2017 National Book Awards for Fiction

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fiction-finalists-2017

Here are the finalists for the NBA fiction: “Dark at the Crossing” by Elliot Ackerman, “The Leavers” by Lisa Ko, “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee, “Her Body and Other Parties” by Carmen Maria Machado, and “Sing, Unburied, Sing” by Jesmyn Ward. They are all good novels (or stories in the case of Machado’s book). “Dark at the Crossing” gets inside the mind of an Arab American going to Syria to fight against Assad. “The Leavers” confronts the reality of an undocumented Chinese immigrant family’s experience by following the disappearance of the mother, employed in a nail salon, who never comes home one day. Her son is left alone and is eventually adopted and the book focuses on his attempt to reconcile his different worlds, the lost and the found. “Pachinko” follows a few generations of a Korean family starting in early 1900s. “Her Body and Other Parties,” is one of those collections of short stories that taps into the magical realism tradition started by Marquez and Rushdie. Some of the stories are good and Machado is a pro at mashing up different genres such as realism and fantasy but writers like Kelly Link and Karen Russell simply do it better. In “Sing, Unburied, Sing,” Ward once again captures the dark side of life in the rural south through a family experiencing drug addiction, death, incarceration, racism and poverty. Although all the books are worthwhile none of the finalists are even near the top of my best fiction of ’17 list. That said, and despite the fact that Ward has won the NBA previously for her excellent novel “Salvage the Bones,” I was rooting for her again this year. And this year the vote went my way, as it was announced yesterday that she won.

Nicole Charbonnet

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