Honor roll: PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

Each of these books has been nominated for a PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. They are ranked by honors received.

Book:A Flag for Sunrise

A Flag for Sunrise

Robert Stone

Diverse characters are drawn into the maelstrom of Tecan, a small Central American country on the brink of revolution.

At a mission on the coast a priest is lapsing into alcoholic mysticism, while a young American nun is veering towards commitment to the cause. In a bar in Brooklyn, Frank Holliwell is lunching with an old CIA friend who is begging for a favour. On the Tex—Mex border, Pablo, a Coast Guard deserter, loco on speed, is about to take a job carrying mysterious contraband to Tecan. As these lives converge and this small, crowded world erupts, the novel builds to an electrifying climax.

Book:Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant: A Novel

Anne Tyler

Pearl Tull is nearing the end of her life but not her memory. Ever since 1944 when her husband left her, she has raised her three very different children on her own. Now grown, they have gathered together—with anger, with hope, and with a beautiful, harsh, and dazzling story to tell….

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:The Second Coming

The Second Coming: A Novel

Walker Percy

Will Barrett, a lonely widower, suffers from a depression so strange and severe that he decides he doesn’t want to continue living. But then he meets Allison, a mental hospital escapee making a new life for herself, living alone in a greenhouse. What follows is by turns touching and zany, tragic and comic, as Will goes in search of proof of God and winds up finding much more.

Book:Ironweed: A Novel

Ironweed: A Novel

William Kennedy

Francis Phelan, ex-ballplayer, part-time gravedigger, full-time drunk, has hit bottom. Years ago he left Albany in a hurry after killing a scab during a trolley workers’ strike. He ran away again after accidentally—and fatally—dropping his infant son.

Now, in 1938, Francis is back in town, roaming the old familiar streets with his hobo pal, Helen, trying to make peace with the ghosts of the past and the present.

Book:That Night: A Novel

That Night: A Novel

Alice McDermott

Suburban Long Island in the 60s is the setting for this story of the binding love between a young couple, and the drastic actions they must take when she becomes pregnant. From the author of The Bigamist’s Daughter.

Book:Lonesome Dove

Lonesome Dove

Larry McMurtry

A love story, an adventure, an American epic, Lonesome Dove embraces all the West—legend and fact, heroes and outlaws, whores and ladies, Indians and settiers—in a novel that recreates the central American experience, the most enduring of our national myths.

Set in the late nineteenth century, Lonesome Dove is the story of a cattle drive from Texas to Montana—and much more. It is a drive that represents for everybody involved not only a daring, even a foolhardy, adventure, but a part of the American Dream—the attempt to carve out of the last remaining wilderness a new life.

Augustus McCrae and W. F. Call are former Texas Rangers, partners and friends who have shared hardship and danger together without ever quite understanding (or wanting to understand) each other’s deepest emotions. Gus is the romantic, a reluctant…[more]

Book:A Confederacy of Dunces

A Confederacy of Dunces

John Kennedy Toole

“When a true genius appears in the world,
You may know him by this sign, that the dunces
Are all in confederacy against him.”
—Jonathan Swift, “Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting”
“A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head. The green earflaps, full of large ears and uncut hair and the fine bristles that grew in the ears themselves, stuck out on either side like turn signals indicating two directions at once.”

So enters one of the most memorable characters in American fiction, Ignatius J. Reilly. …[more]

Book:The Transit of Venus

The Transit of Venus

Shirley Hazzard

The Transit of Venus is considered Shirley Hazzard’s most brilliant novel. It tells the story of two orphan sisters, Caroline and Grace Bell, as they leave Australia to start a new life in post-war England. What happens to these young women—seduction and abandonment, marriage and widowhood, love and betrayal—becomes as moving and wonderful and yet as predestined as the transits of the planets themselves. Gorgeously written and intricately constructed, Hazzard’s novel is a story of place: Sydney, London, New York, Stockholm; of time: from the fifties to the eighties; and above all, of women and men in their passage through the displacements and absurdities of modern life.

Book:Housekeeping

Housekeeping: A Novel

Marilynne Robinson

A modern classic, Housekeeping is the story of Ruth and her younger sister, Lucille, who grow up haphazardly, first under the care of their competent grandmother, then of two comically bumbling great-aunts, and finally of Sylvie, their eccentric and remote aunt. The family house is in the small Far West town of Fingerbone set on a glacial lake, the same lake where their grandfather died in a spectacular train wreck, and their mother drove off a cliff to her death. It is a town “chastened by an outsized landscape and extravagant weather, and chastened again by an awareness that the whole of human history had occurred elsewhere.” Ruth and Lucille’s struggle toward adulthood beautifully illuminates the price of loss and survival, and the dangerous and deep undertow of transience.

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