5 of 7
272 pages; Picador

The winner that may just make you cry

President Barack Obama made a point of meeting Marilynne Robinson last September to interview her for The New York Review of Books, and though Robinson's fiction couldn't be further from the corridors of power, reading Lila it's easy to see why he was so moved. "The story of a woman raised without a home, a family or God ultimately becomes a celebration of what it means to be alive," Bonnie Jo Campbell wrote of the novel, which won the fiction prize from National Book Critics Circle—a jury of active book reviewers. Redemption comes hard for Lila, whose life of abuse and homelessness keeps her fearful of the pastor who falls for her: "When you're scalded, touch hurts, it makes no difference if it's kindly meant." Lila puts us in the hands of one of our graceful and philosophical novelists, at the height of her powers.
— Mark Athitakis