Annal: 2002 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

Results of the PEN/Faulkner Award in the year 2002.

Book:Bel Canto

Bel Canto

Ann Patchett

Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country’s vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of Mr. Hosokawa, a powerful Japanese businessman. Roxanne Coss, opera’s most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening—until a band of gun-wielding terrorists breaks in through the air-conditioning vents and takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different countries and continents become compatriots.

Without the demands of the world to shape their days, life on the inside becomes more beautiful than anything they had ever known before. At once riveting and impassioned, the narrative becomes a moving exploration of how people communicate when music…[more]

Book:The Corrections

The Corrections

Jonathan Franzen

Enid Lambert is terribly, terribly anxious. Although she would never admit it to her neighbors or her three grown children, her husband, Alfred, is losing his grip on reality. Maybe it’s the medication that Alfred takes for his Parkinson’s disease, or maybe it’s his negative attitude, but he spends his days brooding in the basement and committing shadowy, unspeakable acts. More and more often, he doesn’t seem to understand a word Enid says.

Trouble is also brewing in the lives of Enid’s children. Her older son, Gary, a banker in Philadelphia, has turned cruel and materialistic and is trying to force his parents out of their old house and into a tiny apartment. The middle child, Chip, has suddenly and for no good reason quit his exciting job as a professor at D—— College and moved to New York City, where he seems to be pursuing a “transgressive” lifestyle and writing some sort of screenplay. Meanwhile the baby of the family, Denise,…[more]

Book:The Death of Vishnu

The Death of Vishnu: A Novel

Manil Suri

At the opening of this masterful debut novel, Vishnu lies dying on the staircase he inhabits while his neighbors the Pathaks and the Asranis argue over who will pay for an ambulance. As the action spirals up through the floors of the apartment building we are pulled into the drama of the residents’ lives: Mr. Jalal’s obsessive search for higher meaning; Vinod Taneja’s longing for the wife he has lost; the comic elopement of Kavita Asrani, who fancies herself the heroine of a Hindi movie. Suffused with Hindu mythology, this story of one apartment building becomes a metaphor for the social and religious divisions of contemporary India, and Vishnu’s ascent of the staircase parallels the soul’s progress through the various stages of existence. As Vishnu closes in on the riddle of his own mortality, we wonder whether he might not be the god Vishnu, guardian not only of the fate of the building and its occupants, but of the entire universe.

Book:The Hunters

The Hunters

Claire Messud

A Simple Tale is the moving account of Maria Poniatowski, a woman born in the Ukraine between the two World Wars, taken by the Germans for slave labor, and eventually relocated as a displaced person to Canada. She and her husband settle in Toronto. They struggle to build a new life there and provide their son Radek with every opportunity. But a gulf widens between mother and son. What of the past is she to preserve, and how to avoid letting its weight burden the present? Maria’s story is about the moments of connection and isolation that are, ultimately, common to us all.

The Hunters is told by an American academic living in a dreary suburb of London for a summer. Removed from the relationships that ordinarily add structure to life, this scholar soon grows obsessed by the neighbors downstairs. Ridley Wandor lives with her mother and their horde of pet rabbits, occupying her days as a caretaker of the elderly. While the narrator researches a book about death, Ridley Wandor’s patients all seem to be dying. Is she doing away with them? The narrator constructs Ridley’s story from the available clues, only to find that nothing is what it had seemed to be.

Book:Sister Noon

Sister Noon: A Novel

Karen Joy Fowler

Set in San Francisco in the Gilded Age, Sister Noon is a period mystery that showcases the wickedly wry and deliciously subversive talents readers expect of Karen Joy Fowler.

“An astonishing narrative voice, at once lyric and ironic, satiric and nostalgic. Fowler can tell stories that engage and enchant.” —San Francisco Chronicle

By dint of birth, Lizzie Hayes is part of San Francisco’s social elite. But Lizzie, so seemingly docile, hides within her a rebellious heart. All she needs is the spark that will liberate her from the ruling conventions. And that spark is Mary Ellen Pleasant. With her appearance on Lizzie’s doorstep, she brings with her not only mystery and a whiff of disrepute but also the key that will unlock Lizzie’s passionate nature. “You can be anything you want,” she tells Lizzie. “You don’t have to…[more]

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