by the Party can ruin lives forever, Lin’s passionate love is stretched ever more taut by the passing years. Every summer, his compliant wife agrees to a divorce but then backs out.…[more]

Book:House of Sand and Fog

House of Sand and Fog

Andre Dubus III

Tense with suspense from the first line, this is one of the great American realist novels. In this page-turning, breathtaking novel, the characters will walk off the page and into your life. And a small house will seem like the most important piece of territory in the world. On a road crew in California, a former colonel in the Iranian Air Force under the Shah yearns to restore his family’s dignity. When an attractive bungalow comes available on county auction for a fraction of its value, he sees a great opportunity for himself, his wife, and his children. But the house’s former owner, a recovering alcoholic and addict down on her luck, doesn’t see it that way, nor does her lover, a married cop driven to extremes to win her love and get her house back. House of Sand and Fog is a narrative triumph in which a traditional immigrant success story and a modern love story are turned upside down with brutal, heartrending consequences. It is an American tragedy, and a shockingly true picture of the country we live in today.

Book:Hummingbird House

Hummingbird House

Patricia Henley

When Kate Banner, an American midwife in Nicaragua, loses another patient - a young Nicaraguan woman who had given birth only the night before - she knows it is time to go home. Travelling home leads her to Guatemala, where she becomes involved with the innocent victims of war. Through her experiences and encounters, Kate finds a place she can connect with and call home far away from her American birthplace.

Patricia Henley’s Hummingbird House is a devastatingly powerful and emotional story of a human heart unbinding itself in the most unjust of worlds.

Book:Plainsong

Plainsong

Kent Haruf

A heartstrong story of family and romance, tribulation and tenacity, set on the High Plains east of Denver.

In the small town of Holt, Colorado, a high school teacher is confronted with raising his two boys alone after their mother retreats first to the bedroom, then altogether. A teenage girl—her father long since disappeared, her mother unwilling to have her in the house—is pregnant, alone herself, with nowhere to go. And out in the country, two brothers, elderly bachelors, work the family homestead, the only world they’ve ever known.

From these unsettled lives emerges a vision of life, and of the town and landscape that bind them together—their fates somehow overcoming the powerful circumstances of place and station, their confusion, curiosity, dignity and humor intact and resonant. As the milieu widens to embrace fully four generations, Kent Haruf displays an emotional and aesthetic authority to rival the past masters of a classic American tradition.

Utterly true to the rhythms and patterns of life, Plainsong is a novel to care about, believe in, and learn from.

Book:Who Do You Love

Who Do You Love: Stories

Jean Thompson

In this acclaimed collection, Jean Thompson limns the lives of ordinary people—a lonely social worker, a down-and-out junkie, a divorced cop on the night shift—to extraordinary effect. With wisdom and sympathy and spare eloquence, she writes of their inarticulate longings for communion and grace.Yet even the saddest situations are imbued with Thompson’s characteristic humor and a wry glimmer of hope. With Who Do You Love, readers will discover a writer with rare insight into the resiliency of the human spirit and the complexities of love.

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