Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Obscure Book Awards Roundup

There have been so many book award announcements lately that I fear that some great reading suggestions are getting overlooked.

Here are some recent winners from a few lesser known literary awards to whet your reading appetite:

~Best Translated Book~

The True Deceiver
by Tove Jansson, translated by Thomas Teal

"Snow has been falling on the village all winter long. It covers windows and piles up in front of doors. The sun rises late and sets early, and even during the day there is little to do but trade tales. This year everybody’s talking about Katri Kling and Anna Aemelin. Katri is a yellow-eyed outcast who lives with her simpleminded brother and a dog she refuses to name. She has no use for the white lies that smooth social intercourse, and she can see straight to the core of any problem.

Anna, an elderly children’s book illustrator, appears to be Katri’s opposite: a respected member of the village, if an aloof one. Anna lives in a large empty house, venturing out in the spring to paint exquisitely detailed forest scenes. But Anna has something Katri wants, and to get it Katri will take control of Anna’s life and livelihood. By the time spring arrives, the two women are caught in a conflict of ideals that threatens to strip them of their most cherished illusions."

~Art Seidenbaum Award
for First Fiction Award~ (LA Times):

The House of Tomorrow
by Peter Bognanni

"In this heartbreakingly funny and deeply compassionate story of self-discovery and family bonding, debut novelist Bognanni explores the unlikely friendship of two social outcasts and their desperation to be heard. Since his parents' untimely death, 17-year-old Sebastian Prendergast has lived in semi-rural Iowa with his eccentric grandmother in a geodesic dome. Having homeschooled Sebastian in the teachings of futurist philosopher R. Buckminster Fuller, his grandmother deems Sebastian humanity's next savior. But when she suffers a stroke, Sebastian must leave the comfort of his bubble world to save her from her obsessive, self-destructive plans.

Sebastian soon comes under the care of the Whitcombs the downtrodden, husbandless mother, Janice; the beautiful but bratty Meredith; and sickly, sarcastic Jared, who introduces Sebastian to punk rock and brutal honesty. As Sebastian pieces together the perplexities of domestic life, he discovers the nature of family trust, love and heartache, and healing friendship. Tightly plotted, and as fun and lively as a Ramones tune, Bognanni's timely novel perfectly captures teenage angst in all its raw and riotous discomfort." - Booklist

~The Believer Book Award~

Next: a novel, by James Hynes

At 55, Kevin Quinn is the kind of excessively worried man who makes women of a certain age grind their teeth. He is so averse to relationship commitment that he secretly flies from Ann Arbor, MI, to Austin, TX, for a job interview while his (sort of) live-in (sort of) girlfriend is out of town on business. Solipsistic to a fault, he rigidly judges any female he runs into by her physical attributes, no matter how casual the encounter. His one-day visit to Austin does not go well. Battling the crippling heat, he finds himself stalking the beautiful (of course) young woman who sat next to him on the plane, until he is injured in an encounter with a dog on a leash. A beautiful (of course) thoracic surgeon briefly comes to his rescue. Throughout all these misadventures, Kevin replays several intimate scenarios with past lovers. Hynes (The Lecturer's Tale) has an ability to evoke sounds, smells, and contempt that lures his readers to a place they don't see coming.

VERDICT Fans of Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge will embrace Hynes's distasteful albeit oddly likable protagonist, and the shock value of the ending will cause considerable buzz.

~Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize (BC Book Awards)~

Everything Was Good-bye: a novel,
by Gurjinder Basran

"Everything Was Good-bye centers around Meena, a young Indo Canadian woman growing up in the lower mainland of British Columbia and traces her life as she struggles to assert her independence in a Punjabi community. Raised by her tradition bound widowed mother, Meena knows the freedoms of her Canadian peers can never be hers, but unlike her sisters, she is reluctant to submit to a life that is defined by a suitable marriage. Though a narrative moving between race and culture, it is ultimately a story of love, loss and self acceptance amidst shifting cultural ideals."

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