Annal: 2009 National Book Award for Fiction

Results of the National Book Award in the year 2009.

Book:Let the Great World Spin

Let the Great World Spin: A Novel

Colum McCann

In the dawning light of a late-summer morning, the people of lower Manhattan stand hushed, staring up in disbelief at the Twin Towers. It is August 1974, and a mysterious tightrope walker is running, dancing, leaping between the towers, suspended a quarter mile above the ground. In the streets below, a slew of ordinary lives become extraordinary in bestselling novelist Colum McCann’s stunningly intricate portrait of a city and its people.

Let the Great World Spin is the critically acclaimed author’s most ambitious novel yet: a dazzlingly rich vision of the pain, loveliness, mystery, and promise of New York City in the 1970s.

Corrigan, a radical young Irish monk, struggles with his own demons as he lives among the prostitutes in the middle of the burning Bronx. A group of mothers gather in a Park Avenue apartment to mourn their sons who died in Vietnam, only to discover…[more]

Book:American Salvage

American Salvage: Stories

Bonnie Jo Campbell

A lush and rowdy collection of stories set in a rural Michigan landscape, where wildlife, jobs, and ways of life are vanishing. New from award-winning Michigan writer Bonnie Jo Campbell, “American Salvage” is rich with local color and peopled with rural characters who love and hate extravagantly. They know how to fix cars and washing machines, how to shoot and clean game, and how to cook up methamphetamine, but they have not figured out how to prosper in the twenty-first century. Through the complex inner lives of working-class characters, Campbell illustrates the desperation of post-industrial America, where wildlife, jobs, and whole ways of life go extinct and the people have no choice but to live off what is left behind. The harsh Michigan winter is the backdrop for many of the tales, which are at turns sad, brutal, and oddly funny. One man prepares for the end of the world—scheduled for midnight December 31, 1999—in a pole barn with chickens and survival manuals. An excruciating burn causes a man to transcend…[more]

Book:Far North

Far North: A Novel

Marcel Theroux

My father had an expression for a thing that turned out bad. He’d say it had gone west. But going west always sounded pretty good to me. After all, westwards is the path of the sun. And through as much history as I know of, people have moved west to settle and find freedom. But our world had gone north, truly gone north, and just how far north I was beginning to learn.

Out on the frontier of a failed state, Makepeace—sheriff and perhaps last citizen—patrols a city’s ruins, salvaging books but keeping the guns in good repair.

Into this cold land comes shocking evidence that life might be flourishing elsewhere: a refugee emerges from the vast emptiness of forest, whose existence inspires Makepeace to reconnect with human society and take to the road, armed with rough humor…[more]

Book:In Other Rooms, Other Wonders

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders

Daniyal Mueenuddin

A major literary debut that explores class, culture, power, and desire among the ruling and servant classes of Pakistan.

In the spirit of Joyce’s Dubliners and Turgenev’s A Sportsman’s Sketches, Daniyal Mueenuddin’s collection of linked stories illuminates a place and a people through an examination of the entwined lives of landowners and their retainers on the Gurmani family farm in the countryside outside of Lahore, Pakistan. An aging feudal landlord’s household staff, the villagers who depend on his favor, and a network of relations near and far who have sought their fortune in the cities confront the advantages and constraints of station, the dissolution of old ways, and the shock of change. Mueenuddin bares—at times humorously, at times tragically—the complexities of Pakistani class and culture and presents a vivid picture of a time and a place, of the old powers and the new, as the Pakistani feudal order is undermined and transformed.

Book:Lark & Termite

Lark & Termite: A Novel

Jayne Anne Phillips

A rich, wonderfully alive novel from one of our most admired and best-loved writers. Lark and Termite is set during the 1950s in West Virginia and Korea. It is a story of the power of loss and love, the echoing ramifications of war, family secrets, dreams and ghosts, and the unseen, almost magical bonds that unite and sustain us.

At its center, two children: Lark, on the verge of adulthood, and her brother, Termite, a child unable to walk and talk but filled with radiance. Around them, their mother, Lola, a haunting but absent presence; their aunt Nonie, a matronly, vibrant woman in her fifties, who raises them; and Termite’s father, Corporal Robert Leavitt, who finds himself caught up in the chaotic early months of the Korean War.

Told with deep feeling, the novel invites us to enter into the hearts and thoughts of the leading characters, even into…[more]

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