Fortune Smiles

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Fortune Smiles
320 pages; Random House

The winner that blows your mind—and opens your heart

This story collection—and winner of the National Book Award in fiction—is full of characters that challenge and perplex. They are not like you, probably—and yet, as a reader, you feel compelled to find out what drives them. In the title piece, two North Korean defectors miss their rigid homeland. Later, a former East German prison warden dreams of his old job tormenting citizens; a father tries to reassemble his family after being whipsawed by Hurricane Katrina; and, an ailing woman takes strange comfort in a hologram of the President. Expect emotional intelligence from these characters, yes. But also humor. "I appreciate democracy, freedom and the variety of television programming," says a North Korean defector resettling in Seoul. "But I do miss how dark it used to get." A smart, surprising read.
— Mark Athitakis