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Friday, March 23, 2012

Find Minnesota's best new fiction at our library

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian


Last week I told you about the nominees for two of the nonfiction categories of the Minnesota Book Award. This week I’ll tell you about the fiction categories for adults.

In the novel and short story category, four books are nominated: In Caddis Wood by Mary Francois Rockcastle, The Law of Miracles and Other Stories by Gregory Blake Smith, The Long-Shining Waters by Danielle Sosin, and Merit Badges by Kevin Fenton. We have the Rockcastle and Sosin novels.

In Caddis Wood: A Novel is about a couple whose long marriage is in jeopardy. The story is told in alternating perspectives of husband and wife as they gather with their grown children at their cabin in Wisconsin. It reflects on the competing demands of love, family, and career, incorporating the woods around them as an essential part of their memories together. Rockcastle is the director of the Creative Writing Programs at Hamline University.

The Long-Shining Waters won the Milkweed National Fiction Prize in 2011. It tells the stories of three women who lived by Lake Superior at very different times. The first is an Ojibwe woman in 1622, the second a Norwegian immigrant in 1902, and the third a bar owner in 2000. Sosin says she wrote her debut novel to answer the question, “What is it about Lake Superior that makes it so powerful, and haunting and mysterious?”

The four novels nominated in the category of genre fiction are Big Wheat by Richard A. Thompson, The Bone House by Brian Freeman, Death of the Mantis by Michael Stanley, and Northwest Angle by William Kent Krueger. We have all of these books at our library.

Big Wheat: A Tale of Bindlestiffs and Blood is a murder mystery that takes place among the threshing industry of the plains in 1919. The main character Charlie witnesses a serial killer burying his latest victim in a harvested wheat field before he joins a traveling threshing crew. Soon both the killer and the law are after him as a witness and a suspect. Reviewers say that the history is as appealing as the mystery, as the book covers the time when threshing machines were replacing manual labor.

The Bone House is a modern mystery set in Wisconsin and Florida. A high school teacher loses his job in Door County over accusations of an affair with a student. A year later the student’s younger sister is found dead near where the teacher and his wife are vacationing. A detective works with the wife to solve the murder.

Death of the Mantis: A Detective Kubu Mystery is set in Botswana. Detective David “Kubu” Bengu investigates a series of murders that seem to be committed by a nomadic tribe. Kubu travels deep into the Kalahari, struggling to solve the mystery and to stay alive. Michael Stanley is the pen name of two retired professors, Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Sears lives in South Africa and Trollip divides his time between Minnesota and Africa.

Northwest Angle: A Novel is the latest in the Cork O’Connor series of mysteries. Cork and his daughter are on a houseboat vacation on Lake of the Woods when a violent storm strands them. They discover the body of a teenage girl who had been tortured and a baby boy who is still alive. Cork must solve the murder and the identity of the baby while protecting his own family from the killers.

If you’re a fiction reader, check out these titles to find some of the best fiction produced by Minnesota writers in the past year.