Monday, March 19, 2012

Looking at the Short List: Indie Lit Awards

The Synopsis Edition

With the winners of the Indie Lit Awards set to be announced quite soon, I thought I'd begin a series of posts about the Short List for the Fiction category.  Today is a refresher course on the finalists, so that you can get ready to cheer (or groan) when the decisions are announced on Tuesday morning.

When this list was finalized at the beginning of the year, I could only claim real familiarity with one of the titles: The Night Circus. (Really, how could I have avoided familiarity with that one? Talk about publicity campaign!)  I'll talk about my thoughts on each of the books later this week, but here are some front/back cover details to get the ball rolling. (Shown in alphabetical order.)  Who do you hope takes the prize?

Cross Currents, John Shors
published by New American Library (Penguin Group)
Thailand's pristine Ko Phi Phi island attracts tourists from around the world, offering a haven to people from all walks of life. Yet even paradise has its perils.  Struggling to make ends meet, resort owners Lek and Sarai are happy to give an American named Patch room and board in exchange for his help.  But trouble looms when Patch's brother, Ryan, arrives, accompanied by his beautiful girlfriend, Brooke.  Lek learns that Patch is running from the law, and his mere presence puts Lek's family at risk.  Meanwhile, Brooke begins to doubt her love for Ryan, while her feelings for Patch blossom.  The two brothers, once inseparable, clash over a choice that could alter their lives.

In a glorious landscape of sea and sky, where nature's bounty seems endless, these two families are caught in the cross currents of conflict and change--and swept up in an approaching cataclysm that will require all their strength of heart and soul to survive.

Dance Lessons, Aine Greaney
published by Syracuse University Press
A year after her husband's death in a sailing accident off Martha's Vineyard, Ellen Boisvert bumps into an old friend.  In this chance encounter, she discovers that here immigrant husband of almost fifteen years was not an orphan after all.  Instead, his aged mother Jo is alive and residing on the family's isolated farm in the west of Ireland.  Faced with news of her mother-in-law incarnate, the thirty-nine-year-old American prep school teacher decides to travel to Ireland to investigate the truth about her husband Fintan and why he kept his family's existence a secret for so many years.  Between Jo's hilltop farm and the lakeside village of Gowna, Ellen begins to uncover the mysteries of her Irish husband's past and the cruelties and isolation of his rural childhood.  As Ellen reconciles her troubled relationship with Fintan, she discovers a way to heal the wounds of the past.

The Last Time I Saw Paris, Lynn Sheene
published by Berkley Books (Penguin Group)
May 1940: Fleeing a glamorous Manhattan life built on lies, Claire Harris arrives in Paris with a romantic vision of starting anew. But she didn't anticipate the sight of Nazi soldiers marching under the Arc de Triomphe. Her plans smashed by the German Occupation, the once- privileged socialite's only option is to take a job in a flower shop under the tutelage of a sophisticated Parisian florist.

In exchange for false identity papers, Claire agrees to aid the French Resistance. Despite the ever-present danger, she comes to love the enduring beauty of the City of Light, exploring it in the company of Thomas Grey, a mysterious Englishman working with the Resistance. Claire's bravery and intelligence make her a valuable operative, and slowly her values shift as she witnesses the courageous spirit of the Parisians.

But deception and betrayal force her to flee once more--this time to fight for the man she loves and what she knows is right.  Claire just prays she has the heart and determination to survive long enough to one day see Paris again.

The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
published by Doubleday (Random House)
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. 

Within these nocturnal black-and-white-striped tents is an utterly unique experience, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as the tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air.

Welcome to Le Cirque des RĂªves.

Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way—a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a "game" to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters. Unbeknownst to the players, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will.

As the circus travels around the world, the feats of magic gain fantastical new heights with every stop.  The game is well under way and the lives of all those involved--the eccentric circus owner, the elusive contortionist, the mystical fortune-teller, and a pair of red-headed twins born backstage among them--are swept up in a wake of spells and charms.

But when Celia discovers that Marco is her adversary, they begin to think of the game not as a competition but as a wonderful collaboration.  With no knowledge of how the game must end, the innocently tumble headfirst into love.  A deep, passionate, and magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

Silver Sparrow, Tayari Jones
published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
With the opening line of Silver Sparrow, "My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist," author Tayari Jones unveils a breathtaking story about a man's deception, a family's complicity, and the two teenage girls caught in the middle.

Set in a middle-class neighborhood in Atlanta in the 1980s, the novel revolves around James Witherspoon's two families: the public one and the secret one.  When the daughters from each family meet and form a friendship, only one of them knows they are sisters--a relationship destined to explode.

As Jones explores the backstories of her rich yet flawed characters, she reveals the joy, and the destruction, they brought to one another's lives.  And at the heart of it all are the two girls whose lives are at stake--portrayed with raw authenticity as they seek love, demand attention, and try to imagine themselves as women.


  1. I think I'm going with Silver Sparrow, but I suppose it will be Night Circus.

  2. I've only read the last two books on this list, and I'm not at all familiar with two of them. *ducks head in shame*

    I loved The Night Circus, but I kind of hate the thought of its winning the Indie Lit award.

  3. Hey hey! They announced the winners already (thought it was going to be tonight!) I went into the short list thinking the same thing--I suppose it will be The Night Circus. It's an interesting exercise to compare books and come up with a winner, though. It brings a whole other dimension to reading and discussion. Here's the link:


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