Honor roll: National Book Award for First Fiction

Each of these books has been nominated for a National Book Award for First Fiction. They are ranked by honors received.

Book:Stones for Ibarra

Stones for Ibarra

Harriet Doerr

Richard and Sara Everton mortgage, sell and borrow, leave friends and country to settle in the Mexican village of Ibarra. They intend to spend the rest of their lives here, in a place neither of them has seen, to speak a language neither of them know. Their dream is to reopen Richard’s grandfather’s abandoned copper mine.

In a few short months work is advancing in the mine and their home is ready—then Richard learns he has six years to live.

Richard’s determination to make the mine and village prosper matches Sara’s effort to deny the diagnosis. While Richard measures time, she rejects its passage.

This novel, Harriet Doerr’s first, was written when she was in her seventies.

Book:Birdy (William Wharton)


William Wharton

An inventive, hypnotic novel about frienship and family, love and war, madness and beauty, and, above all, “birdness.” Wharton crafts an unforgettable tale—one that suggests another notion of sanity in a world that is manifestly insane.

Book:Easy in the Islands

Easy in the Islands

Bob Shacochis

Easy in the Islands is a collection of stories by one of America’s foremost contemporary fiction writers. Infused with the rhythms and the beat of the Caribbean, these vivid tales of paradise sought and paradise lost are as lush, steamy, and invigorating as the islands themselves. From fishing fleets in remote atolls too small to appear on any map and reggae bars on islands narrow enough to walk across in an hour, to the sprawling barrios and yacht-filled marinas of Miami, Bob Shacochis charts a course across a Caribbean that no one who has ever been there on vacation will recognize.

Book:The Women of Brewster Place

The Women of Brewster Place

Gloria Naylor

Once the home of poor Irish and Italian immigrants, Brewster Place, a rotting tenement on a dead-end street, now shelters black families. This novel portrays the courage, the fear, and the anguish of some of the women there who hold their families together, trying to make a home. Among them are: Mattie Michael, the matriarch who loses her son to prison; Etta Mae Johnson who tries to trade the ‘high life’ for marriage with a local preacher; Kiswana Browne who leaves her middle-class family to organize a tenant’s union.

Book:Dale Loves Sophie to Death

Dale Loves Sophie to Death: A Novel

Robb Forman Dew

A novel that explores themes of familial and romantic bonds as it tells the story of a woman whose husband stays behind in New England while she journeys to her Midwestern hometown to spend a summer.

Book:Sister Wolf

Sister Wolf

Ann Arensberg

In the picturesque Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, Marit Deym lives alone on a thousand-acre inheritance from her aristocratic Hungarian parents. Though bright and attractive, she is a stranger to the complexities of human relationships. She keeps to herself, venturing out only to defend her one passion: the care of her wild animals—the lynx, bears, fox, and family of wolves for whom she has established a sanctuary on her land.

Then the wolves bring to her door Gabriel Frankman—a thoughtful young teacher at the nearby school for the blind, lost hiking in the woods. Despite his fear of the wild creatures, Gabriel seems oddly calm in their presence. For Marit, too, there is an immediate, consuming connection to the stranger—the first of her life. But it is a dangerous one. Soon her love of Gabriel will bring forth an unspeakable tragedy: to an innocent life, herself, and her precious animals.

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