The nominees for the inaugural Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction were recently announced. This award recognizes books written for adults that were published in the U.S. in the previous year. The three finalists deal with varied and unique topics, but each has a strong emotional current running throughout.
In Lost Memory of Skin, Russell Banks turns a magnifying glass toward the outcasts of society. A “community” of convicted sex offenders has sprung up on a causeway at the edge of the city limits in South Florida. These men are caught in the grey area of the legal system; they cannot reside within 2500 feet of any gathering place for children but they must live within the city according to the conditions of their parole. Never one to shy away from the morally complex, Banks presents these men sympathetically and challenges the reader to reexamine his/her own moral code. Lost Memory of Skin was a 2012 Pen/Faulkner Award finalist.
Sparsely written and often surprising, The Forgotten Waltz is a novel set in Ireland that deals with the emotional taboo of extramarital affairs. A chance meeting leads Gina and Sean into a passionate affair that takes years to arrive at a crescendo. Booker Prize winner Anne Enright takes an unapologetic look at love, marriage, infidelity and secrets. Enright’s writing is non-linear and poetic. Musical metaphors abound in the witty dance that is The Forgotten Waltz, which was shortlisted for the 2012 Orange Prize.
Swamplandia! by debut author Karen Russell is the story of Ava Bigtree, a thirteen-year-old alligator wrestler at her family’s animal park in the Florida Everglades. The struggle to save the park after the death of her mother rests squarely on Ava’s shoulders, as the other members of the family withdraw to battle their own personal demons. Whimsical, beautiful language anchors this magical tale to a place somewhere between imagination and reality. Swamplandia! was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.