Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Picks for the National Book Award in Fiction

As promised in my last entry, I have read the Kindle previews for all  National Book Award candidates and ranked them in the order of my preference.  Can you really pick a book from its preview?  We shall see....

The preview for Binocular Vision had three complete stories, and I was impressed.  My favorite of the three was called Inbound, and is about a family trying to give their daughter a cultural experience while struggling with a child with Down Syndrome.  It had an amazing balance of people trying to do what they'd always planned in the face of a situation they had never anticipated.  As a result, the older daughter has more challenges as well. 

Phew, well.

This book is definitely rural in tone, I'm thinking Mississippi or Louisiana since they are preparing for a hurricane.  The description of the puppy births reminds me of John Steinbeck in the Red Pony.  It felt very visceral with potential to be depressing, as the family in the preview section is clearly living in poverty.

I am thrown off by this book because I keep expecting it to be set somewhere where tigers live, maybe India, but the tiger in the preview is at the zoo, and the landscape seems to be the former Yugoslavia.  A woman's grandfather has died in a bit of a mystery, as he never told anyone he was dying except her.  I want to read more of this because it seemed to have the potential for an interesting story, but at the same time the language was simpler than I really like.  

I would say I wasn't wrong about my "book club light" guesstimate.  The book starts with a boat of Japanese brides being sent off to America.  They come from all over Japan, and are being married off all over America.  This is a pretty typical cultural clash novel, I'd guess, and is bound to be interesting because of that conflict.  The author gives everything a color, and it really jumped out because it got a little ridiculous even in the preview.  I probably wouldn't finish this one.

Full disclosure - I fell asleep reading this preview on Sunday evening.  I mean, it is at most 30 pages, and I couldn't make it through.  I have to be tricked into reading historical fiction, and this novel was too obvious.  I'm ranking it last because of my own tastes, but don't let it scare you away from trying it.

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