Annal: 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

Results of the PEN/Faulkner Award in the year 2013.

Book:Everything Begins & Ends at the Kentucky Club

Everything Begins & Ends at the Kentucky Club

Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s stories reveal how all borders—real, imagined, sexual, human, the line between dark and light, addict and straight—entangle those who live on either side. Take, for instance, the Kentucky Club on Avenida Juárez two blocks south of the Rio Grande. It’s a touchstone for each of Sáenz’s stories. His characters walk by, they might go in for a drink or to score, or they might just stay there for a while and let their story be told. Sáenz knows that the Kentucky Club, like special watering holes in all cities, is the contrary to borders. It welcomes Spanish and English, Mexicans and gringos, poor and rich, gay and straight, drug addicts and drunks, laughter and sadness, and even despair. It’s a place of rich history and good drinks and cold beer and a long polished mahogany bar. Some days it smells like piss. “I’m going home to the other side.” That’s a strange statement, but you hear it all the time at the Kentucky Club.

Book:Hold it 'Til It Hurts

Hold it 'Til It Hurts: A Novel

T. Geronimo Johnson

When Achilles Conroy and his brother Troy return from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, their white mother presents them with the key to their past: envelopes containing details about their respective birth parents. After Troy disappears, Achilles—always his brother’s keeper—embarks on a harrowing journey in search of Troy, an experience that will change him forever.

Heartbreaking, intimate, and at times disturbing, Hold It ’Til It Hurts is a modern-day odyssey through war, adventure, disaster, and love, and explores how people who do not define themselves by race make sense of a world that does.

Book:Kind One (Laird Hunt)

Kind One: A Novel

Laird Hunt

As a teenage girl, Ginny marries Linus Lancaster, her mother’s second cousin, and moves to his Kentucky pig farm “ninety miles from nowhere.” In the shadows of the lush Kentucky landscape, Ginny discovers the empty promises of Linus’ “paradise”—a place where the charms of her husband fall away to reveal a troubled man and cruel slave owner. Ginny befriends the young slaves Cleome and Zinnia who work at the farm—until Linus’ attentions turn to them, and she finds herself torn between her husband and only companions. The events that follow Linus’ death change all three women for life.

Haunting, chilling, and suspenseful, Kind One is a powerful tale of redemption and human endurance in antebellum America.

Book:Threats (Amelia Gray)

Threats: A Novel

Amelia Gray

David’s wife is dead. At least, he thinks she’s dead. But he can’t figure out what killed her or why she had to die, and his efforts to sort out what’s happened have been interrupted by his discovery of a series of elaborate and escalating threats hidden in strange places around his home—one buried in the sugar bag, another carved into the side of his television. These disturbing threats may be the best clues to his wife’s death:

Curl up on my lap. Let me brush your hair with my fingers. I am singing you a lullaby. I am testing for structural weakness in your skull.

Detective Chico is also on the case, and is intent on asking David questions he doesn’t know the answers to and introducing him to people who don’t appear to have David’s or his wife’s best interests in mind. With no one to trust, David is…[more]

Book:Watergate (Thomas Mallon)

Watergate: A Novel

Thomas Mallon

From one of our most esteemed historical novelists, a remarkable retelling of the Watergate scandal, as seen through a kaleidoscope of its colorful perpetrators and investigators.

For all the monumental documentation that Watergate generated—uncountable volumes of committee records, court transcripts, and memoirs—it falls at last to a novelist to perform the work of inference (and invention) that allows us to solve some of the scandal’s greatest mysteries (who did erase those eighteen-and-a-half minutes of tape?) and to see this gaudy American catastrophe in its human entirety.

In Watergate, Thomas Mallon conveys the drama and high comedy of the Nixon presidency through the urgent perspectives of seven characters we only thought we knew before now, moving readers from the private cabins of Camp David to the klieg lights…[more]

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