BookLife Prize in Fiction
- by Tima Smith
Though competently written, this novel set in the early 1990s takes too long to find its focus and suffers from genre confusion. After a lengthy prologue comprising the ruminations of a disgruntled dad, the book segues into a prickly -- and rather mawkish -- romance involving a multiply bereaved wife/mother secretly squatting at Love Canal, and then morphs into a would-be comic caper aided by a laconic Magical Native American.
- by Bridget Nagarajan
Called to active duty in 2003, plucky 19-year-old Army Specialist Molly McKinney spends a year at a prison facility in Bagram, Afghanistan, in this heart-filled, if unevenly executed, tale. McKinney’s diminutive stature, determination to avoid a bad reputation, and sexual and general inexperience set her apart from her peers. Nevertheless, her cheerful dedication sees her through crises at the prison, among her fellow soldiers, and of the heart. Despite unsteady pacing, a flawed plot, and unpolished writing, McKinney and her battle buddies shine in this spirited portrayal of war behind the front lines.
- by Puja Guha
Prompted by her adult son Nikhil’s own impending fatherhood, Naina writes a long letter to her son explaining the circumstances of his adoption, which had previously been kept secret from him. Her account delves deep into family history as well as the politics of the Republic of East Africa. Informed by the author’s own travels, the narrative’s settings are evocative; less compelling are the plot and characters, which feel like they hold great personal significance for the author but lack the drama and development needed to resonate more broadly.