Annal: 2006 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 2005.

Book:A Woman in Jerusalem

A Woman in Jerusalem

A.B. Yehoshua

A woman in her forties is a victim of a suicide bombing at a Jerusalem market. Her body lies nameless in a hospital morgue. She had apparently worked as a cleaning woman at a bakery, but there is no record of her employment. When a Jerusalem daily accuses the bakery of “gross negligence and inhumanity toward an employee,” the bakery’s owner, overwhelmed by guilt, entrusts the task of identifying and burying the victim to a human resources man. This man is at first reluctant to take on the job, but as the facts of the woman’s life take shape-she was an engineer from the former Soviet Union, a non-Jew on a religious pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and, judging by an early photograph, beautiful-he yields to feelings of regret, atonement, and even love.

At once profoundly serious and highly entertaining, A.B. Yehoshua astonishes us with his masterly, often unexpected turns in the story and with his ability to get under the skin and into the soul of Israel today.

Book:Black Swan Green

Black Swan Green: A Novel

David Mitchell

From award-winning writer David Mitchell comes a sinewy, meditative novel of boyhood on the cusp of adulthood and the old on the cusp of the new.

Black Swan tracks a single year in what is, for thirteen-year-old Jason Taylor, the sleepiest village in muddiest Worcestershire in a dying Cold War England, 1982. But the thirteen chapters, each a short story in its own right, create an exquisitely observed world that is anything but sleepy. A world of Kissingeresque realpolitik enacted in boys’ games on a frozen lake; of “nightcreeping” through the summer backyards of strangers; of the tabloid-fueled…

Book:A Million Nightingales

A Million Nightingales: A Novel

Susan Straight

A haunting, beautifully written novel set in early-nineteenth-century Louisiana: the tale of a slave girl’s journey—emotional and physical—from captivity to freedom.

Susan Straight has been called “a writer of exceptional gifts and grace” (Joyce Carol Oates). In A Million Nightingales she brings those gifts to bear on the story of Moinette, daughter of an African mother and a white father she never knew. While her mother cares for the plantation linens, Moinette tends to the master’s daughter, which allows her to eavesdrop on lessons. She also learns that she is property, and at fourteen she is sold, separated from her mother without a chance to say goodbye. Heartbroken and terrified, and with a full understanding of what she will risk, Moinette begins almost immediately to prepare herself for the moment when she will escape. …[more]

Book:The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo

The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo: A Novel

Peter Orner

When Mavala Shikongo deserted them, the teachers at Goas weren’t surprised. How could they be? She was too beautiful, too powerful, and too mysterious for their tiny, remote world. They had a thousand theories about their departed colleague and only one essential fact: she was a combat veteran of Namibia’s brutal war for independence. She must have had something to hide—why else would she have endured the long days and cold nights at this threadbare boys’ school, so deep in the veld that, the teachers say “even the baboons feel sorry for us”?

So when Mavala returns to Goas their astonishment is genuine. In her arms is a baby son, and there is no mention of a husband. Awed by her boldness, the teachers try hard, once again, not to fall in love with her. They all fail, immediately and miserably, especially the American volunteer, Larry Kaplanski.

This novel is a chronicle of longing in an arid place where people create an alternate, more fertile universe through the stories they tell one another. History is given a truly human voice.

Book:Winter's Bone

Winter's Bone: A Novel

Daniel Woodrell

Sixteen-year-old Ree Dolly has grown up in the harsh poverty of the Ozarks and belongs to a large extended family. On a bitterly cold day, Ree learns that her father has skipped bail. If he fails to appear for his upcoming court date on charges of cooking crystal meth, his family will lose their house, the only security they have.

Winter’s Bone is the story of Ree’s quest to bring her father back, alive or dead. Her father’s disappearance forces her to take on the outlaw world of the Dolly family. Ree’s plan is elemental and direct: find her father, teach her little brothers how to fend for themselves, and escape a downward spiral of misery. Along the way she learns that what she had long considered to be the burdens imposed on her by her family are, in fact, the responsibilities that give meaning and direction to her life.

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