Annal: 2004 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 2004.

Book:Harbor

Harbor

Lorraine Adams

A powerful first novel that engages the tumultuous events of today: at once an intimate portrait of a group of young Arab Muslims living in the United States, and the story of one man’s journey into—and out of—violence.

We first meet Aziz Arkoun as a 24-year-old stowaway—frozen, hungry, his perceptions jammed by a language he can’t understand or speak. After 52 days in the hold of a tanker from Algeria, he jumps into the icy waters of Boston harbor and swims to shore. Seemingly rescued from isolation by Algerians he knew as a child, he instead finds himself in a world of disillusionment, duplicity, and stolen identities, living a raw comedy of daily survival not unlike what he fled back home.

As the story of Aziz and his friends unfolds—moving from the hardscrabble neighborhoods of East Boston and Brooklyn to a North African army camp—Harbor makes vivid the ambiguities of these men’s past and present lives: burying a murdered girl…[more]

Book:Eve Green

Eve Green: A Novel

Susan Fletcher

“Ten days before Christmas I lost her. What do I remember? Every little thing…. For twenty-one years I’ve picked away at my memory of it, lifting up moments, testing myself. Believing I might have finally healed to a neat white scar.”

Pregnant with her first child, Eve Green recalls her mother’s death when she was eight years old and her struggle to make sense of her parents’ mysterious romantic past. Eve is sent to live with her grandparents in rural Wales, where she finds comfort in friendships with Daniel, a quiet farmhand, and Billy, a disabled, reclusive friend of her mother’s. When a ravishing local girl disappears, one of Eve’s friends comes under suspicion. Eve will do everything she can to protect him, but at the risk of complicity in a matter she barely understands. This is a timeless and beautifully told story about family secrets and unresolved liaisons.

Book:A Girl Becomes a Comma Like That

A Girl Becomes a Comma Like That: A Novel

Lisa Glatt

Hauntingly observant and insightful, this poignant debut novel delves into the intricate bonds between mothers and daughters and offers an unflinching, darkly funny look at the relationships between love, sex, and death.

Rachel Spark is an irreverent, sexually eager, financially unstable thirty-year-old college instructor who moves back home when her mother is diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. As she tries to ease her mother, a perpetually cheerful woman, toward the inevitable, Rachel turns from one man to the next—sometimes comically, sometimes catastrophically—as if her own survival depended upon it.

“If I slept only with men who knew my full name, if I signed up for dance classes, if I ate more fruit—even then there was no guarantee I’d get what I wanted,” she thinks. And so she goes off with Johnny, who wears “all silk: black silk pants,…[more]

Book:Natasha and Other Stories

Natasha and Other Stories

David Bezmozgis

Few readers had heard of David Bezmozgis before last May, when Harper’s, Zoetrope, and The New Yorker all printed stories from his forthcoming collection. In the space of a few weeks, these magazines introduced America to the Bermans—Bella and Roman and their son, Mark—Russian Jews who have fled the Riga of Brezhnev for Toronto, the city of their dreams.

Told through Mark’s eyes, and spanning the last twenty-three years, Natasha brings the Bermans and the Russian-Jewish enclaves of Toronto to life in stories full of big, desperate, utterly believable consequence. In “Tapka” six-year-old Mark’s first experiments in English bring ruin and near tragedy to the neighbors upstairs. In “Roman Berman, Massage Therapist,” Roman and Bella stake all their hopes for Roman’s business on their first, humiliating dinner in a North American home. Later, in…[more]

Book:Rear View

Rear View: Stories

Peter Duval

Starkly honest, gritty, and at times darkly humorous, the fourteen stories in Pete Duval’s debut collection feature blue-collar workers, lapsed Catholics, bullies, and smalltime thieves struggling with their jobs, their relationships, and their families. Like the fiction of Richard Russo and Andre Dubus, many of Duval’s stories deal with both mundane and unexpected occurrences in a small working-class community.

In “Wheatback,” a visitor sits in the dark in a nursing home and has a strangely intimate conversation with a patient he has just met. “Bakery” gives an insider”s view of the personal conflicts among the night crew at a commercial bakery—and the horrible incident that results. “Scissors” recounts a tense confrontation in a neighborhood barbershop. In “Impala,” frustration mounts when a man drags his wife along on an ill-fated trip to New Orleans.

Throughout the collection, Duval explores his characters with compassion and candor and an eye for the surprising moment.

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